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.
The Christmas books
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal
Some other sites from the Untold team (there is a full list on the home page)
- The Arsenal History Society
- UK Education News – the rolling news service
- Dyscalculia on line test and support
- The Direct Marketing blog: direct mail, email, websites, blogs
- The Secret Nurse : what is really going wrong with the NHS?
- Untold Dylan – the music, the lyrics, the meaning of Bob Dylan’s songs.
- Uefa increasing looking weak as European clubs propose completely new approach
- The Premier League action against Man City brings Super League ever closer
- What Europe knows about Man C but the English press haven’t told you
- Arsenal v Manchester City Women’s Continental League Cup semi-final – match preview
- How Man City’s problems began to arise…. nine years ago