Arsenal tickets. Who is to blame for price rises?

According to Virgin Money’s Football Fans’ Inflation Index 13% of season ticket holders in football league and Premier League clubs won’t renew for next season.

They also claim that in the EPL 31% of regular match-goers who do not have season will reduce the number of games they attend. The Index also shows the average cost of going to a match has risen by 18% in the past year.

At Manchester United, where the prices have risen by £1 per match price across the board, 28% of season ticket holders claim they will not renew.   49% of those who regularly buy tickets will cut back.

Around 22% of Arsenal season ticket holders say they will not renew next season, according to Virgin.  Problem is, they said this last season.  And in fact a lot of anti-Arsenal Arsenal blogs said the same.  Some said 50%.  One bunch said 75%.

One of the stories doing the rounds is that to watch a match at Arsenal is the most expensive sporting fixture in the world.   I saw this comment come through from several people in different contexts, both here and elsewhere, and asked them to prove it.  No one did.

The source seemed to be a story in one of the national papers in England, which quoted a price for a top price ticket at an A grade match when you bought under certain conditions.  But it was just about impossible to meet with those conditions, and even if one did manage to find a ticket in that way, the price would still be less than many other clubs.  To give a simple example QPR v Arsenal next season will cost more than Arsenal v QPR.

Virgin Money’s own Football Fans’ Inflation Index suggests that the average match day cost has gone up 18% since last year, but when you look at the detail that includes travel, food and a load of other other stufff which combined cost far more than the cost of the match ticket.   I certainly will find this because travelling from the Midlands to Arsenal for home games the price has shot up.  Not because of the season ticket price but because of the petrol price and trains.  Nothing to do with football at all.

Malcolm Clarke, Chair of the Football Supporters’ Federation commented: “Football fans face the same economic difficulties, including redundancies, short-time working, soaring petrol costs and wages not keeping up with inflation, as everyone else. In this situation it would not be surprising if many of them are forced to cut back on watching the game they love.

“The tragic paradox is that the football industry still has huge sums of money coming into it at the top of the game, mostly through media rights. But too much of it stays at the top and too much of it is used on ridiculously high player wages, rather than on helping its loyal customers through these difficult times.”

Well, up to a point.  I don’t like the high salaries paid to bankers either, but I still use banks.  I don’t like the fact that a man I consider an utter prat is drawing a salary as Chancellor of the Exchequer but that is how it goes.  I don’t like the fact that the price of entry to the club that I visit a couple of nights a week has just gone up by 13%.  Or that my rail fare to London is up by 20%, or my road costs by 35%.

But in all cases I have a choice.  I can use the services or not.  That’s capitalism.

Premier League 15% 31%
Championship 11% 16%
League 1 10% 11%
League 2 14% 17%

At the launch of the Virgin index in 2006, the match day basket of goods for a match £77.95. However the most recent analysis puts the cost at £101.04 – a rise of £23.09.  At the start of the index the choice level for anyone going to watch a match or not was 100%.  It remains 100%.  In my county of Northants there is one league team, and three conference teams.  I can walk in to watch any of them when I want.  I choose Arsenal.

Of course matters could change.  All you need is a salary cap.

Don’t blame Arsenal, blame the EPL.  And the bankers.  And the Chancellor.

Please note this article is about the financing of football.  Comments on other subjects will be deleted.  Rather obvious point, I know, but despite the fact that we have been publicising this for ages there’s still a bunch of very strange people out there who think that talking about something different is rather amusing.  Odd really.


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43 Replies to “Arsenal tickets. Who is to blame for price rises?”

  1. what you mean qpr v arsenal will be more costly than Arsenal v qpr – please state ticket prices

  2. I wonder if some of the teams might look at other options, Arsenal being one. Arsenal has been involved in real estate because of the move to the Emirates. And apparently it is still involved in real estate with other projects.

    Where I used to live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (at that time, it was the largest natural grass stadium in Canada), the gridiron football stadium that was built for the Commonwealth Games long ago, has public gymnasium and weight room space. And people buy memberships to go there (from the city). Does Arsenal do that?

    All the professional sports teams have an interest in athletic first aid. Having a sports medicine clinic associated with the team might be another way to both bring in funds, and to raise their profile in the neighbourhood.

    Eduardo, I think what is meant is that Arsenal is charging more for tickets when QPR come to Emirates, than QPR is charging when Arsenal go to whatever their stadium is called.

  3. Yep I’ve got query that statement about QPR v Arsenal, if you look at the season ticket prices for QPR next year they are a world away from our prices.
    ‘With adult prices starting from £549 and an under-eight Season Ticket available from as little as £49, it really does promise to be a season to remember for R’s fans. Junior (under-16) Season Tickets are available for £149, whilst Senior Citizens (over 60) and Young Adults (16-21) can also get closer to the action from just £319.”

  4. QPR pay more than arsenal. For example, QPR fans pay £70 pound at loftus rd to watch arsenal where we would pay £45 to watch QPR at home.

    In Arsene I Trust

  5. Living across the pond, the MLS has salary caps and has managed to snag a few high profile players. Granted, MLS is usually seen as the retirement home for high profile footballers, but things are changing for the better here.
    Why can’t the FA place salary caps? Really, football players are being paid obscene amounts of money already, especially in this economy. Would this help bring down ticket prices and, well, every other price as well?

  6. In theory the UEFA FFP regulations will impose a salary cap on all EPL teams – or at least those that aspire to play in Europe.
    If the new regulations bite (and it’s in many people’s interest that they do – especially the new American owners) that money described currently as ‘doping’ money will be removed from the game and salary bills will be held below a fairly fixed proportion of total ‘acceptable’ revenue. This means that each club will, in effect, have it’s own salary cap dependent on its self-generated income.
    The 25 man squad rule will make this ceiling all the more applicable.
    The transfer market will also change dratically and could even disappear. If it carries on it will be a much lower price levels as there just won’t be the spare cash to fund it at current levels. Player swops may become much more prevalent.
    So this transfer window (and maybe a couple after that) may well be the last time to earn really big money from player sales.
    However Arsenal operate this summer it will have little to do with ticket price rises. It’s a poor business that hasn’t put itself in a position to increase its price to at least match its increase in costs and we all know that, as a business, Arsenal operate just how UEFA wants all clubs to operate. Hence FFP.

  7. Pay it or don’t its so frigging simple no one is forcing anyone to go. I was one of those supporters that missed his sisters wedding ceremony for a match. I didn’t miss a match home and away for 11 years. I didst miss an England match during that period either. But times change and so does your personal and financial circumstances. This season i am only doing away matches i need to to keep my credits up. So i am renting out the home season ticket and joining the away scheme.

  8. @jayj I think Nasri has been tapped by Fergy via Evra. It is pretty dispicable but not unusual. In my opinion players who do not love the club can move on. Only true Arsenal loving players should stay and play. My belief is that Arsenal can go through another season undefeated! they only need a little tweaking. If we lose key players it does not matter as everyone can be replaced. The system of play is critical – not the players.

  9. cripes!
    I wonder what possibly interest the financial arm of greedy beardie’s conglomerate would have in planting a scare story like this one?
    It’s not like the new seasons round the corner and they need to drum out subscriptions for sky’s product on their platform or anything or even that they want to remind people that banks benefit from their misery or anything!
    What’s a boy to do eh? Stump up and watch the arse that’s what.

  10. It is tragic that Arsenal’s senior citizens have to be over 65 whereas many clubs classify over 60s as seniors.

  11. I cant believe how you all jus ignore the main reason for the ticket prices, which even Wenger himself has said. The ticket prices rose bcoz of our bad financial deals. Wenger himself said that we had to raise it bcoz all the other sources of revenue had dried up. Can u believe that?? Our Board doesn’t want to renegotiate the deals bcoz its not the Arsenal way. But they like increasing the ticket prices bcoz, well, its the Arsenal way. The reason is simple, our Board made bad commercial deals. Simple as that.

  12. HI DP

    which deals were bad… and which deal needs to be renegotiated.. please enlighten us..

  13. Dark Prince, please could you give some evidence to back up your claims. When did Wenger say that. What bad financial deals? Just saying these things does not make them true unless you have some evidence.

  14. Menace – I did some research on this and have had the opportunity to put your point to Ivan Gazidis, via my position on the AISA Committee, and the reply came back that a full review of the entire pricing structure is under way. The pattern of discounts for seniors is erratic, and can’t exactly be tied into the popularity of tickets. Certainly some clubs have empty seats and so are willing to sell them at a discount just to get anyone in, while others don’t have any empty seats so a discount is a reduction in income.

    What I didn’t realise until I ran the survey was that the crowd at Arsenal is getting older each year – and that is a concern to the club.

  15. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it why our season ticekts are increasing???? The team have not won anything there fore there is no income from winning a trophy and the commercial benefits from winning a trophy (speacial t-shirts scarves etc saying “Champions” or “Winners 2010-2011” that sort of thing).

  16. Dark Prince(why always with the adversarial stance?)is right in the sense that the long term deals signed with Nike and Emirates have meant that our commercial revenue is low. I also remember Wenger mentioning that the ticket prices go up because we need to live within our means. But he also said that the club is looking at other streams of income, such as the Asian tour in pre season. I don’t remember him mentioning the deals specifically though, and if he did, he certainly didn’t call them ‘bad’. In fact, I don’t think they are bad deals, because at the time they weren’t. It was at a good rate in the market, at a time when we were in quite desperate need for money. Where I do believe we made a huge mistake was outsourcing the merchandising, meaning we don’t get 100% of the profits from our shirt sales etc. (Which is also why the club advertises something like the direct shopping online because I think that stipulation doesn’t apply to the online purchases)

    To buy out deals, you need both parties to a contract to agree. What guarantee that Emirates will agree? They don;t need the money. In fact they seem to be very happy with the deal right now. So why will they agree to cancel. And will Adidas be willing to pay us the market value right now if we cancel with Nike? Is it in our interest to forego a long term relationship with Nike? I’m just asking questions here but I don’t believe it is as simple as ‘cancel and renegotiate’.

    However, if I remember correctly the merchandising rights will revert back to us by September or October this year. 3 years to go for a renegotiation of the shirt sponsor (or is that 2?) and for the Nike deal too. Before that, I think our commercial revenues will continue to remain low, comparatively speaking.

  17. Ok so Arsenal’s ticket prices may not be the most expensive in the world- not quite-Arsenal’s top priced season ticket is the most expensive in the EPL (50% more expensive than Chelsea’s). The cheapest season ticket is not the most expensive but expensive enough none the less. I do think it is fair to describe Arsenal fans as paying “top dollar”to watch their favourite team.
    I think Arsenal are an attractive proposition for investors as we are under-achieving as a commercial enterprise and as a brand. Biggest questions are about the core of the project- the team- about the commitment of our 2 best players Fabregas and Nasri and 2 promising young players who have been nurtured for several years-Denilson, Bendtner. This, and the potential loss of other youngsters like Vela raises bigger questions about the efficacy of our young player development and investment strategy. The fact is these young players DONT grow up to love the club- they grow up dreaming of playing for a really big club- not a small club with a big ground.’
    The thing about football is that it is NOT a business- fans don’t just shop elsewhere when the club becomes uncompetitive. They demand change and that demand is going to get very loud indeed- because the club is still in denial about its playing potential and fans are paying top dollar to watch a less than top rate team.

  18. Abhishek Kumar- if you’re living under a rock, our shirt sponsorship is probably the worst among the top European clubs. We earn a mere £5.5 mil from it every year, whereas clubs like Liverpool earn more than £20 mil every year. Thats almost a £15 Mil difference!!!! N u know how much extra our club wil earn from increasing ticket prices? A mere £4 mil….

  19. When you look at the commercial deals you have to understand the price that needed to be paid to get the money upfront which was less money in total. The benefit that having it upfront brought was lower initial borrowings required by the Club leading to lower interest rates and less money out over the long term.
    If the Club had demanded more for the naming rights for instance the chance of getting it upfront would have gone down (Emirates having to borrow the money from someone else) and a much higher level of mortgage (both pricipal and interest) would have had to have been taken out. That would almost certainly have meant higher ticket prices from year one at the new stadium – something that both the Club and the fans would not have wanted.
    The current ticket price rise is down to VAT and general inflation – neither the fault of the Club or of its past dealings. In fact thanks to its past dealins they have been able to avoid inflation increases in most of the years we have been at Emirates.
    The Clubs tougher commercial stance is actually better reflected in the, just announced, cancellation of the Barnet friendly. No doubt that date will be used for a cash raiser rather than a thank you to a neighbour.

  20. DP – You’re missing the point. Yes that deal is poor value, but it was necessary in order to build the stadium, which gives us far greater revenues.

    Financially speaking, would we be better off playing at Highbury on a £20m shirt deal or playing at the Emirates on a £5.5m shirt deal? No contest.

  21. Tony- here’s the evidence…this is what Wenger said in his interview, – “We try in every single way to increase our income to fight with the other clubs, but the resources will always be down to three different incomes – media, sponsorship and gate receipts, We tried to keep the ticket increase as low as possible, and we spoke about that at the board meeting. Unfortunately the expenses always go up. We do not master the expenses because the expenses are dictated by our opponents. “That is why the Uefa financial fair play rules are so important because we are pushed into a situation that we do not master, because if our opponents do not respect the financial fair play, our expenses will always go up and we can only reflect that as low as possible on the ticket prices. ”

    Now i know Wenger did blame our rivals for the rise in expenses. But Tony, you are trying to hide one important thing which he said in this statement. That is the rise in expenses or in any costs whatsoever can be handled only by rise in ticket prices. He inadvertantly told us that we cant do anything in ‘media’ and ‘sponsorship’ revenues. And obviously thats bcoz of our bad long term deals.

    To be more logical, we are not the only club who face rising expenses every year. Each and every club faces it and they try hard to renegotiate their commercial deals to raise their income. They only raise ticket prices when rise in all other sources of income have dried up. But in Arsenal’s case, there’s a huge potential for improvement in our commercial deals. But our Board chose not to renegotiate them and instead put the load on the back of the fans. Shame on them says I.

  22. @DP
    Read again the very first line of the quotes you posted:

    “We try in **every single way** to increase our income to fight with the other clubs”

  23. Wrenny – so you wanna say that Chelsea even with their 40000 capacity stadium doesn’t hav a revenue as good as us?? I think we both r on opposite ends in one area, and thats the stadium issue. I personally feel that we didn’t need to build a new stadium at that point of time, we should have done it in this decade. Bcoz by this decade, our youth policy would have been completely set up, our best players like Henry, Viera, Flamini, Silva, etc would hav remained at the club and could have given the platform and guidance for our youngsters (which obviously is missing today). And we would have been more competitive and more of a title challengers. But i know you wont agree with me on this stadium issue.

  24. Wrenny – also i have never ever heard of Arsenal ‘trying in every single way’ to increase their commercial revenues. You know how much Arsenal tried?? I’ll give u the answer – Ivan Gazidis – its not the Arsenal way. Thats how much our Board tried in every single way.

  25. -sigh-

    You said “you are trying to hide one important thing which he [Wenger] said in this statement. That is the rise in expenses or in any costs whatsoever can be handled only by rise in ticket prices.”

    Except he said no such thing. And that’s in the quotes that you yourself provided.

  26. isn’t it ironic that he says of media, sponsorship and gate receipts as use sources of income and then later says that expenses can only be reflected on ticket prices.

  27. You know what the sad part is? Its that our ticket prices are the highest in the world, but still our board wants to increase it further but our commerical revenue are one the worst among the top european clubs and our board doesn’t want to do anything about it.

    Tell me honestly, if you are a logical director of Arsenal, would you increase ticket prices which already the highest in the world or would you renegotiate the commercial deals which are one of the worst among elite clubs??

  28. Dark Prince you really must start citing the sources of your accusations concerning what the manager has said. I am seriously thinking you are making some of these up.

  29. Tony- i’ve quoted the manager. Its upto the common reader to understand why the Board had to increase the ticket prices, whether its bcoz of their inability to improve their bad commercial deals or whether it was due to everything else. You hav your opinion, i have my opinion.

  30. @Tony

    The quotes by themselves are genuine (though i can’t claim they are exact). Wenger did say something very much like that. However I think the context is missing, or it’s been misinterpreted, because while watching it I never thought it to mean anything like the Ticket Prices are the only source of income. Wenger said the club explores all avenues, or “We try in every single way to increase our income…”. But the use of the word ‘only’ with regards to the ticket price increase was, as I saw it, that in such an atmosphere, ticket prices can remain low(or constant if some people prefer) for only so long.

  31. Hi Tony,

    Great article! Although… it was sneaky of you to compare Arsenal vs QPR with QPR vs Arsenal. Arsenal are obviously a big deal for QPR and thus they can charge the fans more. You should compare the Arsenal vs QPR, with what Anfield charges for Liverpool vs QPR, Old Trafford, and so on and so forth. Then you can really tell if Arsenal fans shell out the most cash to watch their club perform.

  32. P.S
    Making sure to give allowances for derbies as they obviously mean more to the fans and thus the teams can charge more. Cheers!

  33. @DP

    Don’t be ridiculous, if we were still at Highbury we would currently be making LESS money than we are making now despite presumably having better sponsorship deals, (you also have to take into account that there would have been no chance of ever getting a stadium naming rights sponsorship at Highbury or there would have been a fan revolt!).

    As that is the case the club would have had to either raise ticket prices by more than the current price rises or cut back on spending in other areas such as player wages.

    They were necessary deals at the time and if they hadn’t been made we would be seriously struggling and would probably have had to sell players like Fabregas already.

  34. MK- you jus need to look at the model of Chelsea. Their revenue is as good as ours even though they hav a stadium with a capacity similar to Highbury. Today, though we earn a lot from our new stadium, but we have compromised a lot for it, probably more than we should hav had to.

  35. @DP
    Chelsea were 14 million pounds below us in total revenue (in the 2009/10 season) despite making 12 million pounds more in commercial revenue than Arsenal did.

    So unless his (Deloittes) figures are wrong or they have dramatically changed since the 09/10 season we are in a much better position than Chelsea due to the new stadium as we can now easily increase our commercial revenue (as the current deals expire) whereas Chelsea would need to build a new stadium to match us.

    Basically stadium difference between us and Chelsea(94-67 = +27 million) Commercial difference (56-44 = -12 million). Having larger match day gains due to the stadium is better than the smaller gains in sponsorship that we may have got without one!

  36. MK- thank you for supporting my arguement. Chelsea are 14 million pounds behind us!!!! wow!!!! n how much is Arsenal raising by the increase in ticket prices??? 4 million??? Wow!!!!!! Now thats gonna be a massive!!!!!!

    Whats the % difference between Arsenal and Chelsea’s revenue?? 5%?? Wow!!!! What a massive difference a new stadium makes. Except for the fact that we had to dismantle a winning team, and exclude the main component in project youth – guidance from experienced players. And we also lost our competitiveness and hit ourselves in the foot by committing to bad commercial deals. Is that 5% increase in income really worth all the things we compromised for it?? Go figure…

  37. We are earning more money than we would have been if we didn’t build the stadium… so the rest of your point is invalid as we would have had to have done that anyway (not to mention that most of the dismantling was actually either players getting too old or choosing to play elsewhere) to keep our income higher than our costs by keeping wages down… unless you would have preferred us to go into debt like most other teams in the league?

    And your argument is even worse when you take into account that this 5% will grow to 15-20% in a few years when we re-negotiate these deals.

  38. MK- Yes, we’re earning so much more now that we literally cant pay Nasri the extra 20k per week. We earn more, but we lost everything else. Hope so you’re happy. The last thing left is our stadiums to slowly become empty and then maybe you’ll understand how much more we earn from our stadium.

  39. You are being nonsensical.. how would we have afforded an extra 20K for Nasri if we were currently earning less money like I just showed we would be if we didn’t have the new stadium.

  40. @ MK. Are you able to clarify your figures relating to Chelsea and Arsenal. Do they take into account property sales which we cant rely on forever and what about income from player sales which also affect the balance sheets.

    @ DP. I think i remember when these sponsorship deals were done (by Dein who people are so keen to have back on board) everyone was saying how clever to get so much up front, if we pull out now we would end up owing them money back

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