So why can’t Arsenal be like Barcelona or Bayern?

By Tony Attwood

The football pages of the press are full of it.  It being the cost of watching Arsenal.

I suggested just how false part of the Guardian reporting of season ticket prices was, in my last article.  Now let’s consider the Telegraph, who say…

“Arsenal are charging almost 10 times more for their cheapest season ticket than Barcelona and Bayern Munich, according to a survey highlighting just how expensive watching Premier League football has become.”

OK, that’s awful.  So instead of just knocking Arsenal, as all the papers want to do, let’s ask the question.  Why can’t Arsenal reduce its prices to the level of Barcelona or Bayern?

And since they abjectly fail to look at this issue, I’ll have go.

Barcelona fans, we are told, can get a season ticket for as little as £103.38, with Bayern not far behind at £109.65.

Barcelona shouldn’t concern us too much.  Twice they have been found guilty of child trafficking by Fifa, and have been banned from transferring players.  They have appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, and a review of their appeal seems to show that it is based on the assertion that Barcelona would not do such a thing.

The club famously ran out of money a couple of years back and failed to pay their players one month, and were ultimately rescued by the slave labour state Qatar.

Thus Barcelona is a model that teams could follow, but personally my support of Arsenal would be hard pressed if we did.

Bayern is different.  They have a turnover of €70 million more than Arsenal.  If Arsenal had that turnover and invested the money in reducing season ticket costs then the average cost would come down by €1750 per supporter.  In other words some people would be let in for free, and we would be cheaper to watch than Bayern.

So, one simple fact: it is turnover that does it.

Bayern over the last eight years have been on a constant upward curve in terms of turnover.  Arsenal had limited growth for a while because of the building of the stadium, but now are racing ahead once again.  Some clubs, like Chelsea and Milan have very limited financial growth over the last eight years while Juventus have actually been in income decline.

Bayern are also helped by their domination of German football in terms of turnover – it gives them immense immediate leverage.  It doesn’t mean they win the league all the time, but it means they are always striding ahead of their opposition – not least by the domination of their youth system – as we’ll see below.

Arsenal don’t have that luxury of dominance, for Man City, until held back by FFP, were spending anything the liked.  That’s not how it goes in Germany.  Indeed as Swiss Ramble (the financial web site) put it, with finances like they have “Bayern should really win the German league every season.”

Where the real benefit comes however is the €178 million earned each year from commercial income made up of sponsorship and advertising (€82 million), merchandising (€44 million), other commercial activities (€14 million) and revenue from the Allianz Arena (€38 million). That is 55% of the club’s revenue.  With income like that you don’t need to charge high prices to the fans.

This commercial income at Bayern is the highest in Europe – bigger even than Real Mad, who of late have been reliant on dodgy deals with their local authority, and are now under investigation by the EU for these.   Even Barcelona (€156 million) and Manchester United (€114 million) can’t keep up – and Man U have always been seen as the kings of worldwide marketing.

Bayern’s shirt deal with Deutsche Telekom, is second only to the money Barce get from Qatar.  It is said to be worth €25 million a year.

Then there are their owners.  Audi and Adidas not only own some of the club. Audi own over 9% of the club for example, and are investing €200 million in the club up to 2019. Adidas also own over 9% and are pumping money into the club.

Sponsors of German clubs tend to pay more than English clubs because the top German teams are seen on TV in Germany far more often that the top teams in England are seen in England.  So the sponsors get much more exposure and pay more money.

But despite all this, and all the media focus on supposedly cheap tickets (and yes they are a lot cheaper than in England) the prices are going up.  Don’t think that it is cheap to go in: Bayern earn €3.1 million a match – not that much behind Arsenal.

But whereas Arsenal are part of a small group of top teams who earn good money on match days, Bayern are totally out on their own in this regard.

And now we come to the clincher – the item I commented on in the last article.  They are so far ahead of everyone else in attracting kids  to the youth system they have been lowering their wage bill in the last couple of seasons.   As Swiss Ramble says, “Since 2006, wages have only grown by €51 million, while revenue surged €117 million.”

But saving on players comes through bringing in youth players is exactly what the media and AAA point a finger at when Arsenal does it.  Remember the criticism that arose when we played Bellerin in the Champions League?  What the media and their allies cried out for was another £20m player ready to slot in.  At Bayern it is all the other way round.  They have a youth system that dominates the country.

Because of their dominance in Germany, top talent goes to Bayern.  In England it is spread around among five or so clubs.  Because of that dominance Bayern can offer less, because the player will love to go to Bayern.   Contrast this with Arsenal where the statistics on injuries and referee decisions, and the attack on the club by the media and people claiming to be Arsenal supporters, put players off.  Go to Arsenal and get slagged off by the media all day every day?  No chance.

There is also a different attitude towards loss-making in Germany from that in England where loss-making by clubs is almost glorified.  When Bayern were beaten by the utterly indebted and endlessly loss-making Inter in the Champions League final, Hoeness said, “I would not be happy to win like that. If I win a Champions League, I want to be in profit.”  You don’t hear that in England.

Rummenigge added to this saying, “Let’s take the example of Manchester City. How does it work when you write about a €200 million loss? The financial doping must come to an end and lead to a virtual ‘equality of arms’ between the clubs.”

But then in Germany, as Swiss Ramble says, “clubs have to provide a balanced budget before each season in order to receive a license, which does not completely prevent clubs falling into financial difficulties but it undoubtedly helps”.

So there it is.  Why are Arsenal’s prices so high?  Because we have a much smaller marketing income than Bayern, and instead of being lauded for the club’s actions in working in profit, we are endlessly criticised by football journalists who wouldn’t know one end of a financial report from a barge pole.

Want lower prices?  Either have a rigorous FFP throughout English football, or have Arsenal grow its marketing dramatically, or have a salary ceiling in the Premier League, or become financially dominant in English football.   Or a combination of several of them.

Arsenal’s marketing income is expanding, and FFP is coming in.  Two out of four isn’t bad – but it’s not a bad start.

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35 Replies to “So why can’t Arsenal be like Barcelona or Bayern?”

  1. Tony

    No amount of turn over will ever make Arsenal take the approach of Bayern’s towards their fans. A totally different mindset of all German clubs towards their fans, an American majority owner will never understand.

    As a supporter from overseas I am not effected by ticket prices , as I only attend a couple of matches per season where the price of a match ticket is the least of my worries, and it’s only a fraction of what I pay for airfare and hotel accommodations , but when a club is being run as a business model , one can expect ticket prices to only go up.

    ‘Child traficing ‘ was that the official UEFA charge against Barca? 🙂

  2. I think If Arsenal can win the Champions League in the near future it would go a long way in improving the Club’s Stature in Europe. Most of the clubs that have been mentioned above have won top prizes in Europe. Although, the next few seasons, if Arsenal finish in the Top 2 in the league and can make the last 4 in Europe, it would help retain and attract some of the best talents, be it young or old. The business model is good and practical and am sure the top brass will always look to push further in order to compete with the best.

  3. One of Bayern’s primary shareholder type owner things (I am happy to confess I’m not an expert in Finance) is the Adidas cooperation.

    Volskwagon at Wolfsburg.

    Bayer at Bayer?

    Their fans are not protected by the the clubs owners, they are protected by politicians that can be observed to be trying and succeeding to represent the interests of their citizenry.

    Nothing to with Kronke, sorry Tom. However much I’d like to believe that Arsenal FC could tear up some seats, install cheaper safe standing areas etc. it’s not going to happen without legislation. Because they’d get taken to court and the stadium would be closed down. This understanding puts the efforts of our AAA into interesting perspective. If they don’t coordinate with other football clubs and fans then they are not serious when it comes to pricing concerns. A simple conclusion, not difficult to make.

    I do respect the efforts at FC Utd. Those football fans established that club after becoming disenfranchised with their owner, and other stuff going on. Nothing to with the manager, or events in the pitch. This gentle consideration should help shine a light upon the activities of the AAA for those still confused.
    Going full circle it also begs the question: what kind of football fan would try and run a campaign attacking one of the football managers at the top of the game who is universally respected by the likes Roy Keane to John Gregory to Pellegrini etc. and beyond for being a genuine football person – the type that, you know, spots Chambers playing at RB and has him outperforming £30M Mangala at Wembley at CB and winning two England caps six months later? Fair to conclude that the AAA have taken their eye of that which matters: the football.

  4. This is one of the most annoying things about the assorted miserablists, media etc. I have frequently challenged this thinking in previous threads but rarely have had any kind of response, let alone a satisfactory one.

    Their whinging basically consists of:

    1. We must spend more money.

    2. Ticket prices must come down.

    What kind of fairytale world is this?

  5. pete,
    One in which the under educated, over indulged believe in their false sense of entitlement, unfortunately.

  6. Well Tony how can anyone not see how accurate this article is and how it highlights EVERYTHING that the MEDIA FAILED to do!!!

    Thanks for this!!!

  7. ClockEndRider – And no sense of deferred gratification. One of the interesting things about Gazidis’ recent interview was the consistent focus on the long term. In this context, a result one Saturday pales into insignificance.

    For example can anyone even remember, let alone care about, the fact that we lost 2-0 at home to Everton in 1974/5?

    I’ve always liked Gazidis and am becoming increasingly impressed by him.

  8. Pete,
    I think the problem for most is that they just don’t understand the first thing about finance. Hence when they see someone saying that we have £170m in the bank, their first thought is “great, let’s spend it”. Perhaps that’s how most people live their lives. Those of us who stop and think will say ” ok, how much of that cash has to be kept for trifling things like ongoing costs. Such as staff wages?” Deduct this and we begin to see how much is left for player expenditure”.
    Unfortunately, most people are just too lazy and prefer idiots like Peston, Morgan and other assorted charlatans to do their “thinking” for them.

  9. Clockendrider is spot on.

    We have a load of amateurs that spend too much time deluding themselves that they know best. If they are not expert managers, they are expert talent spotters, expert negotiators and now they are experts in football finance. Why on earth have the top Companies around the world not head hunted these superior beings? It is a real conundrum…….

  10. Tony,
    A question.
    You say in your post that “we are endlessly criticised by football journalists…”.

  11. Problem with capping:
    A few years back the NFL in America had capping of salaries. A player with the San Francisco 49ers was being traded to Green Bay Packers.
    At his meeting with the Packer’s management he agreed to accept the maximum allowed under the capping scheme.
    He then asked what he was going to get in the “other book”. What other book he was asked and revealed that the 49ers had another book that showed what the players were really getting from the club. Green Bay reported this to the NFL and investigation showed that all the big clubs had two books.
    Of course this could never happen in England where no club would seek to circumvent FFP by loaning out 24 players; and no club would break FFP to get promotion into the promised land of the Premiership and refuse to pay the fine levied on them; et al.

  12. It would never happen in England @John Harris. Never ever.

    Wonder how that club in London managed to reduce their wage bills. Of course 26 players on loan is bound to reduce it. But year on year most of these players were never given an official pay slip, were they??

    I am one of those who thinks the reduction will never happen. Freeze may be for a few years, but never reduction. Reason: well first, inflation. With inflation comes added stress on resources. Secondly, we’ll have to keep upgrading our stadium, training and medical facilities to keep up with times. Can’t sit still in the infrastructural department.

    BUT therz a silver lining somewhere. Gazidis in his interviews has mentioned the term ‘for our fans’. Club knows what fans want. And they know ticket prices are a concern (not that our stadium is empty). Once the stadium loan repayment is complete, it’ll free up 25 million a year. May be then, if there will ever be a reduction. But I doubt.

  13. We have 170 mil in the bank, that’s what we are told by the journalists. So lets spend it now and worry about the consequences later. Unfortunately that’s the mind set of the British people. Have you see the adverts? 0% interest, buy now and don’t pay for 4 yrs bullshit. But mind you, u have to pay and if you default on payment your pretty much fucked.
    My interest is the finance of Barca and I have a funny feeling that a lot of financial support comes from the politicians because that is the only big thing in Catalonia and if the club fails you know what the consequences will be.

  14. Let’s get real. It’s called supply and demand and Arsenal sell out, match after match in a big stadium, at comparatively high prices. Most other don’t sell out even if they charge much less and have far fewer tickets to sell. Whose making the right business decisions?

  15. This article seems to assume that if Arsenal matched or surpassed Bayern’s income the Arsenal board would decide to lower ticket prices. They almost certainly would not.

  16. i love the fact that man city – who last time i checked (and please correct me if i am wrong) were essentially gifted a free stadium, are lauded for cheap ticket prices, whilst in the same sentence, arsenal (who admittedly have the highest prices in the league) are criticized for the high ticket prices – the majority of which i believe would pay off the stadium (roughly £3m per game – roughly 20 – 30 games = roughly £60 – 90million per year. Minus the minimum payment of £30m for the stadium per year).

    Furthermore, if you compare london teams (as most articles forget to mention that london is one of the most expensive cities in the world – where the average house price is probably 10 times of that in the rest of the UK), i believe spurs, who have a lot of crap seats and views, and an old stadium – PLUS offer less games per season ticket – are not that cheaper than us. Now the question is, do i want to watch a school play cost £29, or a broadway show costing £32 (actually in london, it is probably around £100 – but the difference in price and quality is the reason for my analogy!)

    I am the first to admit that our ticket prices are high – and my only defence is that we are unfairly targeted – whilst the oilers get a free ride, the liverpool love in continues, and spurs are just widely ignored.

    HOWEVER, not only would i argue for some insight and perspective into the ticket prices, i would also state that if you cannot afford something – DO NOT DO IT!

    I cannot afford to go to the cinema every week (ticket roughly £12 – food roughly £8) – so i do not.

    I cannot afford to eat out at a restaurant every few days – costing £20 – £30 with drinks – so i do not do that very often.

    I can afford Sky / BT sports packages, but chose not to pay their extortionate prices – about £50 per month or more

    I cant afford to buy a house in london (average house price near me is half a million – and i am by no means the only person who cannot afford to) – so i do not.

    I do not understand this idea that 1st class entertainment should be cheap??? Cinema for £20 or arsenal (in cup games for £15 or so) for £45?? I know which one i would choose!

    Yes, football used to be cheaper – when it was not so popular. When the average player was not a millionairre. When most matches were not televised.

    Times have changed. If you want to watch a match but cant afford to, go and watch your local club, who charge (i think rather expensively based on its quality and demand) £10 – £20 per match!

    My last point – i cannot believe how biased the BBC has been against arsenal in all of this!

  17. insiderright – i concur!

    Supply and demand dictates that arsenal have probably got their pricing strategy right!

    I think arsenal fans should just unite in trying to get the ticket-share schemes working as best as possible, so as to ensure that the stadium is not only sold out, but also full to capacity.

    It would also be a nice touch to offer any free / empty seats to local residents / children / clubs – who would have to come at short notice (as the seats couldnt be ‘transferred’ until after the game begins or so)

    Maybe an idea would be for arsenal to buy or build a ‘hosting area’, in which fans can pay to watch the game on a big screen, and pay £5 or so entry – like a big cinema or something. And any empty seats could be given to these customers, randomly, based on thier arsenal membership numbers??

  18. My son played a youth game recently at Barnet’s community/training complex in the shadow of their (very nice looking) new stadium. I was somewhat shocked to see above a turnstile that it is £23 to get in… for the Conference!

    Beyond all the whinging – and it is very expensive, I can’t go every week (I paid 50p to get in when I started, it is now £50) – the quality of player and the quality of football on show these days throughout the League, compared even to the 80s and 90s, is extraordinarily high. And, for the Champs League, I have seen the best teams in the world in 4 of the past 5 seasons (Barca and Bayern), including the best player.

    This didn’t really happen back in the 70s!

  19. The last time I went to see Arsenal, I paid £36, I was about twelve rows from the front, and I saw four lovely goals. I definitely got my money’s worth!

  20. @ClockEndRider
    October 15, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    “I think the problem for most is that they just don’t understand the first thing about finance. Hence when they see someone saying that we have £170m in the bank, their first thought is “great, let’s spend it”. Perhaps that’s how most people live their lives.”

    Exactly this. A lot of the world is spending more then they earn. I have a friend who has been paying his mortgage with a credit card and his credit card with another credit card. You can juggle something like that for a little while but eventually it all comes crashing down. If/when the football financial bubble bursts we will be one of the few teams who will be in good shape.

  21. Bayern has a good youth system and they always buy the best players from their league competitions, thus weakening the other teams in their league. While recently there has been more competition in the German league it has really been dominated by one team for decades. Sometimes is seems that the whole league is run so for one team and that one team makes up the German National Team core! But this may be a slight over statement.

    The EPL does not work like the German league is has always had more competition. This is part of its appeal over against leagues in Spain – a two horse league, Italy – a league that seems forever corrupt, German – one team and then everyone else.

  22. Because the conditions of those two mentioned clubs are completely different to that of Arsenal.
    Different country with different traditions.
    Different rules so that oil man don’t really can distort the league in an instant.

  23. And for your information and as was asked when we sold Vermaelen a few months ago I finally got rid of him standing next to me 🙂

  24. @ para October 16, 2014 at 5:48 am – I look forward to the day that all Arsenal fans get behind the team and do the same as those awesome Dortmund fans .

  25. About the link and thanks Para.

    Can you imagine singing to your players for 5 minutes after a loss? They don’t have to imagine it in Dortmund. They just do it.

    Over here our own non existing AAA can’t even clap their hands for half a second if we win a match.


    The bbc continue their anti-arsenal perspective, with 3rd kits being the issue.

    Firstly, wilshere is shown at the top in the picture, which immediately leads you to believe the criticism of all premier league clubs with 3rd kits is directed at arsenal.

    Secondly, who cares?? Just because there is a 3rd kit, it doesn’t mean you have to buy it/?? When i was growing up there were 150 pokemon, and i apparently had to catch them all – but for £4 for a pack of 10 cards, most of which were repeats (or energy cards if anyone remembers>?) i didnt – because my parents were not made of money, and had a decent level of parenting.

    I would also like to re-iterate a few points raised in the comments.

    Arsenal may have some of the highest ticket prices, and as stated, that is expected, as london is way more expensive than the rest of the UK (it wouldmt be a bad idea for untold to explore the differences in living / house / food etc prices vs ticket prices in london, vs manchester, liverpool etc..)

    BUT – arsenal are more or less sold out every game. Man City, where they apparently have the cheapest tickets (courtesy of us taxpayers, and their oiler parents), struggle to fill their stadium FOR THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE!!!!!! HOW? not even a cup game ??

  27. Oh god, Tony. I hav read this bullshit in newspapers in Malaysia and it made my blood boil. Like a monkey following another monkey’s act. What nonsense?! I think it is a worldwide sickness.

  28. An Arsenal season ticket in my opinion gives me some of the best football in the world. Wengers football is worth the money. It is passing at its best despite the cheats that try to injure good footballers and their support in the form of crooked FA appointed monopoly referees.

    I suppose if he coached cheating and physical abuse it would make value for money for fight fans.

  29. Hypocrisy without shame from the bbc , as usual combined with the predictable anti arsenal agenda.

    No body forces anybody to buy a ticket at arsenal, it’s a free market and the stadium is full or sold out near enough every week. Supporters are free to choose their own level of investment in watching arsenal fc , and the club consistently offers a high quality brand of attacking entertaining football .

    Unlike the bbc where the mediocre substandard and biased reporting is rewarded, and then funded using the coercive & manipulative scare mongering tactics involved in the collection of involuntary licence fee .

    Maybe there should be an open inquest into how much the people who compiled these incompetent half true articles are earning and whether it represents value for money for the license payer ( arsenal fans are definitely due a large refund/windfall )

    As usual it seems inconvenient to clearly highlight , some of the real reasons why tickets are expensive in England and the price they are at arsenal , so I will give my reasoning:

    Pressure to buy
    Everyday there is relentless pressure to buy buy buy from the media and bandwagon fans . This creates a negative climate ( crisis!) around clubs and helps drive the market. If every body ( perceivably) needs to buy , the demand for players goes up, along with the price paid ( wages tend to then go up too ) this is of course funded via raising ticket prices .

    Players wages
    The best players tend to demand the highest wages and the premier league needs the best players to retain its place as the most popular league with the strongest television deal.

    Main reason : FINANCIAL DOPING!
    The main reason wages across the board are so high is because of certain clubs benefitting from financial doping / unlimited petro funds ( whether or not this money has been gained completely legitimately by the benefactors is also conveniently never scrutinised in the media ) this causes an upward pressure on wages throughout the rest of the league as clubs try to compete ( this is especially difficult to resist when the media on a daily basis are portraying non petro powered clubs as being tight / lacking ambition or just being happy to get 4th place / not enough trophies being won etc etc). As a comparison It stands to reason that in The bundesliga they have similarities to the premier league; a great product ( although overall CURRENTLY inferior to the premier league) great fans and football culture at a fraction of the ticket prices , but no petro dollars causing this distortion that has happened in sellout England .

    Supply and demand

    If something is in demand, the price tends to go up and vice versa. Entertainment inc sport lives and dies in the quality of the entertainment produced, there are no subsidies. In football, for a club to stick to its own values and play great football , at the same time as having a restricted budget up against unlimited spending and still compete is a feat in itself. A high demand for your tickets only comes from doing these thing very well , which really isn’t easy.

    However you would be protected from these harsh realities and demands when working for the bbc. There is hardly any concept of supply and demand there. Just jump on board and join the safety of the bandwagon. Keep your head down with mediocrity and definitely don’t bite the hand that feeds you and the boys by questioning the integrity of the benefactors or consequences of the direction taken by the the premier league in terms of allowing ( encouraging?) oligarchs take over our clubs. just repeat the preferred narrative whilst banking a fortune. At the same time you can put the boot into ‘that london’ whenever possible

  30. Both Barca and Bayern also get comparatively good value from their local government. They pay less Police charges and general costs as the cities know that the visiting supporters are very good for the local economy. Whereas H&I council think of AFC as a cow to be milked. The additional ‘local regeneration’ expenses AFC paid to build at the Grove are amazing.

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