Monday, 2 May 2011

I cannot support the Arsenal board over 6.5% season ticket increase

I have been meaning to write about the proposed rise in season ticket prices for Gold Members at the club for some time. After yesterday's victory, I feel now is the time to make my feelings known.

I expect Arsenal to start the process of informing fans with ordinary season ticket at the Grove this week that the cost of their seat is to rise by up to 6.5%.

I believe this will happen because everyone can take such exceptionally bad news to ordinary supporters better after the side has won than after a defeat and seeing as Arsenal haven't been blessing fans with lots of wins recently, now is probably the best time.

The rise has been mooted for some months. Already the 7,000 odd Platinum Members, those fans who sit in Club Level at the Grove, have been handed the huge and unexpected rise in the cost of their seat for next season.

But with such a bad reaction and with the number of members sat in the premium seating deciding not to renew said to be in the 10-20% bracket, the club has decided to tread more carefully when it comes to announcing an increase the vast majority of season ticket holders at the ground.

Personally I cannot accept a rise of 6.5% when there is nothing to justify such an increase. The only rise I can deem acceptable in the present climate is 2.5% which the amount the UK government has increased VAT by.

At a time when the country is admits one of its worst economic periods, with high numbers of people being unemployed, it appears the only industry which believes it is recession proof is the football industry.

Arsenal may well think they have a big enough waiting list to weather the storm, but the bad feeling created by an increase of anything more than 2.5% at this time will last a very long time. Fans have long memories and many will remember the bad taste left in the mouth by the North Bank bonds issue.

It is the case that the club may well feel the increase is justified but a huge majority of its ordinary fans do not.

The club point to their being just one price rise since the move to the Grove from Highbury in 2006, but when Arsenal fans are already playing the highest ticket prices in the UK, if not the world, the board need to have a serious rethink about who their fans will be if they price the ordinary man, woman and child out of attending games.

This season we have already seen the effect current ticket prices have had with the club not being able to fill the stadium. The announcer many suggest we've had 60,000+ sold tickets at all but two of our Premier League games at the Grove this season however there have been large numbers of empty seats seen at many league games this term and that's even with the option members have to resell their unwanted seat through the disastrous ticket exchange system which penalizes fans who are unable to attend games.

There aren't the buyers out there who are prepared to spend £48+ on a Wednesday night match with Stoke City. So will there be if that price is increased by 6.5%? I very much doubt it.

At a time when the Arsenal board are making millions of pounds by selling their shares to Stan Kroenke, ordinary fans with ordinary jobs are being priced out of coming to see their beloved Arsenal. It won't be long until the cheapest season ticket at the Grove is more than £1,000.

If the Arsenal board do inflict an increase of more than 2.5% the on normal season ticket holder, I will be taking steps to decrease my spending at the club to accommodate the rise - which is worth far more to the club than the money they will make in the rise.

These steps include:

1. No longer purchasing a replica shirt.

2. No longer spending money on official merchandise.

3. I will not buy the official magazine.

4. There will be no spending money on food/drink inside the stadium.

5. I will for go my annual subscription to Arsenal TV Online.

6. The match day programme will no longer be brought.

The Arsenal board cannot have it both ways. I can justify spending only so much of my income on attending matches and associated expenditure in doing so.

I hope the board will see sense and impose an increase of just 2.5% but I fear for the worst.

Personally, I believe there should be a full review of ticketing at the club. I am in agreement with AISA's ten point plan for change and back both AISA and the Arsenal Supporters Trust in their campaigns to stop the proposed rise.

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