Arsenal Confirm Rise in Ticket Prices: Fans Being Treated as Customers?

Robin SAnalyst IMay 5, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  A man sits in front of the fan shop of Arsenal Football Club's Emirates Stadium on April 11, 2011 in London, England. American businessman Stan Kroenke's company 'Kroenke Sports Enterprises' has increased its shareholding in Arsenal to 62.89% and will make an offer for a full takeover of the club. Kronke first purchased 9.9% of Arsenal shares in 2007. Today's deal values the Premier League club at 731m GBP.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

It's now confirmed that a 6.5 percent rise in ticket prices will mark Arsenal's 125th year anniversary season.

Under the prevailing economic climate, that's an ill-timed move to fill the pockets of Arsenal custodians. Even without the aforementioned price rise, Arsenal are one of the most expensive clubs to watch in Europe, so one wonders what has prompted this move to squeeze the maximum out of loyal support.

The Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis cites the ever-escalating transfer fees and player wages as the reason for Arsenal to saddle the fans with outrageous ticket prices.

As you would expect, Arsenal fan clubs are clearly against the price rise and rightly so. The club hasn't really been that successful on the pitch in recent years to demand this sort of money from the supporters to watch the club they love.

It's also not as if the club is neck deep in debt and a price rise is inevitable. The financial situation is quite healthy. Furthermore, Stan Kroenke's emergence as the major shareholder should have given enough incentive for Arsenal to revise the price rise and freeze it for another few years.

There is a real concern that such a rise would price ordinary fans out of football. To an extent, that concern is reasonable as football is a working man's game, at least that's what it has been heralded for a long, long time.

As we know, Arsenal was founded in 1886 as a workers' team. And 125 years later, it's ironical that Arsenal decided to commemorate the 15 men who helped to establish the club by burdening the commoners with the weight of the Board's rapacity.

What does this mean? Football is no more just a game. It's a business. Fans are not just fans. They're also customers. They're being treated as customers.

The providers dictate terms and the customers are forced to accede owing allegiance to the club. This is happening everywhere, at every club. More so at Arsenal. It's not going to stop but it can be controlled.

After all, a club can't exist without unconditional support from the fans. However, it's not one-way traffic.

The club must repay the love and faith of the fans in small instalments by paying heed to their suggestions and gratifying them on field. Arsenal, in recent years, have failed to achieve success on the field—presumptuous football in one of the most decorated stadiums is well and good but success is measured with a different yardstick—so it's quite baffling as to how the Board could raise the price knowing it would lead to intense criticism.

I know Arsenal are hamstrung by sponsorship deals. Arsenal's commercial revenue is only half of what Manchester United generate.

To make up for the shortage Arsenal are forced to hike prices elsewhere. Then you see owners like Roman Abramovich splashing cash to keep his club competitive, and Sheikh Mansour pumping bullions of pounds into Manchester City from his own means.

So, why can't Arsenal's multi-million shareholders inject a small per cent of their personal wealth into the club to stave off any need for raising ticket prices?

If you look at what Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour have been doing, that's negligible. But still they won't do it.

Why? Because their motive is making money rather than spending it. They're here to extract money from the club and not to inject into it.

Then you've people like Peter Hill-Wood, the director of Arsenal, who has accumulated wealth by being the director and has contributed nothing to the club. He mostly opens his mouth to criticize the Arsenal fans and extol the 'incredible' work done by Arsene Wenger.

It's disgraceful that such people are allowed to work closely with the club and are even paid for that. Then the club asks fans to pay more to fatten the pockets of the very same ineffective, greedy octogenarians who are more of a liability.

Instead of raising the ticket prices, Arsenal should have formulated ways to increase the revenue in other areas. The manager should be 'ordered' to take the club on pre-season tours of Asia and the US instead of hiding in the trenches of Austria season after season.

If you consider what very little Arsenal have accomplished on the field, the tour to Austria seems to be an utter waste.

The squad too needs a bit of trimming. At the moment, far too many players are earning more than what they deserve. An utter flop like Denilson will not earn close to £3 million each season at any other club other than Arsenal. And recently, you heard the news of Carlos Vela signing a new long-term deal with improved figures virtually for nothing.

That list goes on and on ranging from Manuel Almunia to Diaby to Arshavin to fringe players like Mark Randall. This is the pressing need: Arsenal must get rid of these dud players who offer very little to the club after eating up millions of quids.

That would allow Arsenal to offer better wage to players that deserve a hike on their current deals like Samir Nasri, whose future at Arsenal is a subject of immense speculation.

You don't need to make a 6.5 percent increase in ticket price to offer Nasri a palatable new contract .Retaining Nasri is important and if that's only possible by asking Denilson to warm the bench without a wage for doing the same, Arsenal must do it.

The other reason that Gazidis cited besides outrageous wage was escalating transfer fees. Are they that active on the transfer market? To begin with, Arsenal do very little business in terms of big money signings. They usually end up making profit, so that argument is flawed.

What this price rise means is that Arsenal have put themselves under more pressure to have a busy transfer period this summer.

If they don't, the price rise won't make sense. That would automatically make it impossible to placate the fans and eventually they would stop watching Arsenal.

Arsenal are hopefully planning to spend big this summer and that's what I would want to believe this price rise is for. What's more important is success on the pitch. If Arsenal don't show the ambition to win trophies, the increasing number of empty seats will start showing up for even the most high-profile games of the season.

Trophy drought and price hike don't go hand in hand. Arsenal must realise that and revise their plans.

If not, they must spend big to do justice to the money that the fans are forced to pay now.


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