Today is Arsène’s press conference and whilst I’d love to be able to be talking about football, I like many season ticket holders, have had the misfortune to receive an email from the club yesterday afternoon about the additional cash they will require me to fork out at the end of the season for the Barcelona game.
For those of you that are unaware, season ticket holders pay for all 19 Premier League games, receiving seven ‘cup credits’ which allow us to attend the first seven Champions League or FA Cup games that take place during Arsenal’s season. Thereafter, you are charged for additional games if Arsenal make it to the latter stages of both competitions, playing mostly home games.
Arsenal categorise the importance of their games into three bands: A, B and C. Category C games on my season ticket are worth £25, Category B is just over £40 and Category A is around the £65 mark. But I pay little attention to those categorie, because I get an annual price so for me, each game works out at just over £40 a ticket.
Football is expensive to watch. I pay for my tube fare, some food pre game (a sandwich normally at £2), some beers (for around £15) and a programme (£3.50). So I think I spend my fair share. I also occasionally buy things from the club shop. Every odd week I help to contribute towards that massive matchday revenue that we saw in the papers and online a couple of weeks ago. So I think I am doing my bit for Arsenal.
So to receive an email from the club saying that they’ll need another £16.11 from me at the end of the season, because the Barcelona game is a Category A fixture, I find, quite frankly, abhorrent. The club – in a long winded email designed to drive as much apathy as they can from supporters – explains their reasoning by saying that it depends on the types of cup games that are played and sometimes fans are given refunds if the cup games played are in category C mostly, but that argument is completely flawed. It’s flawed because if that is the logic that the club choose to enforce, why do season ticket holders not receive a bigger refund if all seven cup game allocations are not taken up? Having been a season ticket holder for about seven years now, I can assure you that it has not happened during my time as a season ticket holder, but being charged extra has.
I am making this post about the money, when actually it’s not, because I can afford to spend an extra £16.11 on Arsenal. It’s my passion and I want to go and see my football club play on the biggest stage. This is about the way we, as fans, are being increasingly marginalised in terms of our importance to the club. Or at least that’s how it feels.
I feel like I am non-longer seen as an emotional stakeholder in the football club. I am not part of its tapestry, it’s fabric, its core of what it makes it great. I am a commodity. I am a number to be cross-sold to, a revenue generating customer. I am not important. If I disappear from the clubs records, someone else will take my place, so what does it matter?
I am a currency. The Arsenal pound is one of the strongest in the world. It has to be to charge fans some of the highest prices, as well as adding more on top like this yesterday, yet not really fear the consequences because there is enough demand there to get people like me replaced if I don’t like it. The Arsenal pound is stronger than the Leicester Dollar, or the Manchester Yen, so the club can continue to do what they like with their currency because they know that there’s plenty more where that came from.
Except there isn’t. The currency analogy probably isn’t the most accurate. An oil or coal analogy probably is. Natural resources are being used up across the globe and everybody knows that there is a finite amount, eventually it will run out, yet still people continue to consume it. The problem is, people don’t care enough because ‘there’s plenty of that where it came from’ at the moment. It’s the future that will see the repurcussions, but we people in the now are fine. It’s the same with the club. They are driving fans away and right now, the season ticket waiting list is long and the demand is there for people like me to be replaced. But if the club keep pushing, keep driving hard at people’s pockets, there will come a time where a breaking point is met.
But the club don’t really care about that at the moment because they have a nice big pipeline of fanbase ‘natural resources’ to consume in the now.
People have been talking about the extortionate prices for years. Campaigns have been going for years. I’m not early to the party on this topic. But I am here and I’m not liking what I see on the horizon. It’s not about the money, it’s about the way we are treated, which Tim Stillman gave on an insight to on his Twitter timeline yesterday. The club are slowly eradicating the small gestures and things that made me to write in the matchday programme a few years ago that we are a big ‘family club’. At the time I meant it, because the club listened to fans, engaged with them and even though we had little say on the running of the club, it still felt like they listened.
I feel more distant now than ever before. I feel like the American’s model of how he would want one of his ‘franchises’ to be run is now coming to fruition. Maximise revenues, minimise any influence outside of the board, drive numbers as hard as possible and pay out dividends to those who have enough money in the form of ‘Management fees’ or whatever they called it.
I should be looking forward to a weekend of football, not feeling sad that my club no longer gives two sh*ts about who I am, as long as I cough up my own cash.
Sorry. Not really a football related blog today, which is what I usually try and focus on, but something I feel I needed to say.
Back tomorrow with some thoughts on Arsène’s presser.