The cause of empty seats for some Emirates games is the media not the fans.

by Tony Attwood


The trick for most fake news creators is

a) To be able to write something that requires no research and so costs no money and takes very little time.

b) To be able to benefit personally or corporately from the fake news.

c) To ensure that the fake news is not linked to yourself personally so that you can come round and have another bash later on, quite possibly saying the exact opposite of before if that suits your purposes.

d) To deflect from any suggestion that the media is itself causing the news, rather than neutrally reporting it.

It was because stories about football transfers fit so perfectly into the a-b-c-d scenario above that they have become the dominant news story in football.  Transfer rumours require no research, cost the TV station or web site nothing, are not associated with the individual writer, and don’t appeared to be caused by the media.

Hence fake transfer stories are always accredited either to “reports” or to another website or newspaper.  Very few have a named interviewer talking to a named person about the alleged transfer – although some headlines suggest this is the case.  Likewise stories about empty seats at the Emirates are immediately written as if they are a reflection of some deep malaise concerning the club, rather than what normally happens.

But in fact just as the transfer rumours are an invention of the media, so is the whole story about empty seats at the Emirates being a sign of some deep current problem at the club. It is a fantasy, because it offers no context.

We can see this if we look at the reasons for empty seats at a game including

a) I couldn’t be arsed to go because Arsenal are so bad these days

b) I didn’t go as a protest against Mr Wenger and the board

c) The price of tickets is too high

d) The weather was too bad

e) The day and/or time of the match changed and I couldn’t make it

f) I just didn’t feel like going, but if the club starts winning again, I’ll go.

g) I had other commitments that day (eg holiday, work, children…)

It was Walter’s piece on the difficulty of getting to matches when the time and/or date of the game changed that made me realise how clever this bit of fake news creation was.  The TV companies demand the days and timings of games are changed to accommodate their whims – which can cause empty seats – and then upon spotting empty seats never mention themselves as one of the causes of the problem.  Instead they pick on reasons a) or b) as the prime cause.

But there are two prime reasons to doubt this interpretation.  One is they clearly do not do surveys that are balanced and neutral.  The media does report the activities of vigorously anti-Wenger bodies such as Arsenal Supporters Trust, knowing that this will strengthen the case of arguments that it (whatever it is) is all Mr Wenger’s fault.  But it never goes in for proper large scale analyses.  That would be expensive, time consuming and give the “wrong” answers.

And yet it is obvious that when the club is doing comparatively poorly on the pitch, numbers go down.  One only has to look at the crowds at Highbury before the capacity of the ground was reduced to see this.   Highbury could hold up to 60,000 in those days, and for almost every game one could simply turn up on the day and gain admission.  I didn’t have a season ticket in the 1970/1 double season, and did just that – turned up on the day, paid, and got in.

Besides the price was much, much lower.  Taking into account inflation, the admission price for a place in the north bank or clock end in 1965 is the equivalent of about £4.50 today.  And yet as we know the actual cost for the casual supporter is anything from £10 (league cup games) up to £65.50 (category A games).

Now we must ask, why has the cost risen by anything from 220% to nearly 1500% beyond the cost of inflation over these years?  The answer is primarily because of players wages and spiralling transfer fees.

For example, in 1962 Arsenal bought Joe Baker from Torino for a club record £70,000.  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cost £55m.   If prices had just gone up by the cost of inflation the club record transfer today would be around £1.1m, not £55m.

This price increase of entry fees and of transfer costs has been stimulated entirely by the media’s hype which has led to the increase cost of buying and paying players, and hence the cost of going to a game.  But when the media comment on football, on the cost of going to football, on the cost of transfers or anything else, of course they are never going to blame the media hype they themselves create, for this.

And yet their insistence on making transfers, along with personal assessments of players, the key element in their reporting, and the TV stations’ willingness to pay ever more for the rights to broadcast games, has resulted in this inflation, which then at times results in declining attendances.

Why should 45,000 season ticket holders and 15,000 non-season ticket holders go to each Arsenal game now, when during the Double year of 1970/1 the average league attendance at Highbury was 47,748?   Or when in the unbeaten season it was 38,079 (a much smaller stadium, but not every game sold out).

The fact is that there is not an infinite capacity of supporters to watch a team or an ability of many supporters to go to every game, especially when games are moved about so regularly.  Indeed in all my years of being a season ticket holder I have never once managed to make every game.

This whole issue of suggesting something is wrong at Arsenal because there are empty seats is a perfect example of fake news, in that the implication is that there is something is wrong with Arsenal if there are empty seats.  But the public interest in Arsenal has never been shown to be such that over 60,000 will attend each match, no matter how well the club is doing.  Arsenal’s attendance figures have always gone up and down depending on how well the club is doing, and now additionally go up and down according to the media’s manipulation of when matches are played.

And remember, if we look at the 1970/71 attendances at Highbury, none of those league games was shown live on TV so there was every incentive to go to the games.

Football reporting – on every single issue – is not neutral, but manipulated by those who have a desire to protect their own interests.  Never forget – it is in the interest of the media for you to believe that it is all Arsenal’s fault (whatever “it” is) when most of the time, it is the media wot done it.

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14 Replies to “The cause of empty seats for some Emirates games is the media not the fans.”

  1. ‘Arsenal’s attendance figures have always gone up and down depending on how well the club is doing,’

    Exactly, and it’s no coincidence that Arsenal’s attendances dropped off during the run of our worst defeats in recent history only to pick up following a good result or two. Supporters, like many others tend to vote with their feet and this is noted by the media & others.
    The weather may pay a part, but this is a quite comfortable reasonably weather resistant stadium, and I can say this as someone who stood at the Highbury Clock End for around thirty years until it was given over to the away crowd.

  2. As always.

    The Clock End.

    Ah yes I remember it well.

    Leaving home about 2pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon and arriving about 2.30 at the streets in front of the ediface of the East Stand.

    The streets were in full flow of evidence that this Saturday was an Arsenal home game Saturday as usaul kick off at 3. The programme sellers, the peanut venders, the red and white suppliers of Arsenal wares, the police on horse back.

    Through the silver painted black patched turnstiles and then from that little tunnel of darkness back into the bright sun light on to the long, long steps of the clock end pushing and squeezing my way to the front if I had been forced up the steps.

    About 3.30 ignoring the few wet blobs that seem to fall from nowhere only to realise that by the time the second half started I was more wet than your average duck.

    Game over trudging or sploshing (if there is such a word as ”sploshing”) my way to the bus. On the bus dripping rain onto the floor or soaking the seat.

    Arriving home to mums agast at the site of me and telling that flu or fever on Monday I was going to school.

    If we had won buying the ”Saturday Pink” ( the evening edition of the newspaper with a pink page wrappped round it containing football) to read about our great victory and over a period of time of reading theses reports coming to conlude that what the reporter didnt say was more important than what was said and the paper wasnt worth buying.

    So it is so – as always.

  3. Interesting that this report should should re-emerge now in that it contains the allegation that referees are over 99% correct. But we are told that VAR would make them 2% more correct making them 101% correct in future. No wonder they don’t want VAR any more.

  4. A run is only a run – good or bad. True, there may be supporters who will turn their backs on the club and vote with their feet. But those same supporters, if season ticket holders, should also pit their tickets on the exchange. There will be those who will attend regardless of the club’s position.

    In my case, I would have loved to go. My wife is also a Gooner. And with a few kids on hand, I would have loved to take them all rather than going alone. I put myself in the third category of not being able to go if everyone can’t go.

    What I want to say is that there are more than one reason for empty seats.


  5. Andy L

    22/03/2018 at 11:08 am

    I know. Laughable doesn’t even begin to describe it, but it’s hardly surprising is it.

    Just yesterday, this is what I said on Tony’s ‘Charitable Events’ article, which asked the very important question: Where exactly has the Community Shield money gone?


    21/03/2018 at 11:42 am

    I cant wait for Sky Sports News to get stuck in to all this.

    I mean, wouldn’t it be great, if rather than repeatedly telling us how wonderful our referees are, on an almost weekly basis, they actually tried investigating and reporting on something worthwhile like this ?

    Like that’s ever going to happen.

    –It took ONE DAY for the next article defending Referees to appear.

    Still we wait for them to ask the question: Where has the money gone?

    Sky sports seems to have absolutely no limit as to exactly how far it will go to sanctify both the FA and the PGMOL.

    All too pathetically predictable.

  6. Of course they are protecting their investment in Premier League football as their flagship sport but there has to be an air of credibility in their arguement. As Tony and Nitram point out – what is the point of VAR – as if these figures are true surely we should all be happy with the Referees. Unfortunately Martin Atkinson is capable of distorting these figures in a heart beat so it must make the others above average.

  7. There’s nothing wrong with fans not attending every game.

    But what does justifiably open Arsenal to mockery is their policy of announcing the attendance in terms of tickets sold rather than tickets used. It seemed especially inviting of ridicule after the recent defeat to Manchester City when the actual attendance was probably half that of the announced attendance of 58,420.

  8. Gord


    It was in the ‘charitable events’ article.

    I was just making the point that SKY seem very reluctant to ever address what seem to me to be very important issues. Yet bend over backwards to defend the indefensible, namely the FA and the Pigmob.

    As Andy says, you can understand to a degree how they want to protect there investment, but to such a degree as to not even ask the question?

    I’m sorry this is Charity Money we are talking about here.

    As I said yesterday. If I walked down my local high street claiming I was collecting for charity would I be able to say, should someone ask where the money’s gone, I’m not telling You, and get away with it?

    I doubt it very much.

  9. Take banners to football games?

    The FA – Where’s the Grenfell Towers Charity Money?

  10. But the club don’t announce the figure during the game, only as a number of tickets sold given after the game. Not to release that number would then have the press howling about what Arsenal are covering up.

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