We’ve debated this issue over and over again – how big is the waiting list at Arsenal for season ticket in the main part of the ground (by which I mean upper and lower tiers, not Club Level and Diamond Geezer Level).
The Anti-Arsenal Arsenal (AAA) web sites have suggested since the start of last season that the waiting list has gone, with some 80% of regular supporters giving up their season tickets. Indeed last December I was confidently told that it was possible to call up Arsenal and buy a season ticket straight off.
In trying to unravel this I believe we have established quite clearly (although not directly relevantly to Arsenal) that there are season tickets available all over Very Old Trafford (100 years old this year) – and they have indeed suffered a total collapse in the number of applications over the past four years.
They too had a long waiting list for tickets only four years ago, so the questions, could it happen at Arsenal and indeed, has it happened at Arsenal, are highly relevant.
The comments from the AAA are all based on hear-say. One AAA site has said that several people have offered the site season tickets to pass on. Another has reported a single person saying he has moved right up the list from number 45,000 to being offered a ticket in one season.
But neither site offers any evidence. One person says he went from 45,000 to an offer, two or three people offer up their tickets for re-sale through a web site, one guy tells me that he knows for sure that tickets are available. What we needed was hard evidence.
Indeed it is not just that these cases are all just the say-so of one person in each case. They are all a bit odd. None of the people I know, and none of the people who sit around me, are leaving their seats. And as for offering your ticket to a web site, the terms and conditions of a season ticket make it quite clear that you must not pass the ticket on to another. And why would you? If you don’t want the ticket you don’t renew. And if you believe there is no waiting list, as the AAA sites believe, then there’s no problem. Give up your season ticket along with all the other anti-Wengerians, wait for a year or two, and then have your choice or a seat when a new manager is in place.
So what is the evidence from Arsenal?
It appears that there is not one waiting list for seasons, but several. Which one you are on depends on how many tickets you want. You can apply for one, two together or three together. The number you apply for determines which list you go on.
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The most common application is for two together, simply because most of us tend to be fairly sociable people and we like to go with a friend. The pressure on the two together has risen also because of the increase in the tendency for men and women to make going to the football part of their social lives. Twenty years ago this was much less common.
Thus when I got to the top of the list and the letter arrived with the news, it was all recorded and understood that I wanted two tickets next to each other, one for me one for the good lady. I had been on the two-together list all the time.
Because of the need to find two together, where Arsenal do have two season tickets together they hardly ever let them go as singles, because once those seats have been sold as singles they will never come back to the club as a pair.
When it comes to the allocation of new seats each summer the club runs the separate lists (the list for singles, the list for pairs etc) separately, and these lists are numbered separately. I don’t have the details but if you imagine it working like this…
Number 10,000 to 15,000 are all singles
Number 15,001 to 20,000 are doubles
Number 20,001 to 25,000 are singles
and so on. Because of this it is quite possible to be on the waiting list for a single at number 22,000 and then suddenly find yourself at 12,000. It doesn’t mean you have moved up 10,000 places – it just means you have moved across one of the other lists.
The number is put together like this to avoid too much public discussion about the system. If I had been on the D for Doubles list I might be miffed by the smallness of my move each season. Being on a general list the way in which I moved along the list was encouraging.
Very roughly speaking (and I really don’t have access to the exact numbering) I think that if you send in two applications together you go into the Double Waiting List at around number 40,000, and with a single, you go onto the Single Waiting list at around 60,000.
There’s another issue – the lists don’t move at the same speed. I think there are more double seats than any other type of seats, and I believe that double people are more likely to drop out. Not only is this because there are more of them, it is also because they go as a couple, and if one person in the couple sadly passes on, gets made redundant, or moves, they both stop going. Not in every case of course, but where going to the game is part of a social family activity it is quite likely. So more doubles give up their seats each year, which means that doubles move down their waiting list faster than singles.
Putting all this together, and looking at the evidence sent in my readers the last time we discussed this, it would seem that we have probably around 45,000 people on the waiting list – people who did not get offered a ticket this year.
Now here’s another fact. If you get to the end of the waiting list and you don’t take up your ticket for any reason, you lose your place and drop off the list. So if you are on the list for a single ticket and suddenly you find your number goes down by 10,000, it might be that 2,000 have left their seats this year. But the club has to go through 5,000 names to get 2,000 people who are still willing to sign up. The others might have died, moved, lost their jobs, or been AAA supporters all the time and so never seriously wanted a season ticket under the present regime. What’s more you might have jumped 5,000 on the list because you moved across a set of numbers allocated to doubles.
In fact, I don’t think it is 10,000 coming off the list a year. My estimate (and I don’t try to suggest this is anything more than an estimate) is that it is more like 5,000 seats a year becoming available – with the majority being available as doubles.
So my estimate after all that is 5,000 new season tickets a year, 60,000 or so on the waiting list, but only around 65% of those offered a ticket take it up, meaning the average wait is around 8 years. You might appear to be moving faster up the list, and because after 8 years some people decide they don’t want their ticket, but part of the reason for the jumps is because of the segmentation of the list.
This is all unofficial information – but hopefully it is slightly more accurate than the notes that say “3 season ticket holders have illegally offered me season tickets to sell on, and since I have no regard for Arsenal’s rules, I’m doing it for them.”