by Tony Attwood
There is a story doing the rounds that all season ticket holders who want a ticket for the Wembley semi-final against Man City have got one.
And of course this has been taken up as a chance to knock Arsenal and Arsenal support – exactly as happened two years ago, and the year before that.
Arsenal has more season ticket holders than there are tickets allocated for Arsenal supporters at Wembley. Arsenal have 45,000 season ticket holders – the third highest number in the Premier League. West Ham and Man U are bigger – WHU (because they chose not to keep tickets available for occasional supporters as Arsenal do, and they feared that if the normal post-move drop happened fans wouldn’t show up if they had not already bought their tickets) and Man U because they have a bigger stadium.
But only around 31,500 tickets are available for each side. So clearly 13,500 season ticket holders will not get a ticket.
What happens is that people who have been to three or more away games with Arsenal and who have a season ticket are guaranteed the right for a ticket. At the same time season ticket holders who don’t have three away matches credited to their ticket go into a ballot. It is said that everyone who applied in the ballot will get their ticket.
Now this is the same as happened two years ago. I can’t remember the previous season details, but I have a feeling that once again all the season ticket holders who wanted a ticket got one.
So does that mean that season ticket holders are up in revolt?
I don’t think so. There are many reasons for not opting to take a ticket for the cup semi-final. One of course is that you might have something else to do that Sunday. Another is that Wembley for all its razzmatazz as shown on TV is a devil of a place to get to, and a really awful place to get out of. It has crummy food and drink options, and the pubs around charge you £5 even to walk through the door. And then the drinks are over priced and the options limited.
For myself, travelling from the Midlands, I also have to try and find an Underground station with a car park that is going to have any empty spaces and then take a train into Wembley. The train connection is fine, but the number of car parks around is to say the least modest, and fans do get there in large numbers very early for a solid day in the pub. Those of us who wish for little more than a single drink have the option of not getting any parking, or spending a day hanging around.
I could go by train, but that means a train into London and a long old journey out again – it seems silly to go all the way in and all the way out.
Wembley also is not a comfortable stadium, nor is it a good place to spend a lot of time. But there is far, far worse to come when the game is over.
Many people head for Wembley Park station, and so as a result the police use the kettling procedure devised to control demonstrations, and which has been highly criticised by safety groups. In essence large numbers of people are penned into a small space and held there until the police deem it safe for them to move.
In one sense that sounds ok – you do not want vast crowds on the train platforms with the danger of people being pushed onto the line.
But in another sense it is incredibly unsafe as people at the front are held behind a police barrier, and more join in from behind. Now I know the police say that the fans are held in small groups, but I have been there trying to get towards the station, and found myself in a crush as more and more are joining from behind but no one is being let out from the front.
So, season ticket holders not applying for semi-final tickets? Yes that is normal, and nothing special this year for many reasons. Quite often it is simply nicer to watch it on TV.
But let’s be aware. Every opportunity to suggest that the fans en masse have turned on Arsenal will be used. And if, as before, not all the season ticket holders have taken up their allocation, then that certainly means some silver members will be rewarded for their dedication to the club and will have a chance to go to the game.