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The Emirates Stadium management is a shambles and needs sorting now

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal can be proud of the Emirates Stadium. I’ve not been to every single Premier League ground, but I’ve been to most, and most of the Championship, plus many lower league grounds, and even with the Arsenal-tint to my eyes reduced to the lowest possible level I can say it is the best.  The best inside and the best outside.

But… it is declining.

Being the best does not mean that you don’t have problems – and the longer the problems exist the more it looks like there is a lack of care within the club about what these days marketing people who lack a certain grasp of the finer points of the language call “the match day experience”.

Yes, at the Ems, the “match day experience” is good.  But it could be better, and as problems are left unresolved and the decline sets in, the failure to address obvious issues speaks poorly of Arsenal.

Some of the things that are wrong with the Ems I have spoken of before, and although they are perhaps the most pressing, because I have mentioned them earlier I will leave them until last.

So here, without any thought to the relative importance of each notion, is the list of ten of the things that are wrong at the Ems.

1.  The sound system failed in the lower north bank early last season – and was left without repair

Now what does that say about “match day experience”?  What does that say about the repair team?

Electronics and digital systems go wrong – we all know that.  But there are such people as engineers whose job it is to fix stuff.  Where the attitude is, “oh it doesn’t matter, it’s only the fans” it gets harder and harder to justify the cost of the tickets.

2.  Parking supporters’ coaches on the streets outside the stadium is ludicrous.

Around 55,000 people leave the stadium at once at the end of the game and the streets are jammed with pedestrians.  The streets are closed – which is sensible although it is bad enough that in the gloom we have to dodge manure, delicately deposited by police horses.  But it works – until we have to try and negotiate the streets filled with coaches and supporters trying to find which coach they should be on.

It doesn’t happen every game – it happens when there is no public transport available and away fans come by coach instead of train.

So, first off, if there really is nowhere to park all those hundreds of coaches other than in the streets around the ground, if we are drawn at home on January 1, or the TV stations try to move the game to January 1, we should appeal on the grounds of safety.

Likewise, if there are to be more strikes on the Underground, let’s implement that change too.  No railways, no underground, don’t play.

3: Stop treating older supporters like second class citizens.

The UK started to treat its senior citizens with dignity and respect by introducing state benefits for older members of the community just over 100 years ago.  It was a bit of a no-brainer – in later years one slows down, and generally has less money yet one has (in most cases) paid taxes to support the state.  Now its pay back time.

In response to this every club in the Premier League allows senior citizens who are season ticket holders to keep their season tickets, but have a discount – which is a proper response to a recognition of a lifetime of supporting the club.

That is every club, except Arsenal.   Arsenal say, oh yes, you can have a discount – but you have to move and sit with the children!

Now you might think that outrageous, and possibly too stupid to be true – but it is absolutely true.  Any senior supporter who asks for a discount is told to move into the family enclosure with the kids and their parents.   The dignity of the elderly – some of whom don’t actually want to stand, or jump up and down through a game, but who want to sit with their friends – is gone.

It is a disgraceful attitude for Arsenal to hold.

And it is not even one that can be justified financially, since surveys of other clubs show that the number of senior supporters who take season tickets is normally just a few hundred.  These are people who have supported the club through the years that the “nine years without a trophy” merchants can’t imagine.  They watched the team play under Billy Wright for God’s sake.  And yet they stayed with the club.

Then they are rewarded like this.

4.  Stop the Stewards blocking the gangways.

I normally take my seat a few minutes before the start of the game – and every time I find I have to edge my way around stewards standing at the top of the gangway having a natter.

Maybe it is necessary to have one steward standing watching people coming up the stairs – but why does he/she…

a) have to have a little friend to talk to during the long and lonely half an hour he/she is on duty

b) have to stand exactly in a position that everyone has to edge around in order to continue up to the seats?

5.  The sound system outside the ground for the Bergkamp statue day was ludicrous and heads should roll over that fiasco.

Walter did a superb piece on this site reporting what was said in the speeches and what was utterly clear was that no one, but no one, thought of the fans.  No one even bothered to check the sound system.  No one thought, “hey, maybe these people who spend thousands of pounds a year on Arsenal deserve a little bit of thought, so they can hear their hero.”

No one thought at all!

And that’s really the problem, isn’t it?

6.  The queues for drinks at half time are still ludicrous.

There is space to put many more locations where a single product can be purchased – and this would reduce the queues.

Let’s say that the club know that a very large number of fans want pints of a certain type of lager and nothing else at half time.  Then set up places where

a) they only sell that product

b) the purchasers need to have the exact money – no change is given.

Those queues would move incredibly quickly, and the queues for all the other products would diminish.

It’s not that hard.

7.  Train the catering staff before they work, not during working time.

Something like 50% of my purchases at half time last season met either with a cock-up, laughter, disbelief or uncertainty.  And most of the time I was only trying to buy a coffee.

And here’s another catering issue – if the product is not available, put up a big sign, so that I don’t spend the whole of half time queuing for a coffee that is not available at the place I was queuing.

8.  Merseyside supporters and supporters of overseas clubs will let off flares and smoke bombs and the stewards will not be able to deal with it.

Not only do the supporters conspire together to bring flares and smoke bombs into the stadium, they also conspire to stop stewards getting to the objects, and the supporters letting them off.

We saw the particularly pathetic sight last season of stewards trying to push past standing away supporters, but being unable to do so, and of two or three times having to try and fight their way into a particular part of the ground without success.

In other words, during matches involving Merseyside clubs parts of the Ems becomes a no-go area.

Eventually someone will get hurt, and this warning on this blog will become part of the public record.  The club really needs to act now, and if it is not possible to check everyone, or to gain access to some of the away section, then they need to do the most obvious thing – reduce the number of Merseyside and overseas club supporters allowed into the stadium at any one time.

9:  Violence is possible at the game against Tottenham

The violence shown by a number of Tottenham fans against Theo and the ambulance crews was disturbing, worrying and dangerous.  There is a long history of Tottenham having a small number of fans who will constantly break the law – just think back to September 28 2008 at Fratton Park.  As a result of that a dozen of the hundreds of guilty Tottenham supporters were identified as having broken the law, and were charged.

But the worrying point about that event, apart from its abhorrent nature, is that it took photographs of Tottenham supporters in the national press for the individuals to be identified.

What this suggests is that people could then, and I think can still now, buy Tottenham away tickets without giving their identity through club membership.  This leads to a feeling of impunity when this group throw objects at a player and ambulance crews.

Something needs to be done, or else like the Merseyside flares, it will happen again.

10: Many of these problems show an on-going lack of care and consideration for Arsenal fans.

That’s the inherent point in all this.  Yes we want to win the League, and yes that is more important than sorting out amplification systems etc.  But even so.  It ain’t that hard.  Is it?

So why doesn’t someone either a) sort this lot or b) tell us why these issues can’t be sorted?

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17 comments to The Emirates Stadium management is a shambles and needs sorting now

  • oldgroover

    It’s not the easiest place for parking at the best of times, but I remember when Drayton Park used to be turned into a massive car park on (Highbury) match days. Isn’t this possible for coaches now?
    The club encourages supporters to use the local transport, but didn’t come through with the promised refurbishment of Holloway Road underground station, so there are huge queues at Arsenal & Highbury stations. Not sure why Drayton Park can’t be brought into operation.
    Too late now of course, but I still think the Kings Cross option was best.
    Also, yes oldies (of which I’m one) in with the kids is a bad, bad mix. The kids & parents are so suspicious of anyone who speaks to them.

  • Rob

    11. Need to lock the turnstiles so the fans stay till the end……or sort out exit arrangements so people don’t feel the need to leave early!!

  • Gord

    Perhaps Andrew or Bootoomee know different, but to me if engineers are needed to sort out a sound problem on the lower north bank, it means there is a design problem, as opposed to a fault (such as a broken wire). It may be that it could be partly both, such as a fault located in an inaccessible place.

    If fixing the problem may require more time than exists between games, possibly without it raining, that might be a reason to delay fixing something. Hopefully it is being worked on in the off season. I have seen they are redoing the grass at the Arsenal website.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Slacking Arsenal?!! Are you feeling well, Tony?

  • nicky

    Tony,
    A sobering and disturbing report which, at speed, a copy should be forwarded to the Board at the Emirates for urgent consideration.

  • bjtgooner

    Tony, it is always sensible to raise concerns just as you have done.

    I would assume that the concerns you have raised are the responsibility of a person or persons in administration. That these concerns have not as yet been dealt with is not good enough.

    Some of these concerns are serious safety issues – are the H&S managers (or officers) qualified to the correct level (it is inconceivable that they are not) – but do they have sufficient clout to have their views listened to?

    On a lighter note – all OAP’s should have complimentary cheese sandwiches (English Mature cheddar) at half time on match day!

  • Robl

    On the flip side I took my terminally ill brother to the Ems Cup, and the staff, and police couldn’t do enough to help us, hats off to them & really refreshing.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Some worrying issues raised….Wenger out!

  • Pat

    About the sound system repair – is there an in-house team? Or is the work, as so often nowadays, contracted out to the lowest bidder? Might this be the reason it doesn’t get done?

    About the number of serving points and the quality of service at half time – isn’t this contracted out as well? And aren’t the young people poorly paid and poorly trained as a result? And the fewer people serving, the lower the wage bill.

    I used to work in a school. In the old days, when we had a regular team of cleaners paid a proper wage by the local education authority, the cleaning was excellent. Now these jobs are contracted out to big firms that pay poor wages and offer poor working conditions, and don’t train their workers properly.

    Maybe this is what is happening at Arsenal. Do you know if this is the case, Tony? If so, Arsenal supporters could take a view on this.

    However, I think it’s a bit strong to object to the stewards talking to each other. It’s true I don’t go to matches as often as you, Tony, but they always seem very helpful to me, and pleasantly cheerful.

  • andy bishop

    Maybe Untold could join forces with Black Scarf to get things done

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Really can’t believe that the stadium management would let this happen. Wake up guys ! Do the job your are paid to do . Lets have great service to complement the great team .
    Apparently shoddy work and workmen is all not too uncommon worldwide and messing up is one the rise .

    http://www.thepoke.co.uk/2012/09/01/damnit-you-had-one-job-slideshow/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cR5RvQ7jw4

  • nicky

    @bjtgooner,
    Your comment wasn’t “on a lighter note” when you mentioned sarnies of mature English Cheddar.
    Many crumblies live on them 🙂

  • blacksheep63

    I think the issue that really needs to be addressed is the discount (or lack of it) for OAPs. The stewards near me are great and I have no problem with queues for drinks because I never buy drinks in the stadium and don’t really understand why one would want to. You only end up having to queue again…for the loos!

    I think Tony must have got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning 🙂

  • Brickfields Gunners

    It is amazing to see how people can be so rude and thoughtless in their actions when a simple courteous gesture like saying “I’m sorry” could make things so much better. We were taught as children the five magic words/phrases may I, excuse me, sorry, please and thank you. It is what all parents need to teach their children during their formative years.

    This “staged” clip reflects today’s society, where people believe they don’t need to show any courtesy to others and don’t care a damn!

    Very well done and worth a watch:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151533055357725&set=vb.543907724&type

    We were always taught that , ” Courtesy costs nothing “.

  • insideright

    One of the things we learnt at the Fans Forum last week was that the Club are spending a significant amount on upgrading both Hale End (Academy) and London Colney in order to deliver the long term aim of having a much nigher level of home grown talent in the first team and improving the rehabilitation of players after injury. Both will, in the long run, save the Club a lot of money.
    And there you have the answer to the Tony’s well made points. His suggestions won’t make money – in fact, in the case of discounts for pensioners (and there are or will be soon many at Arsenal) it will actually reduce income.
    Part of the problem is, of course, that people don’t complain enough. Hopefully Tony’s words, via AISA, will get something done although, as he says, having the best appointed stadium in the country has probably engendered a level of complacency that is going to take some shifting so don’t hold your breath!

  • bjtgooner

    @nicky

    I thought you would appreciate the comment about the Mature Cheddar – I was being half serious because I do feel the OAPs should have an additional discount/reward/complimentary food/etc; buying match tickets from a pension would be difficult for many. Their efforts should be recognized by the club.

  • bob mac

    There will always be problems whatever is done to improve things.

    If money taking suffers, then Arsenal like most clubs, will soon erradicate this problem.

    On the odd time that I have used the tube I find it quite appalling that it often takes 90mins to get on the bloody thing…….unless I miss part of the game.

    Is it not possible for the waste ground around the stadium to be used for a special Arsenal train system…….they have one at Old Trafford!!!!!