Maybe AST Should Be Running Arsenal Football Club

By Bootoomee

I have not written any article for a while now because I have had no issue that I feel strongly about enough to spur me into writing one….well, until I received this from a friend in London. This is attention-seeking stunt from a group of individuals about some nefarious act that a PRIVATE entity MIGHT do. The stunt is a letter from the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) to Sir Chips Keswick, the Arsenal chairman, warning him against the board increasing ticket prices for the 2015/16 season when we are not even half way through the current one.

I am not advocating, excusing or supporting the Arsenal board in hiking tickets prices, season or solitary and I don’t know anytime in history when people have been happy about price hike for anything. However, when we experience increases in prices of goods and services, we mostly just pay with a little grumbling and nothing more, especially when the increments are reasonable. And many of these things are absolute necessities! It might have been very low and inconsistent since the recession but the fact is that inflation pay increases are created to help deal with annual price increases because they are expected. I got a 1% inflation raise this year even though most price increases are about 5% or more. It is understandable why people will be mad about price hikes. But this is not what AST are doing here. AST are pre-emptively protesting a price hike that the club has not given any indication of introducing.

Arsenal fans warn chairman: Don’t charge us more for season tickets if Wenger doesn’t spend transfer pot”

This is the title of the story on Evening Standard and maybe it’s just me but the whole thing sounds so wrong. In fact, I find it infuriatingly wrong and as I have said before, I don’t support Arsenal increasing ticket prices. There is a cognitive dissonance in the headline and indeed in AST’s letter to the AFC board’s chairman.

AST, presented in the headline as “Arsenal fans” are a tiny fraction of Gooners in a block of Emirates stadium, Emirates stadium itself, London…….hell, they are a tiny fraction of Gooners ANYWHERE. This is from the wikipedia AST page:

“With a membership of approximately 1,000, it is one of the smaller supporters’ trusts in the United Kingdom, but has a close working relationship with the club. AST’s members include small shareholders as well as supporters and the Trust itself owns three of the 62,217 shares in the club, including the so-called ‘orphan share’, donated by the club in 2007”

The AST members make up less than 2% of Emirates patrons and probably 3% of the season ticket holders. They own a huge 0.0048% of Arsenal, 33.3% of which is a gift from the club’s ‘greedy’ board. Despite being small compared with other supporters’ trusts in the country, they are well recognised by the club. In other word, AST owe their credibility, which enables them to get a major newspaper to report on their anti-Arsenal activities to that ‘evil, greedy’ Arsenal board. I guess as the saying goes: No good deed goes unpunished!

The first problem with AST’s current shenanigan is the fact that they are speaking for Arsenal fans. I am as steadfast an Arsenal fan as they come but I do not support this unprovoked and unwarranted action. I suspect that a higher than 2% of the Emirates stadium patrons might not support this notice me* act but here is their names being dragged in the mud. Here they are being used as a tool to besmirch Arsenal in the media that loved nothing better than unfairly attacking our club.

The club has done nothing to warrant this letter other than posting a good report for the year ended. Tickets prices were increased by 3% for this current season after 3 years of stable prices. We are 4 months into the season and I have seen no indication from the board that they are going to increase prices again next August. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t; nobody knows and that is why the whole letter stinks of juvenile self promotion.

If at the very worst, the club decides to increase the prices by another 3% in August 2015, fans will have the option to suck it up and pay because of their love for the club and because they can afford it or stop being ST holders either in protest of the hike or because they can no longer afford it. I don’t care if all your past generations have been Arsenal fans or whether you were conceived and born on an Arsenal ground but once the price gets out of your affordability range, the only sensible thing to do is to stop spending what you could barely afford anyway. Possession of an Arsenal season ticket is not a fundamental human right.

The truth is that if a £60 increase on a £2,000 ST is a problem for you, you might have been overstretching yourself to pay for it in the first place. Just thank your lucky star that Arsenal tickets are not things like rent, energy and other necessities and reassess your priorities. On my few visits to the stadium, I know that it beats watching on TV hands down but that is exactly how 99.9% of Arsenal fans see the team play 99.9% of the time with a good number only being able to catch up with highlights on Arsenal Player or Youtube.

This letter is aimed at getting the support of the current season ticket holders for the deluded self-important follies of AST. The reasoning behind their outrage is due to Arsenal not using the £3 million that the club made off the 3% increase on buying players. To the geniuses running this outfit, the only money that is worth spending is that spent on buying new players.

They also want to NOT have to pay for matches outside the 26 that the STs cover. They are mad that they have to pay to watch Bayern Munich because, and I am quoting the article here: “a run of home draws in the FA Cup had ensured they had used all of their match credits”. These guys are basically whining about how Arsenal’s good fortune is costing them more despite moaning about the club not winning trophies in the past years.

For what it’s worth, the Evening Standard writer was kind enough to state that: “Arsenal are one of the few clubs who include seven cup credits in season tickets, with fans of other clubs paying extra for Champions League games.” The AST are not only happy to get this benefit, they want more or the flexibility to see CL matches with their 7 games and not some useless FA cup games. In other word, they want the benefits that other teams don’t get but want to not pay for it. They might well be screaming: “Hey board, don’t charge us more for the service that we get to enjoy out millions of other fans, tens of thousands of whom are willing payers who have been on the waiting list years”. The rest of us just say: boo-freaking-hoo!

As Gazidis said at the last AGM, “The board has never approached ticket prices glibly or lightly. Demand for ticket continues to far exceed supply”. Despite selling a product that is in hot demand, the board has shown restrain by not letting the market be their guide. And this is the reward they get from the spoilt brats in AST. As a train season ticket holder (hey, I am a season ticket holder too!), I know what it means to get an annual price hike but in my case, there is nothing that I can do about it. I must take the train to work and my work is my livelihood. I don’t like the annual increases but I have never written the CEO of the train company demanding that unless all the money in their accounts are spent on new trains there must be no further hikes.

Infuriating as the letter is, it might been a little easier to let go but for the condition attached: Wenger must first spend all the money the club has on new players before any increment in price is considered! Arsenal spent £80 million this season on new players but the AST will not rest until every penny in that reserve account is spent. Only then can the club dare increase prices. You might be asking: but aren’t we going to be paying salaries of playing and non-playing staff while also running the other vital affairs of the club? Who gives a shite! The AST want all Arsenal revenue to be spent on buying players; other club commitments and future financial security be damned. They have an obsessive wish for Arsenal to be penniless because their condition that the club must spend all its reserve on new signings is just bizarre.

They might not be the sharpest mentally but you gotta give them credit for their gigantic balls. When next I go to buy a cup of coffee at my favourite coffee shop, I’ll inform the owner not to increase prices until he has used his business account balance to renovate his shop to my taste. I have never been one to cry about spending the fucking money on buying players but I understand, even if I don’t agree with those who do. But dictating to a private organisation how to run its fiscal house is just megalomania run amok. We don’t even get to give the government conditions on how to spend our taxes or when to hike the prices of the services they provide for us, and they are mostly mandatory services.

Who the hell are these people and why should the board be listening to them? Their relevance is derived directly from the recognition that the board has given them but see how they are using it. I wish the board will just tell them to fuck off!

*Notice me is a Nigerian lingo for self serving but futile attention-seeking actions and the people who perform them.

35 Replies to “Maybe AST Should Be Running Arsenal Football Club”

  1. Well said, Bootoomee! I didn’t know till now that the AST has only 1000 members and that one of their shares – which give them the right to go along and make a nuisance of themselves at the AGM – was given to them by the Board.

    I’m a member of the AISA myself and this is a modest and reasonable supporters’ organization which raises issues with the Board on behalf of supporters in a responsible and non-self-advertising manner. This includes issues to do with ticketing.

    You rightly highlight how the AST uses this issue to attack Arsene Wenger and that is another reason why I dislike the way they operate.

  2. While I agree that the way in which ticket prices have escalated throughout our land is as obscene as the increases in players’ wages, I fail to see the connection with spending on new signings.
    If the Club is so sufficiently solvent, then ticket prices should reduce….full stop.

  3. I should have added that, IMO, until there is some form of cap on players’ wages, a general financial disaster is inevitable.

  4. I totally agree with your conclusion (If you don’t like the price – don’t buy. But FFS don’t tell me what to spend my money on).

    Good Post about the arrogant dim AST.

  5. Nicky,

    That’s what is most infuriating about their stupid letter. I am very familiar with people moaning about price hikes, I regularly do it too. But these guys crossed the line by giving conditions which must be met before any price hikes should be considered by a private organisation. Arsene must have spent all our money (tens of millions of pounds) on buying NEW players before the club can increase prices which the last time yielded only £3 million.

    Interestingly, these are the same people who take every opportunity to rub it in your face that they are ST holders, often trying to use it to imply they love the club more than other Gooners. Yet they have a pathological loathing for the club being financially healthy. What kind of fans are they?

  6. Well said Boo

    Could’nt believe what I was reading when I saw the article myself.

    Everything you say Boo, to contradict, counter, and challenge AST’s ranting’s, totally discredits everything they say.

    But the point is, it matters not a jot. That AST’s letter is totally baseless and flawed on almost every level but as long as it’s criticising AFC, AW, the board, the fans, or the players in some way, it’s worth printing.

    That’s all the fuckwits in the media care about.


    The next day in the same paper there was a big article from that dullard Paul Scholes criticising Wenger for not making the most of Danny’s ‘pace and power’ !! Can you believe it. Danny’s blossomed out of all proportion under Wenger but does Scholes give him credit? Not a bit of it, just more criticism

    Today in the Mirror we have that well known Arsenal fan and fully signed up member of the AAA’s John Cross. is he praising Wenger for the blossoming of our Danny boy? Surprise surprise, not a bit of it. He’s having a pop at Wenger for just ‘suggesting’ that DW may have to go out wide once OG is back.

    I mean with Sanchez, Theo, Olivier and Danny, all supposedly preferring to play ‘down the middle’ I would be interested to see Cross’s formation considering how he seems to want to accommodate every players whim !!

    4 centre forwards could be fun but I’m sure I see a flaw in there somewhere.

    The Media..I FUCKING HATE THEM !!!!!!!

  7. Bootoomee you are I may have to agree to disagree on some things. I agree that attacking AW for not spending all the money is pointless and unhelpful: it is how you spend the money that matters. I also agree that preserving the long term future of the club is vital, rather than chasing quick fixes. So I also agree with you that this AST action is at best ill-conceived and at worst potentially damaging. But….

    I don’t agree with your rather simplistic capitalistic model of economics. If you can’t afford it then f*** off. Ok, it is NOT a human right to have an Arsenal ST but is IS a fundamental human right in THIS country to express your opinion (so long as it is not racist, homophobic, sexist etc). I might disagree with AST’s action but they have the right to do so.

    They may only represent a tiny percentage of ST holders (and even less Arsenal fans) but they have had the gumption to form a supporters’ group (like AISA, like Black Flag) and there is nothing stopping you (or anyone else) from joining them and challenging their actions from the inside. I do attend Arsenal every home game (and the odd away) and while this gives me no intrinsic rights and makes me no better or worse a supporter than you it surely entitles me to express my opinion on Arsenal. Since I pay £1,000 or more on tickets, buy Arsenal merchandise (probably about another £200 pa), plus another £750-1,000 on travel etc this is a serious part of my life financially and I am lucky I have a job that (just about) allows me to do so.

    Our ticket prices (however one chooses to calculate them) are higher than most in the PL (in Europe too) so any increases are bound to affect those on more limited incomes than me. I don’t want teenagers, young people, old people and people on low incomes to be priced out of supporting Arsenal because we will end up with a situation where the people attending the Emirates are simply those that can afford it: businessmen, bankers, corporate beneficiaries, foreign tourists, and so on – all with little or no affinity to MY club.

    So while I generally respect your opinions (and defend your right to express them) I found some of your rhetoric here a little upsetting

  8. Just to set the record straight the AST probably works less ‘closely’ with the Club than it did in the past. The link from the AFC website to that of the AST was removed some time ago and, famously, the Club no longer finances the Fanshare scheme which the AST was instrumental in setting up.
    It isn’t unreasonable to believe that the Club has tired of the (badly argued) outbursts from this group – a tiny fraction of whom actually attend meetings.
    To be fair, there is as much criticsm of the AST ‘spokespeople’ from within the ranks of its membership as there is from outside. These days they are driven by the same desire to create headlines and notoriety that so many bloggers seem to have. The concept of quiet diplomacy has passed them by.
    As I wrote on Untold a couple of weeks ago – there is no evidence whatsoever that revenue derived directly from fans goes into any transfer pot (which, it would appaer,is only fed by transfer revenue and, more recently, sponsorship money). Ticket revenue helps to pay for wages which have, in the not too distant past, not been high enough to prevent financially doped clubs tempting our players from us.
    The Club is in an all time golden age for attendances at home games and ticket price rises (on average, across time, below inflation) don’t seem to have the slightest influence on that.
    The best route to reducing ticket prices is to rid the game of financial doping which fuels wage inflation and puts so many clubs into financial jeopardy.

  9. insideright

    “The best route to reducing ticket prices is to rid the game of financial doping which fuels wage inflation and puts so many clubs into financial jeopardy”.

    Perfectly put.

    But why this is’nt done nothing will change and it seems highly unlikely to ever be done, at least to any meaningful degree.

    What really irks me though is how the likes of the AST, the AAA etc. just ignore the doping as if it doesn’t exist (and the inevitable consequences it has on Clubs that are NOT doped, and who are trying to, nay EXPECTED TO, compete), and still think the ticket prices wont reflect the economic realities of the situation.

  10. blacksheep,

    I am really getting tired of the old freedom of expression nonsense being trotted out whenever people are disagreed with. Unless you can point to where I ask that AST be gagged or that its members be incarcerated for expressing their opinion then your point here is, well pointless.

    Just as they have the right to say what they did, albeit via a bigger medium, I equally have the right to call out their childish tantrum.

    I firmly stand by point that if being ST holders is getting out of their affordability they should watch from home like the rest of us and let those who can afford it on the waiting list take their place. The whole whiny nonsense from this group needs to stop.

  11. The AST should just save everybody from trouble by writing a letter to the respective government official in which they voted for to intervene footballing matters in England. Once the financial doping, corruption and malpractice of people’s club sorted out, then Arsenal FC will stand shine like a beacon of future hope. By then I hope they will realize the purity of the Gunners and maybe the club might charge spectators reasonably, I know they will.

  12. blacksheep,

    I have read the letter and my opinion of them and the act is not affected one bit.

    91% of their members in their survey are against tickets price hike. The only surprise here is that it’s not 100%. What the hell is wrong with the remaining 9%? If price hikes are to be based on customer surveys nothing willever in price EVER.

    These guys just love the attention and nothing more. They should leave the attendance to those who can attend without constantly bitching about how miserable it’s making them. We want happy Gooners in the stadium not disgruntled people with misplaced priorities.

  13. Boo Boo have you got a season ticket ? do you got to away games europe etc … ? did you go to Swansea ? Anderlecht at home ? will you be there today ?

  14. Actually, the AST letter seems quite reasonable to me. I think the only time the letter mentions transfers is the following:

    “We would be interested to know whether the Board consults with Arsène Wenger as to whether he supports additional funds being raised from match-going fans, as he doesn’t appear to require them for transfer activity.”

    The problem is, even though they have done thier financial analysis, they don’t really know the exact details what’s going on with the club’s finances, they only have a broad idea. It’s not exactly something clubs, any clubs, are open about.

    And like others have said, no one talks about the astronomical increase in wages and transfer fees that has been caused by Chelsea and Man City.

    In the end it comes down to the fact that the demand for tickets is so high that the club could easily have put ticket prices up by more than they have, and still been able to fill the stadium.

  15. 4evered,

    No to all your questions and what’s your point exactly? I don’t want to put words in your mouth so I’ll wait for your response to react.

  16. 4evered,

    Bootoomee is an anglicised spelling of my name. It has a meaning that is important to me. Your juvenile mockery says more about your character than whatever thrill you might get from it.

    Mockery of names is a low form of insult.

  17. The 3% increase was less than the amount of inflation over the same period of time. If anything the club should be commended for keeping prices down. I don’t understand where the controversy is.

  18. Grossly unfair to dismiss the AST. 1,000 Arsenal fans from a cross section of season ticket holders is enough to give a good barometer of who Arsenal fans are feeling. The only skew would be if the trust only attracted negative fans. This is not the case as you can see from the annual surveys.

    I think they are fair when they criticise the season ticket price hikes. Arsenal (and every other club) are charging their fans way too much money and exploiting their passion for the game and the club itself. Money is going to agents and quiet average greedy footballers. Basically the game is in a mess. Whilst the AST are critical of the club I am sure they would be critical of other clubs too if they could be bothered to speak about them, but this after all the Arsenal Supporters trust we are talking about.

  19. Blaisehayest,

    The meme of Arsenal tickets being the most expensive in the country is a long but to act outraged about it is be disingenuous or to put more mildly, totally ignorant of context. Although I can barely afford to visit a few times in a season, I think what the club charge is very fair and commensurate with where the stadium is located, it being of the state of the art and the quality of matches on display. Contrary to the prevailing meme, the Arsenal board is very reasonable as you rightly said or they could just have go strictly with the market.

    I relocated to the north west recently to buy a cheaper house. I didn’t stay around moaning about how people like me are being priced out of the house market. Likewise when I found Sky’s prices too high I moved to TalkTalk despite my love of the Sky contents. There are always alternatives, if the cost of going to the stadium is no longer affordable then watch at home and buy merchandise like the rest of us.

  20. jayramfootball,

    Complaining about price hike is normal. Asking the club to only do so if it is to be spent on buying players is ridiculous.

  21. Non contributing blow-in armchair fan with no tangible stake or concern has pop at contributing stakeholders for expressing concern. Laughable to say the least

  22. What is laughable is a bunch of mathematically deficient morons forcefully living a lifestyle that is beyond their means. The club has tens of thousands of people on the waiting list but an entitled bunch want to keep the seats for themselves.

    You pay to be a season ticket holder because you can afford to. If you no longer can because the 3% increase in 3 years is too much for you to bear, give it and let those who can happily support without whining about the cost take your place.

  23. I have never felt any less of a Gooner because I don’t have a season ticket and I have always found the argument that ST holders have a higher stake in Arsenal than I do, obnoxious. Equally, while I go when I can afford to, pay the membership fees and buy merchandise for myself and 3 other members of my family, I have never seen myself as a better fan than a Gooner watching on a dodgy stream in Kuala Lumpur.

  24. Bootoomee, please calm down!

    Glyn Taylor is a solicitor and the premises of the practice, are used for meetings of the AST. No alcohol, of course. Mrs Glyn Taylor, runs the membership of 1100 plus members.

    The letter is unusual, in closing as:

    Glyn Taylor
    for Arsenal Supporters’ Trust

    As a shareholder, there is no reason why Mr Taylor should not express his personal views.

    Why write to the Chairman? We are told by the Chairman, how much he appreciates Mr Kroenke’s advice.

    Bootoomee, I commend you for standing on your own two feet.

  25. I think the point is in exchange for paying the highest ticket prices in the premier league supporters should enjoy a modicum of success which has sadly been missing for almost a decade. A fortunate FA cup victory against lowly Hull doesn’t really vindicate the prices the fans pay. Hell we had great success in a stadium that is almost half the size of the Emirates and now we have a poor trophy showing despite the gate receipts doubling!

  26. 5th Gen Gooner,

    Is there a better way to show you are a great supporter than by denigrating the achievement of the club you claim to love?

    Man City lost the 2013 FA cup final to Wigan which shows how lucky and easy it is to play a team lower than Hull. Had we played Wigan then and won, you would be saying the same thing you are doing here.

    If you can, just blame Wenger without belittling the club’s achievement.

  27. @Bootoomee

    Good article, also, looks like you have stirred up one of the AAAA twits!

    While I have little time for the AST, in fact I suspect many of them have an ulterior motive behind their actions; I suspect that the ticket price hike – yet to be officially announced or possibly not yet even considered – is a red herring. The AST really want to hammer the “spend some f****** money” message. I further suspect this is, just now, more important to them and their unofficial patron than self gratification. It is one more attempt in the ongoing campaign to undermine the present management of the club.

    I assume the letter was not a private one and that the AST deliberately released it to the press to further the motives described above.

  28. BOO BOO(term of endearment small cute bear) Your the one thats always saying that as we are not football managers we have no right to question Arsene’s decisions yes ?

  29. 4evered,

    Stop trying to be smart by half. You and I are not friends so you have no reason to use a term of endearment when addressing me. If it’s not too much trouble, I prefer you use Bootoomee when addressing me. Thanks.

    Your point about questioning Arsene’s decisions makes little sense in context of this thread. I am just a fan like the AST members and if they can talk about the club, I can talk about them talking about the club. That is how freedom of speech works.

  30. @Blacksheep

    Thanks for the link to the AST letter. You are right, it is much more measured than the newspaper reports would lead us to believe. Also, it does not appear to be attacking Arsene Wenger. Instead it asks if he has been consulted on the rising prices for tickets and suggests they might not be necessary for building the squad.

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