Herbert Chapman’s first match in charge of Arsenal was at Highbury. It brought in a crowd of 53,000 and was against Tottenham. We lost 0-1.
I have often wondered, in this era of the Catastrophist, if the crowd sang for him to be sacked. If they did, they would have been disappointed, because not only was he not sacked but they had to put up with five years of fairly poor league form, and by the end of the season crowds were around the 14,000 – which was rather sad given that we ended up second.
After that it was downhill all the way.
I’ve little idea how negative the fan base was. In fact my only source of information was my late father who went to the games. My grandfather was there too – but he died when I was 13 and in the stupid way teenagers have, I failed to talk with him much about the history of the club that is at the heart of my family.
One thing I know for sure is that through the disaster on the pitch that was most of the Chapman era (he was our most consistently unsuccessful league manager, and as we know from the catastrophists, this is what matters), there were no season tickets except in the seating areas, which of course were tiny in those days.
My dad did sit in the stands sometimes but mostly he stood, and he didn’t have a season – so I don’t know how easy they were to get.
But I have heard two season tickets stories this season from Arsenal fans, and one from Arsenal itself this season, and they are reflective of the situation at the club just now.
Here’s the two from fellow fans first. Neither of them are regulars at the games, but that is never ever a point of criticism from me. I lived a year in Algiers, and three years in Devon (with a wife and two very little children) and during both periods I didn’t see any games. But neither made me less of a fan. So my comment “neither are regulars” just gives some context, nothing more.
The first story says that the gaps you see in crowd at each home game are season ticket holders who are staying away in protest at Wenger’s management. If that were the case, then it would be rather like the situation with Herbert Chapman. The crowds didn’t like what they saw, and stayed away.
The second (which I heard about 3 months ago) was that the season ticket waiting list has vanished and that you can have a season ticket next season anywhere in stadium if you want.
The first is hard to prove or disprove without actually finding a load of people who are not going. I have two seasons – one for my partner and one for me, and because of job commitments my partner can never make mid-week games. I pass on the spare most of the time but I think three times this season the place remained empty. Once I didn’t make it to a match because of my doubts about getting back to the midlands in the snow.
I give those examples just to show, it can happen. The people around me miss games too – for similar sorts of reason. Illness, family commitments, life… It’s not unreasonable to think that 3% or so of people don’t make it to each match even though they have a ticket.
So I doubt the story is true, and that leads on to part two – you can have a season ticket if you want it.
I did not believe this at all at the time simply because it was said before the renewal notices had gone out. Here’s how it works.
If you want a season ticket you pay a fee and go on the waiting list. There’s no renewal fee I think, you just sit on the list. Maybe every four years they write and you have to sign to say you are still interested, but there is no more to pay.
So the notion that half way through a season, before the club had asked its 40,000 season ticket holders if they wanted to stay on next year, is just silly.
But what about this year? We are now into the season ticket renewal season. The first thing that happened was that about a week back the club wrote to us all and said, here’s the details of the prices. And if you want to change seats, here’s the online registration for that.
As it happens I do want to change places, so I logged on, and the web site said that the chances of moving are very slim indeed because the number of people giving up seats each year is so tiny. I get the feeling that only a few hundred season tickets come up a year.
Which is bad news for me, but good news for the club. According to their figures, the waiting list is still around 10 years – although I think for tickets in club level it is only a couple of years.
So the support seems to be fairly solid – which leads me on to my main point.
If you really hate the Arsenal way of dealing with managers – of allowing people like Chapman and Wenger to carry on year after year without a trophy, and if you are a season ticket holder, why do you give the club your money? Why not hand the season ticket back, save yourself £1000 or so, and watch it all on TV? Or go down the pub and have a drink?
What is the point of being a season ticket holder just so that you can complain?
Because the season ticket sales seem solid, and because 60,000 people or so pay to come into each game, and because we are in the top four each year and so get the Euro money too, and because the TV companies like to show Arsenal, and because we make a profit on player sales each year, we are ok financially.
Which is not only important for the well-being on the club, but also for the season after next when the Uefa financial rules are due to start.
Now I do know that a lot of people believe that Uefa will back off, and of course you may be right. But if the rules go through as they are, they will have an impact. Fulham, for example, would not be able to go into Europe because they are supported each year by donations from a benefactor – donations which help transfers and wages.
Anyway, I’m not one to tell people how to behave – but I do wonder why modern supporters who don’t like what they see don’t give up their season tickets to people who do support Wenger and the club. Maybe its because, as with Chapman, they believe it will all come right in the end.
Footnote: For five years Herbert Chapman had a disastrous record at Arsenal, but then turned it around and gave us the club we have today. To read the story of how it all started exactly 100 years ago, click here
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