Sunday’s FA Cup match was a sign of what we could see at the Emirates next season empty seats. Despite Burnley taking 6,000 instead of the normal Premier League 3.000, Arsenal were unable to sell out the Emirates, with 3,000 seats left unsold.
Some may say, this was an FA Cup tie against a Championship side, but that defies the club’s logic that there are 20,000 Silver members on the season ticket waiting list and that there are thousands of Red members just waiting to buy tickets. Sunday proved otherwise.
Sunday was the first time that season ticket holders were able to opt out of attending the match. Many did, and the club was unable to sell those seats. The barometer for whether a game will sell out is the seats in the upper tier behind the goal where the away fans sit, these seats cost £46, and there were whole sections on Sunday empty.
Saturday’s game against Blackburn Rover has gone on general sale, I do not think any other Premier League game has gone on general sale at the Emirates. The club has eight days to sell the tickets for the Hull City game, unless Hull bring down 9,000 fans, this game will attract no more than 55,000 fans.
We are seeing the first signs of fans picking which games they wish to see, these are the first signs of the credit crunch hitting Arsenal. Fans are telling the club that we might love Arsenal, but we are not prepared to pay £46 to watch sub-standard football. The fans have been taken for granted by Arsenal, now they are voting with their feet and staying at home.
Unless we wish to play at a stadium with swathes of empty seats the club need to provide Wenger with money to buy players that will make us competitive in the title race and they need to re-asses the pricing policy.
The club announced last week that ticket prices will be frozen for next season. This is welcome news for all fans, but could the club have done more?
Everton and Newcastle have both announced 10% reduction in prices. Arsenal did not even contemplate this option, Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, even indicated that with such a long season ticket waiting list, the club could have increased the prices for next season.
The Club is working on a theory,that says, if there are 20,000 fans on the Silver membership level, they all want or are all prepared to buy a season ticket. With the worldwide economic crisis due to continue through to 2010, coupled with a very indifferent season, the club will get a nasty shock next season. At least half a dozen games will not sell out. You only need to look around the Emirates to see so many empty seats; these are people who, whilst they have bought their season ticket this season, will think twice about doing so next season.
One of the biggest gripes with fans is the leap in ticket prices for Category A games. Category A games are reserved for those against Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and surprisingly, West Ham. Tickets for these games are on average £20 more expensive than other games, this is a disgrace and should be looked at for next season.
Season ticket holders have been punished this season for buying their tickets early. The season ticket price included VAT at 17½%, half-way through the season the government changed the VAT rate to 15%. Though this is not the club’s fault, the season ticket holder has been penalised. There will be sting in the tail for season ticket holders next season; season tickets include 7 cup credits, these have now been used, meaning that the FA Cup tie against Burnley and possibly Hull City plus any further Champions League ties, will be added to next season’s season ticket price. This is equal to £130 extra for lower tier and on average £200 for upper tier, if we progress to the semi final for the Champions League, so season ticket holders beware.
The club could have made a bigger gesture for next season, by reducing prices and removing the Category A games. Furthermore, if for whatever reason, we fail to qualify for the Champions League, the club needs to re-assess the pricing policy for the Europa Cup and whether these games should be included as part of the season ticket prices for next season.