Arsenal v Tottenham is not a premium game

By Tony Attwood

In the run up to the Tottenham game in the FA Cup I made the point that the game was not sold out – on the basis that I had offered my season ticket seat for sale via the club’s official ticket exchange, and had no takers.

OK, that was one example of a seat that was available for sale, but no one bought it, but the subsequent official figure of tickets sold (which included mine as sold, as it was sold to me as a season ticket holder) showed the full compliment was not taken up.

In response a number of Tottenham fans came on this site and commented that it was Arsenal’s own fault – they should have made more seats available to Tottenham supporters.

That wouldn’t have solved the problem of my seat, but it did lead to a clarification of the number of seats available to Tottenham fans, and it highlighted the issue of pricing as well.

Tottenham’s allocation of seats for all Arsenal Tottenham games is significantly reduced on the orders of the police following a 2007 agreement between the police, FA and the two clubs.  For Cup matches that reduce Tottenham’s share to 8.1% because of fears of crowd trouble and safety issues.

Now the issue of unsold tickets for a Tottenham match reminded me of an earlier game on 9 January 2008 when in the league cup semi-final the result was Arsenal 1 Tottenham 1, and the game was played in front of just 53,136 – a very low crowd by Emirates standards.

So what’s  going wrong?  Are these two events just blips or is there a reason why some Arsenal fans will not come along to Tottenham games?

When you think of it there are several reasons why the tickets might not sell out for a Tottenham match.

First, the matches are invariably on TV, so you can watch them at home, or in a pub.

Second, in the case of the League Cup, Arsenal are known on occasion to play weakened sides while Tottenham does not.

Third, to call the atmosphere toxic is a gross understatement.   The violence towards the ambulance crews and Theo Walcott at the last match is still being considered by the authorities, but it was far from pleasant.  Of course such issues don’t affect me in the stadium, when I am there (which is almost every match) but it does lead to issues outside the ground.  Of course the vast majority of Tottenham fans are reasonable people who support their club by pure chance, just as I support Arsenal because that was my parents’ club and all my grandparents’ club.  But I don’t include those who were throwing stuff as reasonable.  (And in case the issue of Theo’s signal of the score is brought up, saying that that is an excuse is about as sensible as saying that Sol Campbell’s move to Arsenal was an excuse for his treatment by Tottenham fans at the infamous Portsmouth Tottenham match.  It simply isn’t an excuse in the world I inhabit.)

Fourth, the cost.  Arsenal rank games as A, B or C matches, and adjust the price accordingly, and there is no doubt that A games are expensive.   The issue with Cup games however is that Arsenal generally downgrade these by one level if they can get an agreement with the opposition.  But it appears that when the opposition is Tottenham, they simply will not agree, so no matter what the competition, the game is expensive, even sometimes in the League Cup.

Fifth, it was the FA Cup.  Arsenal attracted 59,476, which meant there were around 900 seats unsold, plus those season ticket holders like me who didn’t go.  Very few spaces I agree – but it was against Tottenham.

Elsewhere the old days of smaller clubs selling out to see a game against the big boys look to have long since gone.

Blackburn Rovers v Man City got only 18,000.  Southampton got 15,000 for their tie.  Only 14,000 went to Nottm Forest to see them slaughter Premier League WHU.

Not every match was down, but there were enough to suggest the old notion of the magic of the cup has been destroyed.

And it has been destroyed by several things.  In our case by the toxic atmosphere.  I went to my first Arsenal Tottenham game in the late 1960s and my first Tottenham Arsenal affair in the 70s, and none of the games I saw at that time had the same level of hatred as there is now.  And this was the era of Arsenal fans taking the shelf and so on…  It was rivalry and indeed fighting, but somehow the overall level between the fans who were not in the tiny minority of fighters, was different.  We let the fighters fight, that is true, but the rest of us somehow retained our humanity.

And destroyed also by the inane kick off times.  I didn’t go to the Tottenham game because of the kick off time.   It takes me about three and a half hours to get home once the whistle has gone, and with the 5.30 kick off that would have ruined not just my afternoon getting to the game, but my saturday night coming home, a saturday night for which I had made other arrangements.  It may seem a bit feeble, but at my advanced age I enjoy both Saturday afternoon and evening, and a 3pm kick off allows me to get some entertainment on both.

Indeed I’ve heard Coventry fans protesting about their visit for the next round which is to be held on a Friday night because of the lack of return trains.  Fancy a ticket to see the Arsenal first team?  There’s going to be a lot available for that game.

Destroyed also by the bizarre TV commentators who are paid to talk up the FA Cup as if it still really mattered.  Everyone knows that it is third best to winning the League and Champions League, or in Wigan’s case last year, second best to staying in the Premier League.

The fact that whatever TV companies are showing the games and shouting up the magic of the cup, those of us who watch football know it is a highly degraded competition, and as such should be marginalised in terms of fixture priorities.  OK if you want the little boys to talk about it as if it matters, you can let them, but by moving fixtures to any old time to suit TV without any awareness of the fans, shows the utter contempt with which fans are held by the FA and the TV stations.

This of course is a separate issue from that of the toxic nature of the Arsenal Tottenham games, which are getting horrible no matter what competition they are in.  But put the two together, and you get a serious disinterest in Tottenham and Arsenal meeting in the cup.

I’m hopeful that the number of away tickets available for future Tottenham games at the Ems is reduced further, and the steward and police presence greatly improved so that the chance to throw bottles and coins is reduced.  In the same way I am hopeful that policing of European games and Everton games is improved so that we can actually have an avoidance of flares in the ground.

I don’t want to sanitise football, but I do think that the hatred level has gone too far, just as I think the sale of the FA Cup to TV which allows games to be played any old time, irrespective of those who like to go to games, has also gone too far.


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29 Replies to “Arsenal v Tottenham is not a premium game”

  1. £64 for a FA Cup 3rd round match (which is on tv, at an awkward time of 5:15pm) there is your problem

  2. Tony,
    As (if I may) we know, TV (hypes and thereby) creates the commercial value which is (clearing throat) the bottom line. Its not the FA Cup. It’s the TV-Cup. The hype generates the viewership which earns their advertising revenue which (1) enriches them, and (2) expands the very lucrative pot (aka bonanza) that enriches the FA, the teams, and the stable of stakeholders. FA = a line of business. It’s never personal with ’em, just business, n’est-ce pas?

  3. i wonder whether the latics fan will remember the last season as the year they won their 1st major trophy or the year they were relegated?

  4. sorry, meant: “FA-Cup = a line of business, INC.” Can’t have it both ways anymore, Tony. QED

  5. for me it was the timing and the noxious atmosphere. My ST sold in an hour (£62) but the wider degradation of the FA cup seems to be an issue. They made the draw for the 4th round before games had finished for the 3rd. ITV show highlights at 10.45 and 11 meaning I cant be bothered to stay up for them. Most games are on Sky/ST which I don’t have and wont buy. Its not OUR FA cup any more, it belongs to the sponsors and the TV companies. But I am going to the Coventry game and I’m taking my twins; at £10 each its worth it

  6. Yes £63 for the cheapest tickets and them beeing the minority available as most £63 are ST holers… But then the hatred for them scum is still there so it is a game every gooner should not shy away from!

  7. All of the above applies to why people wouldn’t sell this out + all the games over Christmas we went to this was one match too far (expensive) that I didn’t need. FA Cup also not sexy anymore.

  8. Not all Arsenal fans know how to Hiss so there is no point in going to a match if you cannot insult the opposition, you lot talk as if its only the Tottenham fans that know how to misbehave!!
    The Emirates is too large a stadium for you to fill it every match and of course the cost is also beyond many people, give me a League match any day!

  9. When have you lot ever taken the shelf? I been going to spurs for 45years, the only act of bravery from you cocks was throwing a petrol bomb in the pen on the shelf. Tossers the lot of you!! From one of the persons who was set alight that day.

  10. what do you mean Sid? ‘Not all Arsenal fans know how to Hiss’? Toxic atmosphere but I’ve heard no hissing at Spurs fans at the Ems. You might be confusing us with Chelsea and West Ham

    I went to see Brentford yesterday, Top of the league, lovely day, cheap(er) prices, under 15s get in free, but ground no more than 2/3rd full

  11. Seems like some of us analyze football in a bubble. Doesn’t a bad (to worsening) economy have a wee bit to do with lower attendance? Just a thought. 🙂

  12. all monkey include gr. poll said that tackle on nasri was a red. nice. when еще player set foot on walcott it was nothing.

  13. Tony,
    You make an extremely salutary point in your final paragraph when you say that the hatred level (between Arsenal and Spurs) has “gone too far”.
    I am convinced that this all stems from the need for a replacement enemy, following the end of WW2. Prior to the War there was friendly opposition, nothing more and I would hope that one day all supporters of all the teams in our land would return to a less militant rivalry.

  14. Many inaccuracies in this piece…..

    Firstly Arsenal had the option of allocating Spurs 9,000 tickets but decided not to. The previous reduced allocation agreement was in place prior to the Emirates having hosted an away allocation of 15% but after Chelsea had been given 9,000 in the League Cup Arsenal had the option of awarding the same number to Spurs for the FA Cup but declined.

    Additionally it was Arsenal who set the pricing category for the game NOT Spurs. In fact Spurs were extremely upset with Arsenal’s pricing policy for this and made a point of pointing this out on their official website stating that in the event of a replay then Spurs would price the game at Category B level. To further emphasise the fact that it was Arsenal (not the Police or FA) who decided on the reduced allocation for Spurs, Spurs also stated that if there was a replay then they would give Arsenal exactly the same percentage allocation of WHL as Arsenal gave Spurs of the Emirates (i.e. about 9%)

    And lastly…. “And this was in the era of Arsenal fans taking the shelf and so on”. Could you point out when that happened please?

  15. Cods wallop tony the late 70s 80s were 20 times. Worse than they are today fact. The cost of tickets has changed the demographic . yes it is dangerous to go to shite hart lane
    But the away support of arsenal are pretty timid these days any tottenham match is the pinnacle of the season for me and for reference for anybody who has not been to a derby the atmosphere. Is always electric and 95% of gooners will agree with me

  16. So you wanna see a sanitised London Derbyshire with everyone eating prawn sandwiches and checking champagne. While we all hold hands? Give me a Derby atmosphere over a normal league fixture anyday. The tickets are just to expensive at the Emirates hence Bayeen subsidising their fans trip.

  17. If you charge your fans the most For a ticket in the country and then put the match on at a silly time, you’ll get the library!
    You haven’t won anything for nearly 10 years but bleat on about the domestic cups being worthless….get a life. Success is trophies not scraping ahead of spurs by 1/2 points to finish 3rd or 4th.
    Ask any fan other than the gooners what they see as success and its a trophy.
    Gooners see 4th as success……looking back in years to come the history books won’t talk about arse and their trophies in the last decade. Wigan will get more of a mention.
    Anyway, scuttle off and enjoy another season of dust in the cabinet.

  18. Talk to an Arsenal fan old enough to remember 23 December 1978 and they’ll tell you about how the Gunners went into The Lane and beat Spurs 5-0. Talk to a Tottenham fan the same age and they’ll tell you about the beating they put on the Arsenal fans coming out of the stadium that night.

    If there’s a “toxic atmosphere” at NLD games, it’s their side that not only started it, but enjoys it.

  19. There was only one thing that kept me away from the cup match against Tottenham and that was the price of the ticket.

  20. As a season ticket holder for over 50 years I find the timing of some matches to be highly inconvenient. I love Arsenal and go to to as many matches as possible, BUT I do have a life and i will simply not go to 5.30 matches where it buggers up my evening and am not happy missing Sunday lunch. I would love to find out which joker put forward Friday evening against crap opposition which is on tv anyway. Call me old fashioned but I am a 3.00 Saturday afternoon man.

  21. The TV companies have bought the soul of football and the Associations have encouraged it to line their pockets. Fans should be able to change all this nonsense by organising boycotts of matches that are outside ‘normal football time’. Sunday and Monday are non footballing days. Friday evening is out as it is weekend travelling time for many. Saturday 3.0 pm is ideal for most and allows a consistent planning.

    Every game that is televised should be accompanied by fans advertising alternative products to the TV stations. Free TV streaming or entertainment channels will upset the advertisers. Negative publicity for advertisers product will also cause concern.

    Premier league football must be a daylight game for all matches to make it fair. Only domestic Cup replays should be evening kick offs.

    Champions league has to remain as it is an International competition.

  22. @N9Boy

    So you been watching Spurs for 45 years, call yourself ‘boy’ and talk about (still) “taking the shelf”!

    There are obnoxious idiots at every football club, including Arsenal, who say and do shameful things. I don’t tar every Spurs fan in that way and neither is every Arsenal fan like that.

  23. What makes me angry is that the clubs are blamed for relegating the FA from a ‘must win’ competition when its the FA that has done this by selling the soul of the competition to the TV companies.

    The have themselves to blame and they are the ones whose behavior brings football into disrepute.

    When the hooligan element had the game by its tail and making the stadiums and the surrounds and the journey to ground a battle ground for gang fights, football was dangerous for everyone.

    Much of that has gone and however we must not let the minority who still behave in this way ruin the game for the majority.

  24. @DavyD

    The ticket allocation was set after a reccomendation by the Police. Spurs wanted it higher. The Police wanted it lower. It was a compromise. That’s my understanding. I’m amazed the game was played at the time it was. It is of no surprise that some people behaved like idiots when they had a whole afternoon’s drinking to enjoy!

    The pricing.. dont know.

    “Taking the shelf” – let it go. Rise above it. Dont even react to stuff like that. I lived through all of that complete and utter b******s and didn’t get involved then. For those of us that experienced that period there was lots of talk of that kind from the support of all manner of teams (that’s really what Tony meant). This is exactly why I dont want standing back. Football is too tribal, with too many idiots, emotions run high. I dont give a flying f**k about taking the Shelf, The Kop or whatever. I just want to watch and enjoy football.

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