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In 3 years time Old Trafford will be half empty, but the Ems will still be full



By Tony Attwood

The supporters’ rebellion at Manchester United this summer was supposed to involve season ticket holders not renewing until the last minute.

But the trouble with rebellions is that they can sometimes get a bit out of control.  I am not sure that the middle class members of the 3rd Estate in France in 1789 quite wanted their reforms to end up with the Terror of 1791, any more than those who campaigned for the end of the maximum wage for footballers quite wanted wages so high that the players would be in part responsible for the bankruptcy of clubs.  (Not that there is any link between football wages and the Terror, you understand).

But there is trouble afoot in both Man IOU and Liverpool territory, just as the Anti-Arsenal blogs that pretend to be Arsenal blogs (one might call them Anti-Arsenal Arsenal) are getting more and more worked up with their tales of impending doom, and I am just starting to wonder how far it is going to go.

As we know Liverpool teetered on the brink throughout last season and are now run by the banks who have installed a Chelsea season ticket holder as the chairman of the club.   Oh what must the kop enders be thinking.   20 years without winning the league, utterly bankrupt and supported only by a bank that wants its money back and run by a Chelsea man.  No wonder the manager is rather worried about playing in the double extra pre-preliminary extra round of the Dopey Cup this week against Bloghurstein Village Juniors.  It is going to be a tough one.

But back to Man IOU. The great revolution involving wearing scarves of different colours from the team (while still wearing a shirt of the team) has always looked a little odd to me, but we were promised a much more vibrant campaign when the season ticket holders held off renewing until the last minute.

And those season ticket holders have done just that. In fact their watches must have stopped as they were looking for that last minute because Man IOU are now anxiously trying to flog 4000 regular season tickets.

Of course 4000 season tickets probably only represents around 8% or so of the total volume of season tickets on offer at Very Old Trafford (100 years old this year – see “Making the Arsenal” for details of its birth).  But there are two facts to note.

  • One is that these are regular season tickets – not club class or anything like that.
  • Two is that there is no waiting list at Man IOU for season tickets.

Now this summer there was a very real attempt by some of the anti-Arsenal Arsenal (AAA) blogs to try and suggest that the Arsenal season ticket waiting list had gone and that something like 80% of season ticket holders were walking away.   Apart from this being a thoroughly bizarre statement given the fact that every game sells out, all the evidence is that this is not true, and indeed it is hard to find many people who have given up their season tickets this year.  Likewise the waiting list seems as strong as ever.  But more on Arsenal and the AAA in a moment.

First, what’s to be learned from the downturn in demand at Manchester IOU?

Clearly it can’t be the lack of success on the pitch.  No, it is something else – the feeling about the club.  Some people just don’t want to be a part of the Glazer machine any more.  They don’t want to feel that the money they pay for their tickets goes into the Glazer created interest account used to pay the banks and others for their borrowings.

Of course we have no way of knowing if this decline in interest will continue any further.   Searching back through old messages on the Man U supporters sites http://community.manutd.com/forums/t/14459.aspx for example it is clear that in 2008 there was a waiting list and that many people who were on it were not getting season tickets that year.

Back in July 2007 Man U were reported by Channel 4 to be saying that they had  56,000 season tickets and 40,000 on a waiting list.

All these figures are hard to validate, and many don’t believe them.  Arsenal FC constnatly state that there are 40,000 on the Arsenal waiting list now, but many of the anti-ArsenalArsenal  blogs reject this figure – largely it seems based on having a number of mates coming along and offering to do illegal deals over season tickets with AAA site owners.

But let’s ignore the constant, endless attempt by the AAA blogs to destroy our club and its support, and look at what seems to be a real decline in the Man U situation.   From 40,000 on the waiting list to 4000 unsold and no waiting list in 3 seasons, two of which included winning the league.

Certainly if this continues then either this year or by next year there will be gaps on the Man U seats, and we will truly have seen a wholesale revolt of supporters against owners.  In three more years Very Old Trafford will be half full.

So could we see that too at Arsenal – with the AAA orchestrating a campaign that gets Wenger out?

It seems unlikely simply because Wenger has a massive level of support – you only have to go to the games to hear the pro-Wengerian chants.  At Man U you can’t find a single person who supports the Glazers.  Apart from the board.

The fact is that nothing can redeem the situation at Man U, whereas Wenger’s continuing success in keeping our club profitable and in the top four, with an astonishing array of talent coming through, gives hope to many who think about Arsenal in the broadest sense.

While the AAA shout and scream that we have only bought two players this summer, the real supporters know that we have in fact also got a bunch of teenagers of amazing ability coming through – Wilshere, Frimpong, JET… all of whom will be featuring for us this year.

That’s really the point – there is a solid and clear reason to support Wenger and there are tens of thousands of people without tickets who would love tickets, who do support Wenger.   Thus the waiting list stays solid.  At Man U, no one likes the Glazers, and people are simply walking away.

Interestingly, because the AAA’s campaign to destroy our club is not making much ground they are trying new tactics – you may have spotted one of the most amusing creeping into Untold with comments suggesting that I am a Tottenham supporter in disguise, and that Untold itself is anti-Arsenal because it talks so much about money in football.   There was another one yesterday, saying that I really ought to learn something about football before I tried to run a blog.

Fair enough – each to his/her own opinion.   There’s no problem with these comments, because unlike some of the AAA sites Untold doesn’t change people’s comments once they have been posted.   If they are copied from other sites, or if we find people writing in using different names to try and make it look like they are several people rather than one, yes I do take action.  But otherwise, its an open forum.

Perversely I quite like the attacks on Untold and  these wild stories about 80% of season ticket holders giving up, because when the ground is once again full for games next season, and we see yet another brilliant team produced by nurturing young talent, it really is very funny.

Having watched the couple of games so far, I am getting a really strong buzz about this year.  I think we might not only be able to beat the other clubs, but also deal with the injury jinx.   At last we might have just enough bodies to survive the onslaught of the anti-football clubs.

27 comments to In 3 years time Old Trafford will be half empty, but the Ems will still be full

  • Snir Geuli

    I can assure you the waiting list is alive and kicking… I’ve been 39968 for about half a year now without moving up in the waiting list so nobody has to worry about the aiting list.

  • John

    Tony, Untold is by far the #1 Arsenal blog in my opinion. Brilliant insight, well written and great sense of humour. I’ve had it with people who keep putting everything about us down instead of supporting Wenger and the lads.

    Keep up the good work.

    Proud to be a Gooner.

  • conor

    its not anti arsenal to speek the truth five of my mates sat together last season and not one of them have renewed.i know that doesnt make 30000 but there has to be some truth to the rumours

  • Lannon83

    Im now 3276 on the waiting list. I signed up in 2004! Not long now! I hope!!

  • GoonerGaz

    Snir Geuli,how dare you doubt the doubters.And on a spurs site as well.Just sorry i could,nt spell spurs with smaller letters for more effect.

  • IncredibleG

    Hey Tony,
    Is that definitely true about the MU season tickets? Hilarious!

    I wouldn’t say I “support the lord Wenger in all he does” but I am seriously wound up by the sites you’re talking about and their ridiculously negative interpretation of EVERY SINGLE STORY that passes. One in particular with an unbelievable readership for the bilge they spout day-in, day-out winds me up so much!(I’m not going to advertise them [although they do have 1 good writer] but you know who I mean) Their tantrums about how Cesc should come round their house and swear on Tony Adam’s socks that he won’t leave for at least 20 years finally broke my usually steely resolve and I calmly and clearly explained how I thought that their sycophantic regulars had enabled them to completely disregard facts and well posed arguments to instead focus, tabloid-style, on the unfounded and exagerated opinions of the clearly unbalanced editor(In fact I was even less explicit than that). They simply deleted my posts. I hadn’t even sworn yet!

    Sorry for the long and pointless comment but I’m sure you’ll understand I had to tell someone(!!!) and the missus has told me quite clearly that she really doesn’t care.

  • Nigel

    I am one of those supporters who would love to be able to see our Gunners in action at the Grove. I live in Cape Town and if I had the finances, I wouldn’t think twice of boarding a commercial plane on a Friday and flying back on a Sunday just to support the club I love. So when I see the seats emptying before the final whistle, it makes me cringe because those ticket holders do not seem to appreciate what they have.
    I would suggest that the club install extra big screens in the stadium. Then it would be able to stream live video feeds of the Cape Town Arsenal Supporters Club chanting and cheering our players when they need it most.
    I know that would motivate players more than having to look up and see the ‘supporters’ deserting them.

    Anyway, enough wishful thinking for now.

    Only 21 days to go till Anfield. Feels like an eternity.

  • bc

    Snir Geuli – I suggest you get in touch with the club, last season my daughter became a season ticket holder, her last notification was that she 16,487 on the list.

  • P.M.

    What are all the sites that are AAA??
    I’ve read a few blogs which I found anti-Wenger and anti-Cesc and I left comments which were removed!!
    If you could state the sites I’ll steer well clear..
    Cheers,
    Forever Arsenal!!

  • Gooner80

    Hey Tony
    enjoyed the article, good analysis

    Arsenal is definitely full I used to just turn up as a kid and always got tickets now it is much harder. I dont mean this in a bad way but we recruited a lot of glory hunters when we started to win things plus with the addition of attractive football people flocked to arsenal,at one time I would say we had 3 of the very best players in the world playing in our team, and most neutrals would say if they had to pick a place to get a season ticket they would chose arsenal plus we are our from the capital so we draw huge interest largely thanks to Wengers attractive football because under Graham I doubt we would have huge waiting lists, but there is lots of factors of why we are so popular, and being popular attracts haters who want to tear you down.

    we do need to win something soon, for us fans who stick by the team and to me like many arsenal fans dont have a choice I am going to be a gooner to the day I die whether we are in the conference or prem, and that is part of the reason arsenal have a huge waiting lists at the time of the building of the ems I thought we should have at least matched Man U capacity but that was a mistake. On the other hand some peoples loyalty has come as a result of winning things so we need to win and probably why there is an anti arsenal agenda at arsenal, wenger has spoilt us of what we took for granted and then he has I hope momentarily taken it way from us and when he does win he can unify the club back to the harmony we are used to.

    but it does go to show that attractive football sells

  • Damien

    Well said. Keep it up Tony.

  • Cambridgegooner

    Did you know also that we have 110,000 red
    Members, after four years I am
    Still 28,000 on the season ticket waiting
    List

  • 60yrs support Gunners

    When mentioning the talented youngsters, don’t let us forget the best of them all — A Ramsey. Hopefully he will be our January window signing.

  • There are two issues here here, and they often get confused.

    First, how many people are there on the waiting list. The club seems to indicate 40,000.

    We do seem to get contradictory stories about how long one stays on the season ticket waiting list. I would like to find out what number one is given if one signs up for a season ticket now.

    If you have recently applied for a season ticket it would be great to know what number you have been given on the waiting list.

    Second, how many places do you go down the list each year? This is an odd question because it is often interpreted as being equivalent to the number of people giving up their season tickets, but we also have to take into account people who are on the waiting list but who on getting to the top of the list don’t take up their option.

    It would be good to know these numbers too.

  • Lee

    Right guys I will clear this up now after Reading this blog I decided to put myself on the waiting list I am number 60127 on the waiting list

  • Lee

    Just waiting on some AAA fan to say they did the same and are no 1020 on the waiting list!!!!

  • Ken

    At the end of the 2008-2009 season my waiting list number was 9755 and my wife’s number was even higher. As of 3 weeks ago we are season’s ticket holders.

  • padwoir

    Gooner 80, you have kind of hit the nail on the head as to the AAA, they are spoilt – I’m in the army and the chance for me to get to matches is well slim, my 2 cousins are season ticket holders, and on occasion, I get to use one of theirs. Since 82 i’ve been going to Arsenal, don’t get me wrong, I’d love us to win things again , but I’d still be wanting to go,even if we had Stubby McFoot up front for us in the Conference, they are my team. I think we have a great manager, a great brand, an exciting bunch of players, that maybe needs an addition or two to get us to the top again, but the lack thereof, will never turn me anti. Spoilt glory supporters hanging on the coat tails of history….do one.

  • Aaron

    Fantastic post again Tony. Keep up the hard work. I always enjoy your articles, for the simple fact that it covers what i consider the business end of football. Though it is easy to gloat at the numbers and figures of our glorious team, i do think it can come across as being a tad smug and snobberish… but hell to it, we have worked damn hard to be in that position!

    I totally agree with you out there about the whole AAA scene. I read only a hand full of blogs because most of them, are the pointless sit at home play champ manager (oh i signed this brilliant star when he was just 16) loser at home, who ovbiously knows everything about the game. It tires the hell out of me to read over and over again the critisim, with no real thought, apart from the we haven’t won a trophey in 5 years comment. We are one of the worlds greatest teams out there who every season competes. Look at great teams for example Leeds, i mean where the hell are they now?!

    I totally agree about the new plastic fans, and in some respects i could be known for adding to it. Just because i love this club so much. I want to educate. I’ve just inducted 3 new americans, who me and a few of my mates took them along to the carling cup and champions league games of last season. They have already (on their own) bought red memberships, bought last seasons home kit and are looking to also get this seasons…. i was on holiday came back to find they had booked the Sunday game of the Ems cup for the group and by far looking to go to ALOT more games this season.

    This is why this club is special. People enjoy our football. Enjoy the atomosphere (when people can be bothered) and enjoy history thats actively pumped into the marketing.

    As a fan, im totally hooked. I bought myself shamelessly a brink at the square, i’m also looking to get on the waiting list, i re-apply for membership every year, buy the kits. And i know others like me. Arsenal wont be struggerling thats for sure. Viva la Wenger but most of all Viva La Arsenal!

    Oh and my £20 Cesc is not leaving bet, with a MIOU Fan, looks like its going to come into fruition very very soon. Hmm wonder how i should get it printed. Maybe in the brightest colours possible!

  • Vic

    I would say that the quality of bloggers on AAA sites have probably managed Grade E CSEs academically (do they still take CSEs?).

    My general view is that some AAA sites have 10-15 year olds posting so its best to ignore 95% of their material.

  • The only two blogs I read are Untold obviously and young guns.
    Theres no spin or bullsh1t,Ive always been a gossip column man but after reading some amazing blogs I find I cant stomach any other hyperbole blogs so thanks Tony and team for limiting my Arsenal reading,Ive also passed your blog onto other fans and they found it damninig but interesting.The pool fans were not a happy bunch!!

  • IncredibleG

    I read all of the blogs that I’m aware of but, with the exception of the odd tirade at one particularly irritating editor of a popular AAA site, I only comment with any regularity on here(obviously) and on my particular favourite for match/player analysis – Desi Gunner.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    I suspect MUFC may be less of a threat in the next 5 years than the Blue half of Manchester. At least when Wenger built a youth team he was doing it to help keep costs under control for the new stadium he helped to design. At MUFC, it seems they are going that route to pay off the banks – there may yet be traction in the fan buy out route………

    I suspect this season will be quite open and there may be six or more teams in with a chance if they get off to a reasonable start. Chelsea and Utd to date aren’t making the transfer market shudder, so it is likely they will come back to the field a bit rather than pull away again. Spurs and City may feel more able to compete and we will see what Hodgson can do at LFC. Martin O’Neill’s hand remains unclear at the moment……

  • Steve

    My wife and I joined the waiting list in late May: our higher number is 41,270. Have they really added nearly 20,000 in 2 months?

  • lordgunner

    the MU waiting list are moving to the blue side of Manchester i suppose ……follow the glory is their motto.MU is on his down thank to the american

  • lordgunner

    ha yes like steve i just join the waiting list,and i around the same so 40-43 thousand sound about right to me

  • Jdkfcuom

    Dear Tony I came across your excellent blog today following your own posting on the andersred blog. I think your take on the season tickets saga at MUFC is really interesting. This season may be one where the effect of a sizeable number of existing MUFC fans walking away may stimulate change (and then again possibly not). I think we are all waiting for the imminent publication of the latest quarterly account to get a much clearer picture.

    On the other hand it certainly sounds like all is so much better at Arsenal, now and looking to the future. Whilst you carry the vast burden of debt from the stadium, Arsene Wenger is widely admired for his many talents consistently producing exciting prospects, whilst the debt mountain steadily and quickly reduces. Even if Arsenal have slipped a little this is not a reason to walk away and/or claim doom and gloom. What worries me about Arsenal though is I have recently read David Conn’s book “The Beautiful game” where he quoted the average age of an Arsenal season ticket holder 4 years ago was 45 (he also reasons the lower volumes and less consistent singing is directly related to this age level of ‘audience’) . If the same people keep renewing each season and the waiting list stays the same (as other posters above have noted) then there must be an intractable demographic problem building up (a bit like the Daily Telegraph have had). I wondered how you think Arsenal will address this issue over time.