Gazidis: Arsenal can compete
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has denied that the financial prudence of the club's board is "ruining" their hopes of success, in a fiery Annual General Meeting attended by manager Arsene Wenger and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke.
Irate supporters gave the unpopular Gazidis and long-standing chairman Peter Hill-Wood an uncomfortable grilling on as they were asked to justify rising ticket prices at Emirates Stadium despite the team's failure to gain ground on their Premier League rivals.
Wenger repeated his contentious belief that qualifying for the Champions League each season is the equivalent of winning a trophy, yet it was the abuse flowing in the direction of Gazidis and Hill-Wood that defined the meeting.
Refusing to answer questions about the possibility of Russian billionaire and Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov being offered more influence at the club, supporters started to vent their frustrations to the point where Gazidis tried to calm dissenting voices by saying "we're losing a bit of order here" as tempers flared.
Gazidis attempted to placate fans with optimistic forecasts for future success, but these comments appeared to fall on deaf ears. "We will have the financial resources to compete among the leading clubs in the next two years, which is an extraordinary achievement," he argued.
"Financial success is relevant because it supports the vision of this club. The money we make is available to the manager and he decides how to use those funds. Arsene has done a magnificent job against the spending of our competitors. His management has kept us at the top of the game. Standing together we can make Arsenal one of leading clubs in world. Our ambition cannot be doubted."
Gazidis went on to assert his hope that the introduction of UEFA Financial Fair Play rules will level the playing field for Arsenal in the coming years, while the rarely heard Kroenke also commented on his role at the club.
"My only regret is that I did not get involved in Arsenal earlier," the quietly spoken American said. "We have never put any debt on this club for acquisitions and never said money was not available to spend. We acquire through our own resources."
Fans leaving the AGM were especially critical of Hill-Wood, who they argued showed little compassion for their concerns as he brushed off criticism with increasing annoyance.