By Tony Attwood
I started to wonder what Emirates Airlines had done for us, the fans, the people who turn up at the stadium for each match, after I read that Virgin Trains are becoming the main club sponsor of Carlisle United.
Virgin (not my favourite rail line as it runs from Northampton to Euston and has the habit of being less reliable that the East Midlands service from Kettering to St Pancras) is offering season-ticket holders at Carlisle at 25% discount on advance bookings throughout the season.
I thought of Emirates Airlines when I read this, as when I’ve travelled to Australia to see my youngest daughter I have tried to book with Emirates, hoping to get a discount for being an Arsenal season ticket holder, and found the discount (if it was there at all) was trivial, and the interest of the airline in the fact that I had a season ticket negligible.
I wasn’t even asked to put my season ticket number in – I just had to say I was an Arsenal man to get an invisible discount. Not very rewarding.
And that’s a shame really – a shame for those of us who support the club and a shame for Emirates in that they have spent all this money on the club, but can’t get such a tiny thought about how an Arsenal fan might feel, right.
But it strikes me that this notion could be taken further. Virgin Trains want publicity from their association with Carlisle, but they want to be seen as giving something to the community and the club.
Arsenal’s sponsors do give something to the club – in fact they give a lot to the club, and some of the sponsors help the local community, but they don’t actually give anything to me, personally. Why, I wonder.
Indeed the only sponsor who has ever given me anything in return for my years and years of attendance and membership at Arsenal (and the tens of thousands of pounds I have spent on the club) was 02 who once called me up, said they quite enjoyed Untold, and invited two of us to attend a match in their box in club level.
This lack of a two-way relationship between sponsor and fan is something of a shame, because in recent years Arsenal themselves have tended to grow a bit closer to the fans with the fans’ forums, liaison with the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association and so forth.
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Of course Arsenal needs money to run the club, and pay the insane wages that players command these days. But Arsenal’s sponsors also need our good will towards them as sponsors – they want us to buy their products.
I think maybe supporters have a little power here, in relation to the sponsors of the clubs. In the past we’ve talked occasionally about the fact that some us put a little light into our grey lives by refraining from dealing with the products and services of the sponsors of some of our main rivals. That obviously struck a note once as it caused outrage when I mentioned it on TalkSport – I think I inadvertently referred to one of their big advertisers.
But on the positive side it just seems to me that it would be good if sponsors somehow engaged more with some of the fans, rather than considering that their deal is with the club and the media.
All this started, I guess, because of a conversation the other day in which a friend said that the Arsenal was the longest constant in his life. And I guess that is true for me too: I’m an only child and my parents are no longer with us, and my wives are now ex-. I don’t live in a little box in sad isolation, as some commentators on Untold like to suggest, but in terms of longevity, Arsenal, my father’s club and my grandfather’s club, seems to stretch right through my life.
Thus my affection for Arsenal pre-dates the birth of my daughters by many years – and indeed is just about the only link I now have with my childhood. I haven’t lived in north London for a long old time, and I am no longer in contact with my friends from my childhood.
So yes, Arsenal is the longest running emotional tie in my life, and over the years I’ve been fortunate to have met a few of the people at the top, and even to influenced one or two things at the club (if you’ve read my ramblings on the club in the past you’ll probably guess I’m thinking of the statues).
But I think it would be nice if just occasionally they, or one of their sponsors, gave something back to me, not in return for all the money I’ve given Arsenal, but simply in return for my support.
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