Ivan who? Arsenal look west to fill CEO role

Arsenal today announced that they have finally found a replacement for David Dein and it looks like the club’s appointment of Stan Kroenke as a director prompted them to expand their search for a new CEO to the American soccer market.

Ivan Gazidis is currently the deputy commissioner for Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States where, according to the Gunners, he provides vision on all the key strategic and business decisions made by the league and its marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing.

He will take over the role vacated by Dein 18 months ago and crucially he will relieve some of Arsene Wenger’s workload when it comes to player contracts and negotiations. Apparently part of Ivan’s remit at MLS was to negotiate the transfer and employment contracts of all the players in the league, as well as managing stadium events, security issues and player, coaching and refereeing matters.

So on paper, he sounds like an ideal candidate.

And for those of you about to spit the dummy about Arsenal hiring a Yank whose knowledge of “soccer” is limited, it should be pointed out that Gazidis was born in South Africa, but grew up in England and London and indeed, he lived near Highbury...

Gazidis graduated fromOxford University with a law degree before emigrating to the States. In addition to his MLS duties, he was president of Soccer United Marketing’s international division between 2002 and 2006 where he developed successful strategies for the Mexican Soccer Federation and the CONCACAF Gold Cup as well as organising American tours for the England national team, Barcelona and Real Madrid amongst others.

Announcing the appointment, Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood says, “Ivan’s credentials are first class. It is evident that he has a wealth of business acumen together with a broad knowledge of football that will not only help to maintain Arsenal’s pre-eminent standing but enhance our reputation within the football community and international commercial markets.”

Gazidis is also making the right noises. “I am delighted to be offered the opportunity to bring [my] experience to bear at Arsenal - a club rich in heritage and tradition - that is superbly positioned for success in the modern era. I relish the prospect of working with the key stakeholders to further propel the Club forward. It is nearly 16 years since I left the UK but I’m very much looking forward to returning in January.”

Apart from using PR buzzwords, such as “key stakeholders” he sounds like he might just be a good choice as our new CEO.

Gazidis tells the Arsenal website, “I was in charge of all our player signings and have been for 13 years. I have a lot of experience in player transfer and contract negotiations and strategy.

“In modern sport, business plays its part and it is essential in order to be successful on the field that you are successful off the field as well.

“The great thing about Arsenal is the way it is set up, positioning itself so it is not dependent on anyone from the outside. Having said that, sport is not only a business and as an executive of a sport business, you have a custodian’s role and it’s essential if Arsenal is to be successful that it’s traditions are respected.”

And aware that he might be the target of some anti-American Ivan the terrible type accusations, Gazidis adds, “This is not a case of an American coming in with no understanding of Arsenal looking to make it a Disney-fied version of Arsenal Football Club. This is an Englishman who grew up with the game with a deep understanding of Arsenal Football Club and is looking to provide modern sports business practices and at the same provide custodianship for the traditions of the club for the benefit of the fans and for ultimately the entire club.”

For the record, Hill-Wood claims that Kroenke had nothing to do with enticing Ivan to return to the UK, but he concedes, “We’ve always thought our relationship with Colorado Rapids would lead to our development in the United States. How that will happen, it’s difficult to tell but with Ivan Gazidis on board, that is likely to gain momentum.

“Colorado Rapids are part of MLS and so Ivan knows Stan Kroenke but he had nothing to do with the appointment.”

As for Ivan’s relationship with Le Gaffer, Hill-Wood reveals, “We all had lunch together a couple of weeks ago in order that the two of them could meet. It was important that Arsene Wenger liked him and respected his judgement and to that extent Arsene was involved in the appointment”

Job done then. If he’s good enough for Le Boss, then he’s good enough for me. Arsene knows!!