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.
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.
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