You’ve probably noticed that the economy isn’t looking so hot right now. Britain is experiencing its worst financial crisis since the 1930’s, jobs are scarce and household debt is the highest it’s been for decades. A chaffing squeeze on our finances, but this isn’t something to think about when the new football season is approaching.
It’s hard to put a monetary value on the enjoyment derived from watching your team, but when you look at the ticket prices for this season’s Premier League, you’ve got to ask yourself, when does loyalty become stupidity?
Take Arsenal, one of the leading clubs to espouse the virtues of sustainability, with relatively impressive results. The club has built a stadium that is the envy of most of their peers and a squad that consistently qualifies for Champions League football. But, maintaining this status has come at a cost, and it’s the fans that have to bear the brunt.
Arsenal have the most expensive season tickets in the league. The club was quick to point out that it had frozen prices for the 2012/13 season, but given that they start at £985 and go up to £1,955, it’s not a gesture that will be regarded as one of history’s great philanthropic moments. By way of comparison, Manchester United’s cheapest season ticket is £532 and the most expensive £950. That’s quite a big difference.
Like many of their rivals, Arsenal’s ticket pricing for next season is split into three categories – A, B and C – with A representing the most prestigious fixtures, such as Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea.
Tickets for a Category A match start at £63.50 (SIXTY THREE POUNDS AND FIFTY PENCE). And that’s the CHEAPEST ticket. It’s a grotesque amount of money to ask from fans at any time, least of all when the country is still deep in recession.
Football doesn’t reflect the general economic environment; for fans the question of season ticket renewal appears to be impervious to the conflicting pressures that force us to make difficult choices in other parts of life. Even so, your commitment as a fan is bordering on obsession if you don’t think twice about handing over £60 to see your team play football.
Tottenham’s cheapest for a Category A match is £48; Liverpool‘s is £45. We haven’t seen what Manchseter City will be charging on match days yet, but it’s highly unlikely their cheapest seat will top the sixty quid mark. And the club that usually often appears near the top of the rip off table, Chelsea, have an adult ticket in the family enclosure priced at £45. An adult in Arsenal’s family enclosure will pay EIGHTY ONE POUNDS AND FIFTY FUCKING PENCE. However, you do get a complimentary kick in the bollocks from each member of the Arsenal board as you make your way to your seat.
In their defence, Arsenal have said the changes to their policy will increase the availability of lower priced tickets (category B and C) throughout the season. In other words, Swansea and Southampton for the paupers, United and Chelsea for the princes. At least you know where you stand.
Whatever the rationale, this doesn’t look good for Arsenal. Even the despised regime at Manchester United isn’t brazen enough to go near those prices. And United are the only one of the big clubs to stay away from different pricing categories, with the cheapest adult seat at Old Trafford a reasonably priced £30.
But, while it’s up to Arsenal fans to vote with their feet if they’re fed up with being fleeced, it’s the treatment of away fans that is most unfair. Away fans are generally charged the equivalent price of a home fan for a standard ticket, so United and Liverpool fans will have to cough up roughly £20 more to see their team at the Emirates than Arsenal fans will pay for the return fixture.
Fans travelling from the North West are looking at running up an obscene bill for a day trip to London. It’s the kind of money that could probably get you to Germany and back with enough change for a Bundesliga game. It often feels like the biggest clubs are engaged in a race to the bottom when it comes to finding new sources of income to tap, but Arsenal’s ticket pricing has them top of the pile when it comes to most shamelessly robbing from for your wallet.
Arsenal fans appear to be in constant debate about the board level leadership of the club. There are those who question whether those in charge have invested enough of their own money; there is no doubt the fans are investing theirs.