Q&A with Tom Fox and Mark Gonnella

Q&A with Tom Fox and Mark Gonnella

by Tim Stillman

Because I’m not a proper journalist I didn’t have a dictaphone handy for this event. Gingers4Limpar had his shiny laptop, but I’m not as moneyed as he is. So I took all of this down via my own fair hand with pen and paper. It’s as close to verbatim as I could possibly get it, but the meanings and intentions, I am very confident, are solid.

On Monday evening, the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association held a Q & A session with Arsenal Head of Marketing Tom Fox and Arsenal’s Head of Communications Mark Gonnella in the Dial Square suite of Club Level. Some questions were submitted by paper, some came from the floor. The meeting opened with Mark and Tom introducing themselves and outlining their roles.

TF: The role of the commercial team is to generate as much revenue as possible for the club so that we can put it into the football side, which is what the club exists for. There is so much global potential for Arsenal and we want to raise all the funds we can for the club.

That involves the club’s retail operations, sponsors, commercial partnerships, the media business of Arsenal media and match day hospitality. Our job is to drive as much of that revenue as possible and make it available for the football side.

MG: I’m the Communications Director at Arsenal and that broadly means communicating the club’s message globally. I’m a diehard football fan and an ex journalist, communications and football have been my life so this is something of a dream job for me. My job is to manage the messages that come out of the club.

Q1) What is your view of the viability of a salary cap in the Premier League?

TF: When I first arrived at Arsenal 3 years ago, one of the first things I did was to speak with the AST. I had just come over from the States and I knew nothing about football or how it was structured. The big difference that struck me coming over here was the difference in structure in terms of salaries. My view is that salary caps are good because they take a club’s largest expenditure and limit it. Salaries are the least rational expenditure for a club.

But it’s difficult to enforce. For a start, it’s hard to tell a club that’s fighting relegation in January not to dip into club funds that they may not recoup if they’re relegated. We have high hopes for UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations but that’s difficult to enforce in the Premier League. It would then become difficult for English clubs to compete for the best talent in a pan European and global competition. It’s difficult to implement and get everybody in Europe following the same guidelines. It makes sense but it’s difficult to implement. That’s why Michel Platini has hired something like 80 accountants and lawyers to craft FFP.

A salary cap probably wouldn’t work in the Premier League, though I do like the idea of controlling that cost line and putting the money spent there into club infrastructure. In the U.S. there are agents that broker contracts, but there are no transfer fees. Ordinarily, in the States, if a player leaves a team with four years still on his contract, those terms come with him to his new team.

Q2) When you arrived at the club three years ago Tom, you used the term “franchise” to describe Arsenal. Do you realise now why that made people uncomfortable?

TF: Yes, absolutely. I didn’t know much about English football at the time. In the U.S. this is a normal term in sports. I remember Sue Campbell, who has worked at the club for many years, corrected me when I called the pitch the “field”, the changing rooms the “locker rooms” and referred to the stadium as “the building.” I understand now why people in England found the word franchise offensive and you wouldn’t catch me saying it again, that’s for sure.

In the U.S., sports is entertainment. The deal is that, when you pay money for admission, we’ll entertain you from the minute you get to your seat till the second you leave, through half time shows, displays, dancers on the field and what have you. The difference here is that it’s much more about the connection supporters feel with the players. It’s all about a supporter’s relationship with the club and feeling as though you belong. Now I’m not sure they appreciate what they lost out on in the States when they chased the revenue. I’ve experienced English football and feel US sport misses that. I feel it a lot more now than I did when I arrived.

Q3) Generally I like how the club communicates. But occasionally a player will come out and undermine the club with an interview he might give the press. How does the club deal with that?

MG: Our primary channel for communications is the website and Arsene Wenger is the prime communicator. The difficulty is that sometimes we’re talking about people’s lives and we can’t discuss their personal terms, the same way you wouldn’t expect your company to publicise your personal information. We’re aware of the Sagna interview- and this sort of interview usually seems to come out in an international week- and for something like that we’ll first contact the player to see how accurate it is. We checked with Bac and he indicated it (The L’Equipe interview) was an accurate reflection of what he said.

It’s a shame it came out when it did, because there was no Friday press conference for Arsene Wenger that week for him to be asked about it and update. But issues such as this are dealt with by the manager; it’s not right for Comms to step in on these things because it’s about an individual’s views. We work very hard with players about how to deal with the media and 90% of the time, they are great ambassadors.

Q4) I’ve been an Arsenal fan since 1968 and to me, Arsenal play in red shirts and white sleeves at home and yellow and blue away. How do the club justify blue hoops in the home kit and a purple away shirt?

TF: In fairness, the blue part of the home shirt has been there through history. I can’t say I was around at the time, but I looked through images of every single Arsenal home shirt when we were sanctioning the design of the new home shirt and there was a five or six year period where a blue trim appeared on the shirt every year. Our job in marketing is to maximise the revenue so that we can fund our football club against teams with unlimited resources.

We liaise with our kit supplier Nike and we can’t limit the design scope too much otherwise it’s too difficult to come up with a new design. We do set some ground rules. For the home shirt, we say it has to be a red shirt with white sleeves. But beyond that, Nike needs scope with the design, also so that they can sell the shirt in China, the U.S. etc. We’ve done a two year home shirt this year and we’re the only club in the world to do that.

We understand the connection with yellow and blue for a home shirt. It will come back, but other fans of other ages in different parts of the world will want something different. For instance, we’re told the purple and black kit is selling well with younger kids because it goes with current fashion. We need to ask ourselves what the away kit is and allow ourselves to take a few more risks. The simple answer is that we need to sell as many as possible and we would disadvantage ourselves by not changing it. If it’s not sufficiently different to the last shirt, it won’t sell.

The home shirt will stay more traditional, but with the away shirt we’ll take more risks and it will change. The yellow will reappear from time to time, but we need to do something different. We try to limit the disruption where we can and that applies to the home shirt too.

Q4) Arsene Wenger has always been notoriously sceptic on far flung pre season tours. How did you persuade him to go with the Far East tours and are there any plans for a tour to the U.S?

TF: Much as I would like to take credit for persuading him when Ivan Gazidis had talked with him so much about it, I really can’t. Arsene is a smart man. My theory is that he wasn’t receptive initially because it was tough to do and he didn’t see the commercial team to maximise the potential. Now he sees a robust team able to capitalise. He understands that this is part and parcel of the game at our level now. We need to see this from the point of view of our global fans as well as sponsors and secondary partners.

Arsene said he felt this summer’s tour was very well organised when he was asked at a board meeting. His only complaint was that the seats didn’t go flat on the plane and he wanted the players to be able to lie down on the flight, so we’ll make sure that the seats go flat next time! But if that was his only complaint, we’ll take that. Our job is to make it as painless as possible for him and the team because their preparation is the primary concern.

There then followed a short video entitled “THE TOUR IN NUMBERS” in which certain statistics were reeled off relating to this summer’s tour of Asia. Including the 140,000 spectators that saw the team live, the 160 million potential TV audience in China, the 6 million hits on the Chinese version of the official website and the 53 events that the club organised in eight days on tour.

TF: The tour was very well organised, we had players making appearances in different cities at any one time for our commercial partners. Players were never kept a minute longer than scheduled so that Arsene could give them proper rest and recuperation time. 95% of our revenue growth will now come from overseas. We will be taking the things Arsenal represents into the international market and convincing people that this is a club to get behind.

A brand attaches themselves to you because you do work they can’t do for themselves. If we have a presence, then that attracts brands to invest in you. If you’re a company that wants to get its brand message heard in China, but you’re struggling to get that message out, Arsenal can do that better than a TV company or a washing machine company because Arsenal is seen as more interesting to people. That’s the story we’re trying to tell. Companies can tap into our ability to drive that. By not sitting in Austria, that’s what we’re doing. We can convince brands to affiliate with us and offer that engagement.

5) Shirt and kit sponsorships are up for renewal in 2014, where are we with that? Also a comms issue when Gazidis said season ticket prices had frozen when they’d actually gone up for Club Level. As well as this, the cheapest sit down meal in club level rose 30%. Are there not alternative methods of revenue driving?

TF: The club level suite is used for catering and events, but neither is particularly lucrative. We admit to mixed success on catering. We were able to put the price of a pie down from £4 to £3.30 on the concourses. The quality of the food is good we think, but we’ve possibly fallen down on the value. That’s certainly what we’ve gathered from fans in our research. Food doesn’t make the club an awful lot of money, the most important thing for us in Club Level is to sell the seats.

We don’t want to be losing ticket sales there because of the food, which doesn’t make us much anyway. We’re still searching for the balance. 95% of our revenue growth will come from ‘outside.’ It won’t be coming from match day supporters as it probably did when we first moved to the stadium. Some of our catering costs have gone up, which accounts for some of the price rise.

In terms of sponsorship, we have 2 years left on the shirt deal with Emirates and the kit deal with Nike. The current deals were critical at the time when they were struck due to the stadium financing which I know everyone has heard all before and doesn’t need me to repeat. I can’t predict exactly what we’ll renew at because that work is ongoing. What I can tell you is that there’s plenty of interest. We currently have guys in South Korea, India and the U.S. telling our story and getting a sense of the market place.

Market dynamics are complex, we can’t just say “this club sold their shirts for this amount and we’re better than them, so we deserve this much”, brands have to want to invest. 3 years ago when I arrived we had one full time employee and two agencies that dealt with this sort of work, now we have 13 full time employees working on it and they are of a very high calibre. But Manchester United started the journey we went on 3 years ago some 8 years ago now and they have 80 full time employees working on these deals.

The guy leading this just sold £700m worth of partnerships for London 2012. He’s a big football fan and he’s working very hard on positioning us and packaging us for partnerships and sponsors. As for the stadium naming rights, that will be very hard to resell because it will probably always be known as Emirates Stadium now. Or “Ashburton Grove” to those of you that don’t want to call it that!

6) You referred to the gap with Manchester United commercially. Is it acceptable that a club like Arsenal let that gap grow for so many years? Has that made your job harder? To put it simpler, that gap in revenue is losing us top players.

TF: The club was focussed very much on the stadium move which was supposed to close the gap between us and other teams. Other clubs weren’t busy building stadiums so they were able to focus their commercial operations. But we’ve still been successful in the craziest time economically in the history of the sport. We’ve stayed competitive and now we have the opportunity to close that gap, we can compete even better. Both on the back of the new TV deals, new sponsorship agreements which will be signed in the next 18 months and FFP will create a lag in the big spending clubs.

Q7) 7 years ago there was a large waiting list for season tickets. That list has now diminished. Shouldn’t there be more loyalty and reward for season ticket holders? For instance with cup final allocations and higher discounts?

MG: The challenge is to balance the need to recognise loyalty with demand. The waiting list is still very strong. But for instance, the season ticket price for renewing members was lower this year than it was for new season ticket holders. We worked closely with AISA and the AST to create new ticketing categories for fans who were feeling priced out. But we know that we can’t please everyone on this matter.

TF: We also have to consider that there are different measures of loyalty. There’s the guy who’s been a season ticket holder for 20 years, the person that bys the short the first day it comes out every year, the person that goes to every away game, we need to understand each measure and reward them. The club is currently building a database of our fans with guys from IBM to understand our fans and recognise different loyalties.

For instance, there might be a young fan who has gone to games throughout his youth, but when he reaches adulthood, he can’t afford a season ticket just yet. We need to maintain that connection with that supporter until such time that they can commit to a season ticket. It’s a project for us on how we understand different fans. As far as Cup Finals go, that’s a basic math problem. But we can see what we can do in different ways.

Q8) Think the club has made a grave error in not categorising prices for U-21s and over 65s for instance. Different pricing categories for red and silver members are to be welcomed but how has that benefitted gold members? And finally, how much of our transfer kitty is available to Arsene Wenger? Many supporters were confused as to how Alex Song, for example, was transferred for £15m in such an inflated market.

TF: I always consider it a sign of the apocalypse when an English guy asks an American for his opinion on a footballer! I can’t answer the question about Alex Song; I’m not remotely qualified to answer. That’s the manager’s call and if that is ok. with him, that’s good enough for me.

All of the money the club makes is invested back into the club. None of it leaves the club, no dividends are paid. The money is invested; some of it in people and some in systems, like the guys from IBM and the CRM system, but it’s all reinvested and is available to the manager.

Q9) I always hear from the club, every year, that Arsene Wenger is not limited in what he can spend. Yet every year we turn over profit in the transfer market. I’m tired of the bullshit we hear from the club, when is someone going to tell the truth?

MG: There is money available to Arsene, no money leaves the club. But he doesn’t spend for the sake of it or just to get a headline. You’ve heard him say he will spend if he sees quality. We back his judgement on that. If you look at the market you see there wasn’t much movement overall. The money is still there, it hasn’t gone anywhere. Arsene is qualified to make that judgement.

The meeting then ended with a short video on the Arsenal Foundation.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

 

 

 

Fan of Arsenal, Robert Pires and most everything to do with rum and whiskey. Smiter of those that ought to be smote.

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82 COMMENTS

  1. “…Michel Platini has hired something like 80 accountants and lawyers to craft FFP…”??? Are these professionals doing pro-Bono? How could one preach financial viability and fair play when so much resources are expended just to craft the FFP?

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    • i too am tired of this bullshit. profits every year could as easily mean not selling your best player to Manchester United where he wins them games against Southampton when he could be doing that for us

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      • You’d prefer to hang onto him and let him piss off for free next year?
        Short of forcing him to sign a contract at gunpoint, I don’t quite see what could have been done differently.

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      • Teecee, business wise selling RVP made sense, but from a footballing point of view if you do t re-invest the money what’s the point? He might have been the difference that got three points against Sunderland and Stoke, man Utd would probaly have lost 2 and drawn one without him. If we lose out on the league by 5 points to them I’m not consoled that we have 24m of their money in the bank. Of course the flip side is we could have kept him, he sulked and was no use to and we just lost out on 24m. :-)

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      • Not splashing the cash on signings is one thing, but holding on to a player who wants to leave, has one season left on contract and in all likelihood is one injury away from playing five games a season is untenable.

        The recent trend of our big names wanting to leave is hard to swallow, but rather than just sucking up the 24 mil in lost sales, we’ve got to be putting the money down on new players to stop them leaving in the first place.

        Assuming, of course, that winning a trophy is enough to keep the mercenaries around. For all we know we could win the league and everybody would still piss off to Manchester for an extra sports car each month.

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      • TeeCee…if the alternative to him leaving for free is to put the money in the bank for two years…yes, I’d rather have his goals for another year.

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    • …? Can’t even tell if you’re being serious. They’re probably understaffed as it is, trying to work around the various legal frameworks/worker unions/fundamental working rights/EU work laws/UK statutes/etc in various countries of DIFFERENT legal structures. And that’s just the lawyers.

      Then there’s the economic aspect – what is the appropriate cap, adverse repercussions on clubs that may attempt risky ventures to stave off relegation, flexibilities for cost/benefit/risk managements, club spending strategies (smaller sugar daddies who wish to keep a club stable/in the foremost league of the country, i.e. Southampton, QPR).

      How is this relevant to your concerns of financial viability and fair play if the FFP is a non-starter to begin with due to bad/underinformed drafting. Isn’t it better that there’s a concerted effect/budget dedicated to keep this viable…? I know I am. All the more I hope that UEFA manages to siphon off excess oil-money/roubles from ManCity/Chelsea to get FFP off the ground and sustainable.

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      • First and foremost, i’m supportive of FFP and cant wait for its repurcussion on the likes of the Man Citys and chelseas.

        “… probably understaffed as it is, trying to work around the various legal frameworks/worker unions/fundamental working rights/EU work laws/UK statutes/etc in various countries of DIFFERENT legal structures…” I could be wrong but the FFP I understand is a generic set of regulations that is applied to ANY clubs of ANY countries participating in UEFA sanctioned competition. How could a FFP claim to be fair when it’s applied differently based on “countries/legal structures”? I can’t believe UEFA could be so naive in trying to manage and implement something so diverse/complex.

        “How is this relevant to your concerns of financial viability and fair play if the FFP is a non-starter to begin with due to bad/underinformed drafting” How ironic would it be if an environmental advocacy group uses tons of papers to promote its cause? What i’m reading from UEFA’s hiring of 80 lawyers/accountants is this – “do (pay) whatever it takes to get the FFP crafted”. How is this unlike to the sugardaddy owner’s message to his club “do (buy) whatever it takes to win me honour?” UEFA is able to adopt this stance simply because money is available and it didn’t appear there was any attempt to optimise resources. I can’t see how it could seek moral high ground on the issue of financial viability and sustanabilty by doing so.

        Bottomline is, i’ve no doubt that the Crafting of FFP is anything but a simple exercise but to require that reported humongous team of professionals that is a joke to say the least.

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      • “I could be wrong but the FFP I understand is a generic set of regulations that is applied to ANY clubs of ANY countries participating in UEFA sanctioned competition. How could a FFP claim to be fair when it’s applied differently based on “countries/legal structures”? I can’t believe UEFA could be so naive in trying to manage and implement something so diverse/complex.”

        Because it is fundamentally unfair when a principality like Monaco has zero income tax but UK to my understanding (I live in Singapore) has a tax of ~50%? Tip of the iceberg that would simply defeat a fixed annual payroll system – besides the FFP is meant to be tailored to the club’s income. You want Arsenal’s expenditure to be pegged to Reading’s annual income?

        Instead, the FFP is trying to create a limit on player salaries (flexible in accordance to said income) which is likely to face compatibility issues with European Union Law/competition from UK worker unions (which, by the way, are more authoritative than UEFA’s regulations).

        Your analogy regarding the environmental advocacy group is flawed; my point is this – how is it wastage if that is the minimum amount of resource needed to get the FFP scheme working? Your assumption that there is no adequate corporate governance within UEFA may stem from better/insider understanding of how it’s run/its accounting details, but otherwise, how the hell could you tell there was no effort made to cut costs just because they have a team of 80+ working on this project. You seem to admit UEFA is pretty damn rich – how can you say they’re not economically sustainable if they can afford the 80+ lawyers with ease.

        Just to establish some proportionality how I’m viewing a team of 80+. Manchester United plc has 500~ employees according to a quick google search. Flawed or otherwise. That’s one team. In 1 nation. Out of 53 constituent members. That UEFA is administrating over.

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    • Oh yeah man, I’m sure there were hundreds of high-quality lawyers lining up to waive their usual fee, so they’d get the chance to do the Lords work and help draft some football legislation that no one is going to pay the slightest fucking attention to.

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    • The better question would be how have you decided that crafting something like FFP doesn’t require exactly 80 lawyers and accountants?

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  2. Interesting article, and actually kind of positive. I understand that as Gooners, we don’t want to think that this is a cold, hard, business with money the core behind everything, but it kinda is. When the Sugar Daddies run off and manure’s debts are called in, Arsenal will be dominant.

    Until then, it’s important we keep buying and investing sensibly, as infuriating as that might be for us as fans. Still, it’s hard not to be somewhat annoyed with how the window ended and our current lack of trophies, but with any luck we’ll be stronger this year.

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    • A large part of me loves the way Arsenal are playing Moneyball in the “current climate”, but sadly, it doesn’t appear that the big-spending Sugar Daddies of the Premier League are running off anywhere.

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      • The current state of affairs at Portsmouth is a high profile indication of when a club is being kept afloat by a sugar daddy and what happens when the money dries up. And maybe Leeds & Blackburn can also be added to the list although their downfall has not been so disastrous.
        Abramovich appears to be happy at the moment but there is nothing to stop him waking up tomorrow morning and decide that he is fed up with football. And Chelsea would then probably go into administration before the end of the season. Too big to go under??? Tell that to Rangers!!

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    • Well, it seems like Mark Gonella dodged a bullet there; it seems like he was really careful with his words.

      We know money is available to Wenger to spend; he did spend a fair bit this season without any guaranteed departures (RvP aside – depends on how much of a cynic you are).

      He didn’t mention anything about a limit or cap to Wenger’s spending that the questioner seems to be more concerned about…
      To paraphrase what I inferred from his answer –
      Q: Is there a limit to Wenger’s spending?
      A: Wenger has money to spend, he will buy real quality, the profits are there to be spent (if need be). Impliedly there are no limits to the profits. Existing transfer budget (pre-profit) is not mentioned. Whether limits exist or not is a non-debatable.

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    • Then you (and the person who asked that question in the first place) have obviously left your brains at home.

      Do you spend every penny of your pay-cheque when you get it? Does your wife say “great job!” when your statement comes out and you have more outgoing than incoming?

      I find it completely baffling that people here somehow believe that Wenger’s policy of not spunking the gigantic amounts of money we have available on a single galactico is somehow evidence of incompetence.

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      • Yes, it is evidence of in competence……

        7 years with no trophy????? Twice losing the league which was ours to win because we were short of 1 or 2 players he could have signed in Jan to cover injuries??? Over paying craps under preforming like Chamakh and Squad and under paying people that over preform???? Being stubborn and want to do it on the cheap???? Not defending the club and standing up to ex players that have ago at the club??? Should I go on????.

        Don’t let your love for the French Fool bind you over The Arsenal. Most of the blind sheep support The Fool more than Arsenal. Would rather us not win anything rather than the Fool go. That is why I lost respect for the French Fool as he put his ego, stubbornness and to prove people wrong before OUR great club and what we pay him for.

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    • I think Arsene Wenger really tried hard to make a loss on his transfer dealings this summer. It was not down to a lack of effort on his part. But RVP and Song wanted away. He could have made a loss, though, if he’d let them go for nothing. Instead he got good money for them and the accounts were back in the black again. What an idiot.

      Still there are thousands who think they can do better. I’m sure any one of them could successfully bankrupt this 126 year old institution in a fraction of the time it seems to be taking the incompetent Arsene Wenger to do it.

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      • Your level of sacarsm is just perfect. I for one use it as a weapon. If I can’t reach out to you and punch you right in the face, I will use sacarsm and loads of it too. Feels more like a cyber punch!

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  3. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated Thumb up 5 Thumb down 62

    • I thought they were honest answers at least. It would have been much worse if he’d have sat there saying, “Yeah, well you know guys, it was kinda like when me and my buddies were watching the 1994 Cup Winners Cup Playoff with a couple of Heinies and my buddy is all like, ‘Peter Shilton is the best damn goal tender Arsenal have ever had.’ You can’t call him a clown simply because he’s American and wasn’t an Arsenal fans prior to coming over here.

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      • Presumably because he has a very strong commercial aptitude. You can pick up the knowledge of the league fairly quickly I’d have thought. If I had two candidates for a job and one was average, but had local knowledge and the other one was exceptional, but didn’t I would pick the latter every time.

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      • Because presumably:

        1) You don’t generally need to know that much about what time the transfer window closes or the application of injury time to do MARKETING for the club.

        2) As one of the top people in his field, he would have had the brains to learn quickly what he needs to on the job.

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      • I suppose seeing as he’d worked for Nike, Gatorade and the NBA in America, he’s pretty well qualified when it comes to sports marketing.
        He’ll be intelligent enough to know what he needs to channel to appeal to supporters, old and new.
        If you want to make a brand global, a big part of that will be making them big in America. The guy has plenty of experience there.

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      • Well, he’s pointed out that most of the marketing revenue will come from overseas, understanding how and why brands will want to connect with us (as a brand).

        To be honest, its far more important that he knows how to market/ set up global commercial deals than know much about the PL or even our history. Honestly, a smart guy can pick up the club details pretty quickly, but figuring out how to communicate with global brand or marketing directors India, Africa, Asia etc is a trickier thing to find on a CV.
        Now, if his CV or interview didn’t have those things as ‘experience’ then yes I agree, he’d be a weak candidate.

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    • And in fairness, what he says about the research they’ve done on fans’ impressions of the food, it correlates exactly with what I think. I’ve had a burger at the ground once in the 6 years we’ve been there. It was really, really nice but not worth the money.

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    • How does that make fox a clown. surely the person who hired him is the ringmaster yet it was him that was clowning around with this appointment. at least fox has admitted his failings which have not exactly been catastrophic. as for the shirt who cares if there is a little bit of blue or a purple and black away kit? if its making the club money i dont care if we play in 2nd hand kit from oxfam. personally i would NEVER wear a replica kit. dressing up like a footballer is no more appealing to me than dressing up as old bill or a pantomine horse. I save that sort of things for fancy dress parties at a football match i am there for one thing only to see the arsenal or on occassions england win. i have no interest in the flat beer or the too damn or hot or freezing cold pies

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      • I think wearing the jerseys is to show the support of your club and when the players run out to a sea of red rather than multi colours it has to encourage them abit

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    • So when the Head of Marketing at Barclays gets into his position, is he asked whether he has a lifelong passion for banking? The head of Marketing at Indesit probably isn’t obsessed by washing machines either. His commercial aptitude is what the club are interested in and that’s his job. He doesn’t actually have to deal with player salaries. Perfectly reasonable for him to pick that up as he goes along because it’s not really his job. Same way that the Head of Marketing at Colgate probably isn’t an orthodontist. It’s his job to see what it is about the club he can sell to investors. I don’t really think players salaries or even the structure of the league matters as anything other than background knowledge.

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      • Well said, Tim.
        I am sure that these people were employed for their marketing and communication skills not their in depth knowledge of the intricacies of the Premier League.

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      • I find it incredible that posters like Kollersteigj have the brainlessness to wonder how a marketing expert is qualified for a marketing job. LD’s point about the marketing director of Indesit is perfect.

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  4. A good read, we don’t normally hear from the commercial bods at the club.

    I was on the waiting list for a regular season ticket before the move from Highbury and was originally 60,000+ on the list. it came through this summer, but I have been a club level member for several years now so it was too late unfortunately!

    I suppose he’s got to defend the new away shirt, but after having had a wander around the ground and the shop before the first home game it didn’t look like it was selling well. Personally I’m ok with the new home shirt though, I think the blue bands on it look fine and it suits the modern club badge. I’d be interested to hear why they decided to go with it for two seasons though.

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    • There’s only one reason for going with the same shirt for two seasons and that’s to not fleece the fans every bloody year! Be happy.

      I’m not too bothered about the away strip, as long as the players can see each other (i.e. no crap excuses for being totally shit when playing away at, for the sake of argument, Southampton) it’s fine…….

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    • Last season was the 125th anniversary shirt which was only a 1-year job. So they’re probably trying not to take the piss too much.

      The away shirt, I’ve warmed to somewhat. Still looks crap up close, but on TV it’s okay. And personally I’ve never been of the mindset that “Arsenal play in yellow and that’s it!” For one thing – fuck yellow. Notice how no-one ever moans that Man U had exactly the same away kit back in the 70s? Life’s too short. The club should change the away every year, makes things interesting.

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    • But if you look at this list, there is a very high number of loans and free transfers. There was movement in terms of players but much less movement in terms of money. The market certainly seems different from what it was a few years ago.

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  5. Thanks Tim, An excellent piece and I appreciate you going along and giving us a breakdown of what went on. Living here in Spain has its advantages but getting to The Grove is not one of them.

    Thanks again.

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  6. Thank you Tim for taking these notes and posting them here. Much appreciated.
    I don’t follow other teams so I don’t know if the clubs arrange meetings like this with their supporters but it is good that Arsenal does.
    We may think that some of the answers/comments are predictable and empty in in information but I think that there was a deal of honesty that we don’t normally find in ‘face the people’ events like this one.

    I read a lot of complaints about ‘Silent Stan’ and how Arsenal has become ‘Americanised’

    I am glad that SS does not pick Arsene’s team.

    When it comes to ‘fan friendly’ and ‘customer friendly’ the evidence is no people do it better than Americans so it seems a good idea to bring to the club Americans who have this expertise. OK so they have to learn the product and the culture of that product. It was stated above that in the States fans are attracted to the event where as with football in Europe its club loyalty that matters and as in the States everyone loves a winner. Then there is the fact that not only are England and the States 2 different countries they are two very different cultures. However once learn’t and understood it easy to build a successful relationship.

    I hope they are proved wrong about the stadium name change and we can get a better sponsorship with a better name.

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    • Exactly, that is an amazing job to scribe all that.

      With regards to Arsene’s spending habits. He doesn’t like overpaying for players. which is admirable, and also a little frustrating sometimes when we could do with the occasional £25m player.

      maybe TF and MG are not giving all the information in the interview. I still think there is an amount of pressure on Arsene to balance the books. At least until we can sign some better commercial deals.

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  7. Really enjoyed reading this article, I for one agree with their marketing strategy behind the pink/purple away kit…my 4yo girl didn’t show much of a reaction with last years shirt much to my dismay but went mad when I bought her this years away kit, as she’s brain washed pink crazy like most young ladies the world over!

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  8. Great work LD. My concern is considering the Premier League has grown into the money-spinning international phenomenon it now is, as an entity, the powers the be won’t risk losing that status (money) by enforcing FFP too stringently.

    i.e the top players from the top clubs to other leagues. At the end of the day it’s all about the players – the yayas, the agueros, shreks, santi’s, tevezs etc and lets face it, its not our weather keeping them here.

    So whilst I don’t want a sugar daddy because of the long-term uncertainty, I do worry what will happen if the rules don’t work once Arsene calls it a day. With him still here, he could build a team of free transfers and kids to finish in the top four, the genius that he is, but when he goes? And the billionaire-owners are still around? And we’re still restricted by debt?

    Perhaps that’s what we’re saving for. Someone else to spunk Arsene’s sweat because there will surely never be another, quite as capable in that regard .

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    • We are not restricted by debt now. The money owing on the stadium is only, sic, about 13 million a year in interest for another 20 years which is easily affordable.

      If we pay it off early it will cosy an extra arm and a leg and we do not need to do that.

      In two years we renegotiate the shirt and stadium deals and we will have an increased income.

      The future is bright at The Arsenal.

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  9. It’s interesting to see us hiring someone, who admittedly didn’t know a thing about English football.

    It’s a good read, though, even if I can’t agree with a few things he states. I fear the club underestimates the effect the lack of success and big names can have on the team’s fan base overseas. A Chinese kid might be asking his parents for an Arsenal shirt today, but tomorrow it could be Man City or Chelsea… there is absolutely no shame in it, though, it’s just a simple observation.

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  10. “I always hear from the club, every year, that Arsene Wenger is not limited in what he can spend. Yet every year we turn over profit in the transfer market. I’m tired of the bullshit we hear from the club, when is someone going to tell the truth?”

    My answer: How is that contradictory? Arsene knows he doesn’t have to spend every penny he has available and if he ends up leaving the club in a profit at the end of the window, this is more ammunition he has when he eventually does feel the need to spend £80m (+£250k p/w wages) on a prodigy Brazilian striker… even though he would never do that.

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  11. got to ask after reading some of the comments. why do you need to know anything about football? Tom foxs job is to improve commercial oppurtunitys is it not. 2014 is the time to judge him on that work,when comercial partnerships are renewed.the market place is global as is the fanbase. And he is selling the brand , not his love or knowledge of football.

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    • How can he improve these commercial opportunities if he doesn’t understand the philosophy and the meaning of the club? Our commercial partnerships are atrocious.

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  12. This is the kind of article that should be used as an eyeopener. I mean who figured that we hired IBM (and all other abovementioned) companies to help us out?

    To me, it seems as if people think of Arsenal just as a team of 11 players + subs and Arsene Wenger and forget that there is alot more needed to keep Arsenal football club afloat.

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  13. I would of liked someone to ask what effect they think selling the best player in England will have on the fan base and on any potential market they’re looking to convert fans from. By the same process that has seen Man City grow revenue streams (at home and abroad) by buying great players and winning things, ours will drain.

    I imagine all the young kids around the world who watched Arsenal because of Cesc and Rvp will now be watching Barca and Manure and buying their merchandise. Who will be watching us for Giroud and Cazorla? No matter how good they may be, they aren’t half as distinguishable and I’m sure our sponsorship deals in 2014 will reflect this.

    Of Manure’s new Chevrolet deal- “Not only will this rise to an astonishing £45 million in 2014/15, but the sponsor will actually pay them £11 million in each of the previous two seasons – while Aon are still the sponsors.” No chance of us pulling anything like this off without any marquee players.

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    • I agree. The problem with selling your biggest players is the fact that fan’s don’t know who to cheer. They can’t associate a player with a club. Also the marketing angle is affected because your seen as a second class club. The big four in Europe all generate more than 100 million pounds per year for marketing. We are around 50. Even with new t-shirt and kit deals we will be substantially below them. More pre season tours and keeping our stars should help. It might even help us win a trophy or two.

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  14. I am really finding it rather weak and vapid club executives continue to use the construction, or as better describes it – the erection, of the Emirates as the reason or excuse for the commercial and financial failures. It all smacks of myopia as they all viewed a new stadium as a panacea. The executives and the board and ownership might be in over their heads.

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    • Can’t really brush away the emirates as a source of our financial difficulties. I for one think all this balancing of cheque books serves to slowly pay for it’s building contract. We might not have a problem with paying for it but they are other fa tors that come into play too. Eg. Keeping a good club budget- not so low. Don’t wanna do a portsmouth, rangers meh. Player sales that we don’t all approve of and minimal recruiting of new players all ensure of this.

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  15. With regards money availble for transfer funds.

    There was 160m cash avaialble in the bank 2 summers ago. The reputable swissramble estimated of which approx 50m would likely be available for spending on trasnfers.

    We spent 55m (roughly 30%) which is close to the mark and Gazidis did go on to mention we had cash to spare which leads me to believe that if need be, Wenger may be sanctioned to spend up to 50% of cash in hand (or 80m)

    This summer, we had 116m cash in hand. Going by similar matrix we would have had around 35m (30%) to spend on transfers.

    It was no suprise then that we spent 39m on 3 players before we concluded the sales of RVP and Song.

    That would mean that we could have spent 50% 0f 116m if need be or 58m leaving us 19m left (sans RVP and Song proceeds)

    Total amount left for use in transfer would then be 22.5m+ 15m = 19m = 53.5m

    That’s a lot of money.

    I’d expect the 19m will be kept in reserve (we don’t know how finances may turn in a season or two down) but the 37.5m may be kept in view of revisiting the market in January if need be, when prices for some of Arsene’s targets may be softened or if othe rpotential value assets come on line.

    That said, it is a right puzzle why we let Song leave for 15m (We still had a healthy budget regardless). With Diaby’s durability always in serious doubt (and considering we were seriously looking into Sahin), there is an obvious risk in the deeper lying area in midfield.

    And when you consider Song had 3 seasons left on contract, was (rumoured) asking for a pay hike from 55k-80K, and that we would have had to fork out close to the salary Sahin was alloted (100-120K) to bring him on on loan, just doesn’t make sense to me…reven if some of his antics were a tad childish.

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  16. “I’m tired of the bullshit we hear from the club, when is someone going to tell the truth?”

    Amazing irony here from whoever wrote / asked that question.

    Nevertheless good read.

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  17. This was very interesting to read. All the club and money dealing aside, it was fascinating to get a bit of a glimpse of how an American inside the American sports industry, transitioned to European football.

    As an American myself, I could not agree with him more when he speaks about American sporting events. While I enjoy my local professional sports teams (Seattle, Washington state, born and raised), I can’t help but feel closer to Arsenal than the pro teams here. I have grown to despise cheesy halftime shows, the gay little games on the screens in the stadiums, horrible music playing the instant the game stops, and so on and so forth. The culture here to merely entertain has taken a lot away from the sports, and have made them be more about money and revenue over winning and pride, and those in charge do not try and hide it.

    I have season tickets to the NFL team here (Seahawks), and every time I go to the stadium I feel alone, different people sitting next to me every time, and a third of the time they don’t really pay attention to the game, or are just apathetic about the teams playing. Some times I get some die hard supporters next to me, but most people spend the whole time ignoring each other. I have been to other stadiums too, and the experience was largely the same. I love watching my team, but every year is a little harder than the last, regardless of how well we are doing.

    About a decade ago I learned about the EPL, and instantly became hooked on Arsenal. And in that decade I have had approximately….0 friends who like Arsenal (met a decent share of manu, chelski and manc fags though). I have been an alone supporter, with no one to talk or bitch to. No one watch with, but every year I am more and more hooked. I wake up at 430am or 6am to watch Arsenal, and I instantly feel connected to the crowd and the team. Much of my family and friends think I am crazy. I have got some of them to sit down and watch a game (or a part of a game) with me. And when Arteta gets the ball in midfield, I see the potential beginning of a beautiful build up, starting with a give and go, a deadly pass or two and an amazing finish by a red shirt. Yeahhh!!!! But what most Americans see is a guy kicking a ball to someone else, this happens a few more times, and oh, someone else kicked it into the net. woohoo. “Wait, this only happens once or twice a game? Gay, I’m done.” And with that, I am all alone again. We do have the Sounders up here though, selling out at around 39K a game, these games are fun, but the MLS is hard to take seriously, and the analysis on TV, radio and online is pretty poor.

    Last note on this subject. I have a 14 year old brother-in-law who has been playing footy for 8 years. I asked him what position, hoping to get some good footy talk going, and all he said was offense and defense. “Well…” I said, “What positions?” He looked at me like I was an idiot. After playing for most of his life, he has no idea what footy is, other than you kick a ball and around and eventually get it into the back of the net. And I must say, when I stopped playing to make the inevitable shift here to American football at 14 or so, I don’t think I knew any positions except for the one I played, center forward. I digress though.

    For those of you ripping on Fox, I applaud him for realizing the change in the way sports are done across the pond, and I hope more Americans will to, and maybe change the fucking bullshit here. It would be hard, of course seeing as how there are a lot of differences in the individual leagues and the cultures. But maybe make the game (take your pick) a little more about the team and less about pumping nicki minaj between plays or watching some boob try to light a match with his ass and kick a field goal at the same time during halftime.

    So be upset all you want about how the team is not doing this or that, or not spending whatever money they have. But realize that Wenger is no moron, he is keeping this team competitive and not making any dumb Spearing or Torres like trades. He only seems to buy when he is confident in the player, and when the price is where he wants it, not where the other team wants it. It much easier to sink rather than swim in the EPL, and Arsenal have kept up through some hard times, and some trophies will be on their way soon.

    Go Arsenal!

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  18. In Q4) they were asked about the preseason tours in Asia and the possibility of coming to the US in the future. The answer only discussed their recent tour of the east but didn’t address the possibility of coming to the states. Was there any mention of the likely old of coming over here at all?

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    • No there wasn’t. Thr guy who asked layered his question so heavily that they never got onto it. Shame. But it does rather suggest they’ve got no immediate plans. Asia will happen again next year as will Nigeria. So many PL clubs are already in the US, it’s probaqbly very competitive, whereas they’ve considered Malayisa, China etc as more “virgin” territories.

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  19. “3 years ago when I arrived we had one full time employee and two agencies that dealt with this sort of work” – Are you kidding me? My local kebab van has more commercial staff than that!!

    What the hell were we playing at?!

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  20. “As for the stadium naming rights, that will be very hard to resell because it will probably always be known as Emirates Stadium now.”

    No it wont. I hate that fucking name.

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