Arsenal and Puma announce biggest commercial deal in companies' history
Arsenal chief executive hugely confident on new deal for coach Arsene Wenger
Ivan Gazidis says Puma deal will aid transfers and help club compete with Europe's best
The first thing Arsene Wenger may do upon waking these days is pinch himself to check that everything really is as it seems.
As if topping the Premier League and progressing in both the Champions League and FA Cup were not enough, the Arsenal manager has now been handed another gift – a hefty slab of cash.
For too many years since he took charge in 1996, Wenger has been financially handcuffed in the transfer market following the strict spending criteria determined by the Arsenal board.
But Monday’s announcement that the Premier League side and the German kit supplier Puma had signed the largest commercial deal in both companies’ history has cast such caution to one side.
For the Frenchman can not only invest in the next Mesut Ozil but also shape the Gunners’ future for years to come.
Coming into effect on July 1, the five-year deal with Puma is worth nearly $250 million according to media reports.
“The money will begin to flow in (in July) and will be available for us to invest in the team,” Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis told CNN World Sport.
The tie-in with Puma ends a 20-year association with rival sportswear company Nike, with Arsenal believing that their new partner can not only give them bespoke attention but also help drive inroads to important “markets like Asia and the Americas.”
As he spoke with a mix of excitement and pride, Gazidis was adamant that Wenger would soon be signing a new contract that would enable him to continue his transformation of Arsenal.
“We have always been committed to Arsene and he’s always been committed to the club,” he said.
“I’m sure Arsene will commit his future to the club, and we will commit ours to his. That will be done at the right time – quietly – and then we will let you guys [the press] know.”
The coach’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season, but Wenger may well put pen to paper on more than just the deal that will continue his 18-year tenure.
“We will invest in not just big-name signings but also right across the club – in the youth academy, scouting network, facilities,” Gazidis explained.
“There are a lot of things that go into a football club like this.”
Arsenal hopes its relationship with Puma can finally put the Londoners on an equal financial footing with some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Arsenal came eighth in the annual money table of the world’s richest clubs published last week by business firm Deloitte.
But the Gunners’ revenue of $384 million was dwarfed by that of Real Madrid, who topped the table for a record ninth consecutive year given the Spanish giants’ income of $702 million.
Despite lying just three places higher in fifth, even French champions PSG boasted a far greater revenue of $538 million.
Famously without a trophy since 2005, Arsenal’s fallow period may soon bring forth years of plenty following a phase of reconstruction, albeit one that has not sat too well with the club’s fans.
Nonetheless, Gazidis believes the times are certainly changing.
“The football landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade and Arsenal has made some difficult decisions along the way to put ourselves in a position to compete in the longer term,” he added.
“I do think we are now progressing as a football club, making some big steps forward – both on and off the pitch – and the off-the-pitch stuff is important to drive what we do on the pitch.
“As we look forward over the next five years, we are very excited about the future of the football club.”
Less than eighteen months ago, there were widespread claims that Arsenal – the longest serving member of England’s top flight and a 13-time champion to boot – had been reduced to a selling club.
The clamor of dissent was impossible to ignore in August 2012 as star striker Robin van Persie joined Manchester United, a controversial sale that followed on from those of leading assets Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri among others a year earlier.
Fast forward to September 2013 and Arsenal made its greatest statement of intent in over a decade as Ozil was signed from Real Madrid, his transfer fee of $66 million eclipsing the Gunners’ previous record outlay by more than $40 million.
“Our goal has been clear – which is to be one of the leading football clubs in the world – and we’re driving towards that,” said Gazidis.
“We want to be able to compete with the very best in the game.
“The move to the [Emirates Stadium in 2006] was a critical part of our long term plan but the new commercial partnerships that we are entering into are just as critical.”
Meanwhile, Puma now add Arsenal to a portfolio that includes the Italian football federation, Germany’s 2013 Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund and Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt.