Why the Arsenal pound is worth more than some others

As everyone knows the prices at Tottenham are higher than Arsenal, and Arsenal are higher than Manchester United.  Tottenham is trying to edge ahead, and Manchester United is catching up.   And Liverpool are just being nasty.

This is the story of contrasts – the difference between the way in which Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are handing their pricing issues.When Manchester Utd was taken over, the government minister for sport was told that Malcolm Glazer’s company promised not to raise prices at Old Trafford.Showing what honest guys they are But Manchester United’s average ticket price has increased 11% in each of the two seasons the Glazers have been in charge.  And that is on top of the 12% increase in 2005/6 as they took over.  And there is more, for they have introduced the automatic cup scheme, which forces season ticket holders to buy a seat for every cup match even if they don’t want to go.  No buy, and you lose your season ticket.    Then there is the debt.  £525m debt is mortgaged on the club.   So when the record turnover of £245m for 2007 was announced, it was agreed that almost all of the of the profit of £42m was immediately taken by the interest.  And that is not all – there’s more debt all over the place.  £135m borrowed at 14% (£20m) a year, and there is every sign that this is being placed at Manchester United’s door in the coming weeks.

Now lets turn to Tottenham.  They charge more than Arsenal – but they still want more to fund their desire to spend £30 million in each transfer window.  So their approach is to demand that Arsenal charge the highest possible entry charges for each game.  In the Arsenal v Tottenham cup game in 2007, for example, Tottenham demanded that Arsenal charge their A rate entry price.  Arsenal wanted to charge their normal League Cup price (the “C” rate).   The arbitrators from the FA deemed B rate acceptable.  The same happened in the 2008 semi-final.  Tottenham got their price increase, but it rebounded on them – for the match saw the lowest ever crowd for a major game at the Emirates.

And then there is Liverpool.  When Luton Town in administration and totally broke played Liverpool in the FA Cup Luton asked Luton if they could keep all the money from the game.  In Liverpudlian terms that was nothing – 2% of their annual spend on transfers.There was precedence for this sort of approach.  When Farnborough Town played at Highbury a few years back, Arsenal made a donation to the club, in addition to paying them 45% of the gate receipts for the day.

Liverpool said no – they would not even discuss the venture.So here we have different approaches.  Manchester United with 11% a year, plus their compulsory purchase schemes, and their huge debt.  Tottenham with their sky-high prices, and their attempts to push other teams’ prices up.   There must also be a debt there somewhere, but no one can ever find it.  (Where does the money for all those transfers come from?)   Liverpool, whose owners are struggling to make payments on the interest, and who can’t afford the move to a new stadium, or much in the way of transfers.  And Arsenal, who have held prices and are doing everything above board.  Arsenal have debt too – but is borrowed at low levels of interest, is secured against a very valuable bit of real estate in north London, and is being paid off year on year.  Unlike the debt of some major clubs we could mention, where all the owners do is pay the interest.