I’ve got 1,000 things I want to blog about and no time to write them. Safe standing, Josh Kroenke joining the Arsenal Board, Ivan and Chips hosting 200 fans for food and drink last Monday, the price of the Arsenal programme through the years (yes!), Stan buying more shares that he doesn’t need – the list goes on. But they’ve all been trumped by today’s news that Arsenal ticket prices will rise by 3 per cent from next season.
There are two ways of looking at this. You could say it’s only the second rise since Arsenal moved to the new stadium, and therefore price rises in that time have overall been below inflation. You could also say that Arsenal need every bit of income to compete with the oilies, as we have to rely on self-sufficiency. As an individual you may be relatively happy to pay a bit extra to give your team a small extra chance of competing at the top level.
On the other hand you could say all this:
Even a 3 per cent rise is more than most ordinary fans are getting in wage rises, and even a 3 per cent rise means a few more will be priced out; at every price rise, no matter how big or small, some people are at the margin and have no choice but to change their behaviour.
It makes it even harder for young people to go, the next generation of fans. When I was a teenager I could go to matches on my own every week. It was affordable for the average working class teenager; not any more.
Next year the huge new Premier League TV deals will kick in. Here’s a stat for you: every club in the PL could make every ticket free for the whole season, and the increase in the TV deals is such that they would still collectively have more money than before. Fact.
In Arsenal’s case, it’s true that they derive more of their income from tickets than most of their rivals, but that doesn’t mean they’re short of money, far from it. They get Champions League money every year and have recently signed big new sponsorship deals; even without the extra TV money there was set to be a major boost in income.
Since the Premier League started, seat prices have already risen around 400 per cent. In the same period wages and inflation have both risen around 190 per cent. Where is the justification for higher ticket prices than we have now?
The price rise will bring in about an extra £2.8m a year. What will that do for Arsenal, in a turnover 100 times that? It will pay one squad player the average wage at Arsenal. Do they not have the imagination to raise that kind of money another way?
For example introducing safe standing areas would mean more fans in the same space. You could charge them less to stand and still gross more money. Perhaps Arsenal should take the lead on that. Or perhaps not giving away the stadium naming rights for nothing would be a help, as was done in the recent deal with Emirates.
It was noticeable that this price rise announcement was made just after Ivan and Sir Chips spent the evening talking to 200 fans. I imagine Ivan would have had a somewhat harder time otherwise. It’s also announced while we’re top of the league and still in the Champions League, and just before a couple of very big games that could see us lose our lead at the top if things don’t go our way.
People trying to justify a price rise seem to be forgetting why football clubs exist. Let me remind them: it’s for fans. Without fans there is no club. If no one wants to go and watch you can be damn sure no one will be watching on TV either. Here’s what Uli Hoeness, Bayern President said about their season ticket prices: “We could charge more than £104. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2m more in income but what’s £2m to us? In a transfer discussion you argue about that sum for five minutes. But the difference between £104 and £300 is huge for the fan. We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.”
Don’t tell me Germany is different to England – yes it is, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t tell me Arsenal need to charge higher prices because Bayern get more in commercial income. So what? Shouldn’t Arsenal be concentrating on commercial income then? And why aren’t the other Bundesliga clubs saying, ‘Hey, Bayern have more commercial income than us, we need to increase our ticket prices to catch up’? They’re not doing that because they don’t want to rip off their fans.
Arsenal, it seems, are less bothered about that.
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And while I’m at it, watch this 4 minute film