By Walter Broeckx
As most of you regulars know I am since some 4 years the president of the official Arsenal supporters club Arsenal Belgium. People who know a bit of geography know that we probably will be the second closest foreign supporters club of Arsenal. Only beaten by the French one. So we are and feel privileged to live nearby London and Arsenal.
The main thing for a supporters club is to get their members in to the Emirates. Over the last 3 seasons we have managed to bring almost every member that wanted to go in to the stadium. Sometimes it was with lots of problems as we didn’t always get the tickets we wanted for our members. So when we were short we asked friendly Londoners that we know if they could help us out. With this backup system we could make our members happy most of the time.
As a supporters club we always try to go new ways to bring our members to London in new formulas. As we live not that far we usually make it a day trip. Leaving early and returning very late. That is what our members gladly suffer to be able to support our club live in the stadium.
I know Tony has been talking about the almighty TV companies on more than one occasion. We foreign supporters feel very double about the TV companies. We know that without them we would not be able to see many matches in the best conditions on our HD TV or in our pubs. So we are glad that they show an interest in the PL and we pay (too much) for their product. Now we know that our Belgium sports channel is only a small fish in the TV world. I doubt it they would phone Sky and say: hey guys could you move the Arsenal match to Sunday midday to make us happy. No, they pick their matches (mostly based on Belgian players involved – so Arsenal has fallen off their first to see list) and till now many matches of Arsenal are shown.
The problem for us and I think I can speak for a lot of foreign supporters clubs is the moving the matches to Monday. The problem starts with Arsenal who has a number of tickets for supporters clubs. I don’t know how many but most of the time not enough. And supporters clubs have to order their tickets at least 2 months (usually 2,5 months) before the match is played. So we almost always order tickets for a Saturday match to be played at 3. So our members have to order their tickets around 3 months before the match will be played.
We then pass our order and some 7-8 weeks before kick off we know how many tickets we will get. But at that moment we still don’t know when the match will be played. We cannot really start the procedure for our bus company to schedule the trip. And they also need a bit of time to see if they can fit it in their other schedules.
But with a bit it luck some 6 weeks before the match we get to know the date and hour and start working on how to organise it.
Unless…. the match is moved to a Monday. That is for us foreign supporters clubs a nightmare. Most of our members don’t work in the weekend or when they do they asked for a few days off on Saturday and Sunday so they can go. But for most of our working members a match on a Monday is impossible to attend as this would mean that they have to take 2 days off during the week to see one match. Most working people have only 20 days off so losing 2 of them for one match is really a lot.
This time we have had the moving to a Monday 3 times. The first time was the WBA match in September. We had planned to go for a weekend to London from Friday evening till Sunday evening. A nice group of some 14 members had their names on the list. The match was moved to the Monday and our plans fell in the cold water of the North Sea.
We had planned our last group transport for the match against West Ham United….. The match was moved to the Monday and only 2 members who had a week off at their job will take their tickets. The rest can stay at home.
But things can even get worse. The Southampton match. 2 of our members wanted to go and we ordered the tickets and got them. For a Saturday match. Then the match was moved to the Monday. Our 2 members wanted to go as it was their first match live in the Emirates. Father and son. Luckily the match is played in the Easter school holiday in Belgium so the son had no problem. The father had to work on Monday but to make his son happy he asked for 2 days off at work and they would return on Tuesday.
Next problem: the Eurostar. As they had planned to go home on Sunday they had to buy a new ticket for Tuesday. This cost them extra money. And of course as they couldn’t sleep under the bridge they also had to book a longer stay in their hotel. Also costing more money.
But our members did all this because… well they wanted to see the Arsenal play live.
And now as the final nail the coffin…. we got the news that the match that was already moved to Monday ….was moved again to Sunday midday….
So our members who spend extra money for their train and hotel…. now face the situation that they shouldn’t have done so as with their original bookings they would have been fine to see the match ad would have enough time to go to the station.
So thanks to the almighty TV companies our members have spend lots more money than they should have.
For us board members of the supporters club this is very tiring and discouraging. You never know when to do what and even when you think all is under control they TV companies can make all your plans worthless. And they cost you lots of money.
The TV companies have cost us this season 3 trips to the Arsenal that we couldn’t do because of them moving their match to Monday.
But what can we do (other than write this article)? Nothing at all I fear.
But rest assured when next season comes we will be again trying to get our members to the Emirates. Because (and that is the thing they know I think) the love to see our club live is too big and we just take the punch and try to stay on our feet. But one day I fear lots of members will have enough of it.
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