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Stop this messing around with the fixtures

By Walter Broeckx

As most of you regulars know I am since some 4 years the president of the official Arsenal supporters club Arsenal Belgium. People who know a bit of geography know that we probably will be the second closest foreign supporters club of Arsenal. Only beaten by the French one. So we are and feel privileged to live nearby London and Arsenal.

The main thing for a supporters club is to get their members in to the Emirates. Over the last 3 seasons we have managed to bring almost every member that wanted to go in to the stadium. Sometimes it was with lots of problems as we didn’t always get the tickets we wanted for our members. So when we were short we asked friendly Londoners that we know if they could help us out. With this backup system we could make our members happy most of the time.

As a supporters club we always try to go new ways to bring our members to London in new formulas. As we live not that far we usually make it a day trip. Leaving early and returning very late. That is what our members gladly suffer to be able to support our club live in the stadium.

I know Tony has been talking about the almighty TV companies on more than one occasion. We foreign supporters feel very double about the TV companies. We know that without them we would not be able to see many matches in the best conditions on our HD TV or in our pubs. So we are glad that they show an interest in the PL and we pay (too much) for their product. Now we know that our Belgium sports channel is only a small fish in the TV world. I doubt it they would phone Sky and say: hey guys could you move the Arsenal match to Sunday midday to make us happy. No, they pick their matches (mostly based on Belgian players involved – so Arsenal has fallen off their first to see list) and till now many matches of Arsenal are shown.

The problem for us and I think I can speak for a lot of foreign supporters clubs is the moving the matches to Monday. The problem starts with Arsenal who has a number of tickets for supporters clubs. I don’t know how many but most of the time not enough. And supporters clubs have to order their tickets at least 2 months (usually 2,5 months) before the match is played. So we almost always order tickets for a Saturday match to be played at 3. So our members have to order their tickets around 3 months before the match will be played.

We then pass our order and some 7-8 weeks before kick off we know how many tickets we will get. But at that moment we still don’t know when the match will be played. We cannot really start the procedure for our bus company to schedule the trip. And they also need a bit of time to see if they can fit it in their other schedules.

But with a bit it luck some 6 weeks before the match we get to know the date and hour and start working on how to organise it.

Unless…. the match is moved to a Monday. That is for us foreign supporters clubs a nightmare. Most of our members don’t work in the weekend or when they do they asked for a few days off on Saturday and Sunday so they can go.  But for most of our working members a match on a Monday is impossible to attend as this would mean that they have to take 2 days off during the week to see one  match. Most working people have only 20 days off so losing 2 of them for one match is really a lot.

This time we have had the moving to a Monday 3 times. The first time was the WBA match in September. We had planned to go for a weekend to London from Friday evening till Sunday evening. A nice group of some 14 members had their names on the list. The match was moved to the Monday and our plans fell in the cold water of the North Sea.

We had planned our last group transport for the match against West Ham United….. The match was moved to the Monday and only 2 members who had a week off at their job will take their tickets. The rest can stay at home.

But things can even get worse. The Southampton match. 2 of our members wanted to go and we ordered the tickets and got them. For a Saturday match. Then the match was moved to the Monday. Our 2 members wanted to go as it was their first match live in the Emirates. Father and son. Luckily the match is played in the Easter school holiday in Belgium so the son had no problem. The father had to work on Monday but to make his son happy he asked for 2 days off at work and they would return on Tuesday.

Next problem: the Eurostar. As they had planned to go home on Sunday they had to buy a new ticket for Tuesday. This cost them extra money. And of course as they couldn’t sleep under the bridge they also had to book a longer stay in their hotel. Also costing more money.

But our members did all this because… well they wanted to see the Arsenal play live.

And now as the final nail the coffin…. we got the news that the match that was already moved to Monday ….was moved again to Sunday midday….

So our members who spend extra money for their train and hotel…. now face the situation that they shouldn’t have done so as with their original bookings they would have been fine to see the match ad would have enough time to go to the station.

So thanks to the almighty TV companies our members have spend lots more money than they should have.

For us board members of the supporters club this is very tiring and discouraging. You never know when to do what and even when you think all is under control they TV companies can make all your plans worthless. And they cost you lots of money.

The TV companies have cost us this season 3 trips to the Arsenal that we couldn’t do because of them moving their match to Monday.

But what can we do (other than write this article)? Nothing at all I fear.

But rest assured when next season comes we will be again trying to get our members to the Emirates. Because (and that is the thing they know I think) the love to see our club live is too big and we just take the punch and try to stay on our feet. But one day I fear lots of members will have enough of it.

14 comments to Stop this messing around with the fixtures

  • I like the sentiment behind the article, one giant double entendre!

    Anyone should lool at the Guardians coverage of Facebook and Cambridge analytics, before wiki-ing the company itself!

    Interesting stuff.

  • Dec

    Wait until Brexit kicks in Walter, then you can add a visa application and border controls to your list of complications.😏
    Keep on fighting and up the Gunners.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    My commiserations , Walter , it’s truly rough on the fans . I myself am hoping that an European Super League starts and we can watch the Arsenal anywhere in the major cities of Europe.

    I hope to be free enough in three years time after the kids have completed their education and start working , for me to travel often.It’ll be an added bonus if they buy our tickets for us !

    There are many travel tours taking in those cities ranging from periods of ten days to two weeks , and it would be a lucky person indeed who could catch an Arsenal match or two while on holiday.

    And the best part is that they/we will not have the PIGMOB officials around to spoil our enjoyment! Unless of course , one would like to catch a Championship game in England!

  • Al Solanki

    Well done to you and the others for the stupendous efforts.

    Thank you too.

    You are a supporter on a level that I could never be able to aspire.

  • knobby

    Sorry to hear your dilemma Walter, but the FA cup and the run in to have rescheduled games because of the mighty TV money.
    As a suggestion could you try to book the games before the middle if January as they very rarely get changed.
    Apart from that I cannot see your going to solve this one.

  • porter

    Your problem just magnifies the problem of all season ticket holders that are trying to watch the games and hold down a job and do not live or work within walking distance of the ground. I live approx 140 miles away and often face the prospect of driving alone to London and petrol for 300 miles is not cheap. I can’t trust public transport as the ticketing system is not designed for the user and the train times mean that midweek and evening games become non runners and then I have to depend on all parts of he stadium being sold out before I can use the exchange system.
    Looks as if the ticket will have to go and I too will be swallowed watching on the big screen or else illegally streaming on my I-Pad.

  • knobby

    Another idea Walter, have you enough members to share a season ticket and spread the cost? Then you could sell the rescheduled ones towards the end of the season, I am sure a few people on here would take you up on the offer.
    There must be a few season ticket holders who would rather lend you a ticket rather than give it up for good.

  • I was pleased to open my laptop tonight (it is night time here) and read this piece Walter, because I think it adds a very helpful perspective. These changes really do stretch the patience of supporters –

    I know for example Blacksheep has struggled like mad to get to Europa matches because he is working 80 miles from the stadium until 5pm on Thursdays and then has to use the motorways in the rush hour to try and get home, change and get to the game. That is not something that is mentioned when the media do their regular thing about empty spaces in the stadium.

    In fact this is where you article led me, as I sit 7 time zones away from Arsenal and 35 miles south of the North Korean border. It is interesting that the media endlessly focus on the empty seats being OUR fault – we the fans are not turning up.

    It was indeed time, I think, for an article on how the empty seats are in part at least THEIR fault. An excellent point to make.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Our members have now paid 400 euro extra for 2 persons for the cost of the trains and hotel. And then they find out that they could have kept the original bookings as they were….

  • i totaly agree i live in northern ireland i have to wait on sky or bt to show live then it leaves little time to book a flight and some times a hotel in the old days k.o.sat. 3pm i tavel by boat to stranaerto london then all night bus trips

  • Ben

    I do not think much can be done at the moment as you mentioned in your other article that we are the end product, TV is making it easier and maybe convenient for the armchair supporter than the ones that visit the stadium.
    I mean if it is possible to avoid crowds that one does not like or to not hear swearing etc, it is better at home or to avoid traffic or delays in transport etc, choosing tv is preferable.

  • Gunner in exile

    Totally agree Walter this has happened to me before and no matter how careful I am booking tickets I still get caught out.
    I live in Lincolnshire so a 260 mile round trip for me mostly by train. The earlier I book my train tickets the cheaper I get them but with the constant threat of the dates being changed I rarely manage the cheapest.
    For Southampton because of the warning that the dates could be changed I bought my match tickets because I could go any day of that weekend.
    I meet up with a mate of mine from Kent on match days.
    This time we decided to make a weekend of it so we booked a hotel for Friday and Saturday night. It was then changed to the Monday night which meant we would be going home Sunday and having to come back to London on the Monday for the game.
    Therefore I arranged my train for lunchtime on the Sunday.
    Lo and behold the game is now changed to Sunday lunchtime so not only do we have two tickets we cant use we will now not even see the game as we will be on a train home.
    I had also by this time bought my train tickets for the Monday game now useless.
    A triple whammy.
    Its just disgraceful that this can happen, Is it the fault of the club, the Premier League or Sky/BT maybe all three.
    No surprise there are so many empty seats on match days.

  • porter

    I read a survey a couple of years ago that stated that the London club’s matchgoing fanbases are spread much wider than those of most other clubs

  • Pat

    This is terrible, Walter. Arsene Wenger has said a few times, “Not everyone can make a Thursday match.” Just dropping a hint about some of the problems for fans.

    But changing the day of a match not even once but twice – that is totally disrespectful to the fans. Things like this deserve much wider publicity. Even for people who live in London these changes can make it impossible to go to a match you were looking forward to.

    TV money is ruining the match day experience. And if the crowds are smaller, it spoils it for the people watching the telly too. Oh, except it gives the pundits one more reason to knock Arsenal.

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