Does the price of last night’s ticket actually matter?

By Tony Attwood

Last night, for the Southampton match, I bought a ticket for the game for a friend, using my silver membership.   It was a lower tier in the East Stand and cost £28.00.  Personally I don’t think that was too bad – when you buy a ticket you don’t know what you are going to get, and it wasn’t a great game, but it was played with commitment in a fine stadium with some quality players on view, including the occasional world cup participant.

No one moaned abut the price, and at many grounds in the Premier League that ticket – the lowest price available – would have cost quite a lot more.

My ticket did cost more.  Mine cost about £55, reflecting several things – the fact that it is upper tier, the fact that being part of a season ticket it gives me a seat for every game, the fact that it allowed me to buy excellent tickets for the FA Cup semi-final and final, and for most away games that I want.   Indeed, some years, had I had a mind to, I could have recouped all that money selling the ticket on, on just a few occasions.  I recall being offered £700 for my seat for one of the Barcelona games for example.

However I rather like watching Arsenal, and I am a fairly law abiding citizen, so I only sell on to friends at the actual list price if I can’t go.

So how do I judge if this is value for money?   Should I worry that people keep telling me that Arsenal have the most expensive season tickets in Europe?  What should a ticket cost?

Ask anyone in marketing about price and you will be told that the art of marketing is to offer the customer what the customer is wanting to buy at a price he/she is willing to pay.  It is on the first page of virtually every marketing book.

So on that basis Arsenal is getting it right.   Tickets are available for all matches to red and silver members, and if you want you can buy a season ticket – although there is a waiting list, just as there is for silver membership.  Each game sells out.  Yes there are always empty seats – it is estimated about 1% of the ground for most games, but those are generally related to people who have bought tickets but can’t go.  I miss a few games each season due to anything from being in Australia with my daughter to the weather conditions in Northamptonshire, from being laid low with a serious cold to having booked something else up, only to find the day of the match changed.

Apart from the changing of dates and times of games to suit TV, the system seems fair to me.  But the papers and their allies in the AAA keep on spouting this stuff about expensive seats, the most expensive in Europe and so on.

Which made me wonder, apart from the issue of the fact that Arsenal sell out each game, is there anything else that Arsenal should take into account?

Other entertainment sites don’t worry too much about prices.  The theatres I visit charge their prices based on the standard marketing definition above – if the audiences are small, they cut prices and give a free glass of champagne.  If they sell out each night, they put the price up and charge you a fortune for a programme.

Restaurants, dance clubs, cinemas… all the places I visit all do the same, they charge what the customer will pay.  So why all this “most expensive seat” stuff?

When I was a youngster at school, I was dependent on my dad paying to get us both into Arsenal.   When I went to watch other clubs without my dad, I paid.  During times of my life when money was tight I didn’t go, when money has been good, I have gone.  That is life in a free market economy.

I’ve also experienced football in Cuba and Algeria, both of which charged incredibly low prices for entrance (so it seemed to me), but in neither location were the grounds packed solid even for top local games.  Cuba in particular used a different approach, but then their whole country is based on a different philosophy of economics.  We can hardly expect Arsenal to step out of line with the economics of the country in which the club is based.

So what should Arsenal do?   If we didn’t have that maxim about marketing (what the customer wants at a price the customer will pay) what should we take into account?

I guess one could take into account

  • The quality of the stadium (I really do believe it is the best stadium in the UK)
  • Where Arsenal are in the league
  • How many trophies we have won
  • How many international players there are in the team

This gets us into trouble.  I mean, do we up the prices this year for the FA Cup because we are cup holders?  Do we up the prices for European games because this is the 15th year of playing in the knock out Champions League?  Do we say, because we came fourth last year we should have the fourth highest prices and forget that the quality of Chelsea’s ground is so far below that of Arsenal’s that they might as well be on different planets?

Or should we put the prices for away fans up at Arsenal, because Arsenal fans travelling away have to pay a lot more for the generally much lower quality away facilities than their away fans have to pay for visiting Arsenal?   Maybe we should, because when Man City fans protested and didn’t show for one game, all the tickets they didn’t want were sold within six hours to Arsenal fans.   Mind you it was a fairly feeble protest.  They were all back for the next match.

Trying to answer this makes it more and more complex and makes me think more and more that the “highest ticket prices” thing is just an insult with no meaning.

For example, Arsenal’s ground has no seats that are utterly cramped, have restricted views, and so forth.  Tottenham and Liverpool most certainly do and I think others do as well.   Arsenal’s ground have no seats that come with a warning that they should not be used by anyone who has a fear of heights.  Man U’s ground does.  Doesn’t that count for something?

Arsenal has not slipped down the league in the way that Liverpool did for four season, and Man U did for last season.  Should that be taken into account?

This is in fact getting horribly complex.  The only way I can make the “most expensive season tickets in Europe” (which is not true anyway) make any sense would be by having the seat price based on where we are in the league, so at the end of the season, us season ticket holders get asked to pay extra if we came above a certain position, or get a refund if we end up below that position.

But that still just seems crazy.  In the end “providing what the customer wants at a price the customer is willing to pay” still seems the best approach.   If you can’t afford to pay, I am sorry.  I know what it is like – I’ve been through that as a student, and in the early years of my life having a mortgage and a family while being on a modest wage.  I followed Arsenal from afar, and contented myself by going to watch my local team.  But this is a capitalist society – that’s how things go.  I still can’t see any better way of running things within this economic system.  If you can, do tell.



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28 Replies to “Does the price of last night’s ticket actually matter?”

  1. Tony,

    1. I am certain that the number of attendees is significantly higher than 1%. I would have put the number of people in the ground last night at somewhere in the low to mid 50s. The only part that was “full” was the away end. It always seems strange to me that so many season ticket holders are apparently disinterested and wealthy enough to not bother going AND to not try to pass their ticket on to a friend or relative (with or without consideration).

    2. Another option would be to increase the capacity of the stadium. I have heard rumours that this is feasible but I have my doubts about the cost/benefit analysis. Also, from a psychological point of view, if tickets are easier to come by then the incentive to own a season ticket would diminish – so there might be the perverse effect of lower attendances (or ticket sales anyway).

  2. Tony.

    Great write up but utterly irrelevant. I would suggest most people that slag us off for our ticket prices know all the above anyway.

    They don’t care Tony.

    I think working from the premise that the facts are of any importance what so ever, when it comes to slagging off Arsenal, is a mistake.

  3. In the Utopia world in which I live, there is a cap on the obscene escalation of players’ wages, resulting in the lowering of the obscene escalation of ticket prices.

  4. Pete

    As I understand it the Stadium has been built with a capacity of 70,000 plus(hence the very large seats) but permission to operate with that capacity was dependent on infrastructure updates.

    As, whoever is responsible for the local infrastructure was unwilling to pay for it, it became entirely incumbent in AFC to pay for it.

    Alas at the time of construction that was just not affordable.

    Maybe one day it will be.

    Funny how Boris seems to want to bend over backwards to help Spurs with there Stadium project.

    I may be wrong but all the above is accurate as far as I’m aware.

  5. Great article Tony.

    When I was a student in London in mid-70s, I saved a few bob to afford myself some games at Hughbury. Now being away, so far away, every time I have a chance to nick a visit to London, I would pay any price to see an Arsenal match, no matter what price as I could afford it.

    In other words, it’s worth it to watch the Arsenal, any time.

  6. Jambug, that is interesting, and quite surprising – I was unaware. I think the issue is with Holloway Road and Drayton Park stations but not certain?

  7. Pete

    I think you’re right.

    I’m sure someone will enlighten us as to the facts at some time.

  8. Tony,

    “If you can’t afford to pay, I am sorry. I know what it is like – I’ve been through that as a student, and in the early years of my life having a mortgage and a family while being on a modest wage.”

    Excellently put. I stopped being a student a long time ago but I still have a young family and mortgage on a modest wage. While I can afford to go money-wise, there other factors that makes it very difficult like travel time and my paternal responsibilities. I mostly go with my family. Yes, I only go when I can which is rare BUT that is still a lot more than 99% of other Gooners around the world.

    Moaning about tickets prices apart, the same people who whinge the most are the first to call others “armchair” fans because they don’t hold a ST and go as often as they do. Makes one wonder if the sole purpose of their stadium patronage is to lord it over others and feel superior in debates about the club.

  9. jambug (@10.13am),

    Seldom disagree with you but I have to this time.

    Tony’s article is very relevant and timely. I wrote an article recently lambasting the AST for their attention-whoring letter to the Arsenal chairman which ‘leaked itself’ to the press. A few commenters on the thread who claimed to be ST holders were outraged by how an “armchair” fan could be telling a group of ST holders to fuck off.

    I totally agree with Tony. Going to games is no different to going to cinemas and other sources of entertainment. If you can’t afford to, then stay at home. Watching football away from its venue is even easier than most other forms of entertainment. If I can’t afford (or couldn’t get the time) to see a movie in the cinema, I must wait for months to buy the DVD or years to watch on TV. I watch all Arsenal matches live right in my living room and while the experience is not the same as being in the stadium, it is not that far apart. It shouldn’t be by compunction but if people choose to do this noble thing of going to the stadium to support Arsenal, they will be belittling their great contribution to our beloved club by constantly whining about it or denigrating the 99.9% of their less fortunate fellow supporters who can’t.

  10. Bootoomee

    Not sure if it’s a misunderstanding.

    I totally agree with Tony’s excellent article.

    I was pointing out the futility of such eloquent and insightful pieces because our detractors are totally un interested in such things.

    I was suggesting that, by and large, they know what they say is bullshit, but don’t care.

  11. I think it is disgusting that Arsenal football club charge so much for tickets. How date they make money off of poor fans backs? I think they should have a system whereby they look at a fans income, and set a ticket price based on that, and incorporate this with a system of benefits (like child support) – or alternatively, they could just give the tickets away …. oh no wait, Arsenal is a business, that replies on income within a capitalist society and business sector, in order to compete and prosper. It is NOT a government or charity.

    Where did this notion that you are entitled to go and have entertainment come from?? This isnt the Roman empire with gladiators etc… This is the UK, where cinema is a tenner, theatre is anywhere from £20 – £40 (double for, a coffee is a fiver, and in a nightclub, a shot is nearly a tenner!

    Maybe we should complain the the above places that we cant afford their services, and that their prices should be lowered. Maybe i should protest out side of Porsche orBMW because i cannot afford one of thier cars, and it is unfair – boo hoo, thats life!

    I think the problem is;
    1) the media hate arsenal, or are too lazy to make their own stories, and therefore regurgitate nonesense, so much so that it becomes fact
    2) Most pundits are ex liverpool and man u men, where up North the price of a pint is 50p, coffee comes black or with milk for 70o, and the cinema costs £2.50. Not only that, you can buy houses up there for literally a fraction of the cost of London.

    I think if you compare our tickets to spurs, we are pretty cheap (but then again i wouldnt pay £1 to watch the europa league, on a tiny crappy seat, with a pillar blocking my view, and a bunch of new crap players whose names i cant pronounce!)

    I actually think arsenal should go on the offensive, state the facts as they are, take a firm line with the media, and most importantly, tell these whiney ‘fans’ to FUCK OFF … i cant afford to go to the game, so i watch on TV / a stream or so. No its not ideal, but i support the team.

  12. It seems that for some on here its wrong to be a season ticket holder now ? Or maybe some modern football nerds just like the idea of the social cleansing of the working class ruffians out of the Ems so young Tarquin and hermione can enjoy a nice sit down with a latte and polite applause ?
    I am one of those who is lucky enough to be able to be able to afford the prices but my concern is for those families like boo boo who may find it a struggle to take their kids regularly enough for them to catch the bug of football and also those young locals who don’t have parents interested in football but want to go – or even people in their early 20’s who get no discounts for age .
    I also do not restrict this to Arsenal – going to most away games I can tell you that as an A category team our fans get hammered at every ground in the country – Ironically its when you travel to europe that you find the pricing more reasonable but I notice now even they are catching onto the trend that you can rip off British fans because of their passion to see their team .
    The £10 section at the Clockend is a welcome attempt by the club to offer some chance for the youngsters who are the future of the club but its just not enough .

  13. jambug,

    There are quite a few who come around here to say the stuff that Tony is trying to counter. I get your point about preaching to the converted but we have a few heathens and apostates here who still need the sermon 🙂

  14. Not massively relevant, but Petit was speaking to the Frencg media, about Henry, and said the below.

    It seems that our media is not the only biased organisation – i just wish someone would ‘do a petit on them’ haha


    Petit stressed Henry, a 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winner, deserves a profile more in tune with his achievements.

    “This bad image of Thierry Henry annoys me,” Petit said in the interview. “The press never criticises itself, never goes back and never excuses itself.

    “He got screwed by the French press after his handball, and since then he does not speak to the French (media).

    “But look, he speaks very well to the British media. He was an expert during the World Cup on the BBC, he enjoyed it because he loves football.

    “In France he has no relationship with the press, so what? Maybe because he wasn’t smiling when he scored for Les Bleus.

    “There you are, that’s what I hate in this country.

    “I have a lot of difficulty with the French, I’ve never seen a people so arrogant, smug, untruthful and hypocritical.

  15. “Going to games is no different to going to cinemas ”

    This tells you everything you need to know about fans and supporters if your a fan you can dip in or out , your less affected by the results of the team, you don’t get why people get so affected by the teams performance and can simply write it off as ” a bad day at the office ”
    and Yes you can even compare seeing the Arsenal to going to the Cinema – LOL

  16. Ben


    £5 for a cup of coffee paid to a company that doesn’t like paying it’s taxes. Now that’s a rip off !!!

    But again I say it, all our detractors know everything you say is correct.

    They know that prices have ACTUALLY been escalated by the OILERS they love so much.

    Nothing makes any difference because they just WANT to slag us off.

    If it isn’t the ticket prices it’s the atmosphere.

    If it’s not the atmosphere it’s that we ‘fiddle’ the attendance figures.

    If it’s not that, it’s our bad signings, at least until time proves them to be actually pretty good.

    If it’s not that its we try and walk it in the net, at least until the stats prove we have most shots from outside the box in the PL

    The fact is 90% of what is used to bash Arsenal is rubbish, but it’s spewed out as fact, day after day after day after day until it becomes fact.

    There have been many many brilliant articles on Untold exposing the ‘highest ticket prices’ for the bullshit it is, but apart from by the faithful here, all the hard work is allowed to be lost in the ether.

    the media pick up on, and regurgitate, AAA negative propaganda as if reciting Tablets from Moses, yet ignore some of the most insightful, factual, enlightening work done by Walter, Tony and Co, as if it where merely a child’s doodling.

    We have to keep going and contesting the torrents of lies, but it does feel like a very tough swim against the tide at times.

  17. Ben,


    I totally love your comment. It’s not by force and because of the club’s long waiting list, no one is doing us a favour by going. There many who are ready to take their places without moaning.

    Also, asking the club to keep the price down so you could continue to keep your ST is just plain selfish and a sneaky use of emotional blackmail to pervert the economic law of demand and supply. All I see are people who could afford the ST when it was, say £800, telling those who couldn’t then for whatever reason but who can now to be denied when they (the current holders) barely or no longer can.

    Like all consumers, I am in support of keeping prices low, I only object to the way the AST and many of our ST holders go about it.

  18. Jambug “The media pick up on, and regurgitate, AAA negative propaganda as if reciting Tablets from Moses” that made me smile and so true.

    The media in truth are sad petty functionaries whose sole purpose is to do the bidding of their pay masters for whom the Truth has no place.

  19. jambug,

    I notice that my response to you is lost in moderation due to an error in my email line.

    I think Tony needed to write this for the few Untold readers who spout this line. But I agree with you that those who want to carry on with the misinformation will not be moved one bit.

  20. If the stadium goers wanna be treated like spectators, then you should shut up and watch what you paid for. If you are there as fans, then any ticket price does not matter. I have lived a dicipline and moderate life so I can afford the luxury when I wanna droll. If the Oilers are not gonna be stop by FFP, then either Arsenal will have full stadium with shit team or superstars staring at empty seats. Something gotta give in, and I chose the greater good for the club and manager I love and admire. You can never buy joy as discontent person.

  21. Takes me over 18 hours round trip from North Yorks every game I attend at the Ems ( I am a supporters club member).

    The cost is not too far short of £100 per game.

    I am more than willing to pay this price as I think it is exceptional value for money. This is despite the fact that if inclement weather (ie snow) causes me to miss the coach I would not qualify for a refund of any sort. And I am a pensioner.

    Yet again, I agree with Tony, and would add value for money is paramount.

  22. Value for money at Arsenal…..

    It all depends on your outlook and what you expect for your money. For my money I expect a great stadium, We walked upto the ground on Wedensday night from Holloway Road and me and my friend just stopped and looked up at the stadium and marvaled in its splendour. Is there a better looking ground at night in England?
    We walked round to entrance F admiring the stadium as we walked round, we entered quite quickly considering it was 7:40 another good sign of value for money I think (would of been quicker if people knew how to use the entry system!!).. We took our seats in block 11 which is just around the corner flag to the left of the North Bank so we are on the curve of the stadium. This gives our seats a slightly bigger space between them again nice seats (better than those at other clubs, just how small are the seats at old Trafford??) and good value for money.
    The view is excellent we can see all parts of the pitch with no problems and have a good view of the big screens for replays. The other good thing about our seats is that we are totally undercover so no problems when it rains, Another plus point in my book.
    So the stadium it’s self gives in my mind everything that a stadium should, next comes the atmosphere. This is hard to judge some games it’s great others not so, but it is one of those things that it is what you make it to be. We in our little section sing and try to make an atmosphere but you can’t make everybody join in so again I think there is normally enough around us to say yes it’s good and worth the money I pay for my season ticket.
    The football on the pitch, now you know with a Wenger team you are going to see a team try and play football on the ground with plenty of fast passing and movement. Again I think the style of football we watch from Arsenal is worth every penny the problem comes in a 2 pronged attack, 1) the opposition usually (like southampton) had no ambition to play any kind of attacking football against us, it is designed to stifle and frustrate our players and in doing so stifle & frustrate the home fans then add to this 2) the officials who seem to have a different set of rules for Arsenal and those we play. Every slight trip on the opposition is a foul which takes minutes to take, while they are allowed to play basketball and or compete in a rotational fouling competition against our players with little punishment from the ref. So the football played by the other teams does not give us value money.

    Overall I think we at Arsenal get good value for money from our team and our ground it’s just we need it from the other teams and the officials. Also as has been pointed out if we even up the number of games given to season ticket holders you will find CFC pay roughly the same and THFC pay more. So in London who does get real value for money from their ticket prices?

  23. @Bootoomee I am happy for you that you love capitalism so much. I presume you also believe that people that can’t afford food, shelter or medical care you just put up and shut and starve. How dare working class ST holders at Arsenal (many of whom scrape together the money each year to pay for their tickets) suggest the club peg or lower prices in order to subvert the natural laws of capital. Adam Smith would be spinning in his grave!

    And of course you sitting in your living room and (dare i say) ‘stealing’ live feeds on ‘every’ game from the internet is just the same as going to the game. Well if I have a day I can’t go I won’t make the mistake of offering my ST to you, as it would hardly make any difference to you. ST holders and ‘armchair’ supporters are not different, I have no more right to express an opinion than anyone else but the experience IS different.

  24. @swales 1968

    Spot on.

    I find the opposition tactics, sometimes the bigger teams like Chelsea, quite nauseating.

  25. blacksheep,

    Nice strawman you’ve created there. You’ve just won the argument by default.

    Your self righteous outrage is why I detest some ST holders and it’s a shame to know you are of the kind. You do not have a problem with Tony who wrote an entire article using capitalism to justify the club’s pricing policy though. I guess he’s allowed to do this as an Almighty ST holder.

    I don’t care about you being offended because your scraping money to support the club IS your choice and stop deluding yourself that you are doing the club a favour which makes you superior in your support to those of us who are constrained by various other reasons.

    I would have respected you more on this if you had countered my point about people who wanted to but couldn’t afford to years ago but whose fortunes have changed now being denied by those who can barely afford to but want the club to be subsidising them at the expense of new willing and able customers who they might have been calling armchair fans for years. I have heard no one make this point before and I would have been interested in your take on it.

    Your point about you not giving me your ticket if you can’t go is the kind of statements that brings out the worst in but we are trying to be civil on this site so all I’ll say is get over yourself. You don’t know me or my circumstances. I am not looking for charity. Before I had a family, I attended more matches but I am not sacrificing my paternal responsibilities to impress anyone of my Arsenal support. I know how I feel about the club and that’s all that counts. Your type of ST holders are beginning to sound like self-righteous religious zealots who equate the strength of their faith to the amount of money, time and effort they expend on their place of worship while calling those who don’t people of little faith.

    Your line about me stealing streams is beneath you or maybe I’m just wrong about you altogether.

  26. @Tony

    All too often the performance of the team is confused with ticket prices. I often hear “for the money we pay they should be doing better than that”…or more colourful variations of that theme.

    The fact is that we pay our money to watch a game between Arsenal and an opponent at The Emirates. Our attendance fee does not guarantee a win or even goals. Similarly if you have a season ticket it does not guarantee a trophy or any other performance measure. You pay to watch.

    Yes football is expensive. I don’t think anybody will argue there but for me it has always been expensive. As a kid I couldnt afford to go to a game and my parents couldn’t afford to take me very often. But when I did go, what a treat! I really appreciated it. I still do. I sympathise with those that would like to go but cant afford it.

    But football today still compares well with other forms of entertainment (for that is what it is!). I recently went to see Wicked at the Victoria Apollo. The ticket price was a little more than my average cost per game with my season ticket. My ticket to see Kasabian at Brixton on Monday and that was more than my average cost per game. Both occasions were brilliant and good value. Similarly I really enjoyed the Southampton game and we won! I also enjoyed the United game..we lost that!

  27. Bootoomee

    I would suggest that your antagonist(?), was a former seller of the Morning Star, on a Saturday morning ???

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