Arsenal ‘can make investments needed’ despite losing Champions League fund

Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi (pic Arsenal FC)

Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi (pic Arsenal FC) - Credit: Archant

Arsenal can still make the investments required to compete, even if they spend more time in the Europa League – despite the financial implications of not finishing in the Premier League’s top four, according to managing director Vinai Venkatesham.

The Gunners have missed out on Champions League football in the past two seasons, with new head coach Unai Emery tasked with returning the club to Europe’s elite club competition.

But the challenge of doing so requires Arsenal usurping the likes of defending champions Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham – who currently occupy the top four positions in the Premier League.

While competing in the Champions League is where supporters want to be, it also makes it easier to attract new signings and results in more money coming into the club coffers.

Venkatesham stepped up to become Arsenal’s managing director following Ivan Gazidis’ decision to leave his role of chief executive and move to a similar position at AC Milan.

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He admits being in the Europa League is costing the club tens of millions of pounds in terms of revenue, but that there is no urgent need to recoup those lost funds.

“It is not going to be easy, but I absolutely, 100 per cent believe Arsenal Football Club can get back to where it needs to get,” said Venkatesham.

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“The first step we need to do is get back into the Champions League and then we need to start competing and then we need to start winning the biggest trophies in the game.

“We need to be realistic, last season we finished sixth and we had our second season in a row in the Europa League – that is not where we want this football club to be.

“I think it has an impact across the club – it is a material impact, financially, being in the Europa League and not the Champions League.

“It is hard to put a number on it because it depends how well you do in the Europa League and how well you do in the Champions League and it depends on how many English clubs are in both.

“But it is tens of millions of pounds, it is a material impact being in the Europa League – so that is the financial bit of it.”

While supporters may worry that the financial impact could lead to Arsenal being cut adrift from the top clubs at home and on the continent Venkatesham believes the club’s model can sustain a longer period out of the Champions League before that becomes a concern.

“We do have a self-sustaining business model, so the more years you spend out of the Champions League the bigger strain it puts on the business model,” he added.

“There’s not a final point we get to where it becomes a catastrophic problem and we are nowhere near that.

“We run the business in a responsible way – we know there are at least six teams who have a minimum requirement of being in the Champions League.

“So we have that robustness built into our business model that we can have some seasons in the Europa League and still make the investments we need.”

Arsenal reached the Europa League semi-final under Arsene Wenger last season – before bowing out to Atletico Madrid, who went on to beat Monaco in the final – and Emery has already guided their progress from the group stage this time around.

After beating FC Vorskla 4-2 in their first match at the Emirates Stadium in September, with goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2), Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil, they won 3-0 in Azerbaijan against Qarabag, as Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi all netted their first goals for the club.

Welbeck netted the winner in a 1-0 triumph over Sporting Lisbon in Portugal to make it three wins in a row, but he then suffered a bad ankle injury in the return fixture earlier this month, which ended in a goalless draw in north London.

Emery’s men are due to travel to Ukraine to take on Vorskla at the Oleksiy Butovsky Stadium next Thursday (November 29) and host Qarabag in their last group match on December 13.

The draw for the last 32 is made four days later, with the two-legged ties to be played in February.

Winning the tournament would mean a return to the Champions League, as would a first top-four finish in three years.

Whether Arsenal, currently unbeaten in 16 matches in all competitions, can go on and achieve that over the coming months remains to be seen.

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