The joy of away days: is Arsenal worth it?

 

city fans arsenal

One of the strengths of England’s football culture is its geography. England is a relatively small, densely populated country, so you never have to travel far to find a game in one of England’s four professional divisions. As a result, away supporters are a major part of our match day experience. You get away fans in the other major European leagues, but the distances are often prohibitive. Palermo to Turin, for example, is a 2000 mile round trip. Even driving at Italian speeds, that’s going to take a while.

Away games appeal in ways that a home match never can. The away day is like a quest, albeit a very easy one to complete, but a quest all the same. The journey; being in a strange town; and, sampling the local culture (pubs) – they all contribute to making the away game more interesting than the routine of home fixtures. This modest sense of exploration means away days can live long in the memory when home matches have become one continuous blur. I myself have been regaling friends with proud tales of my trip to Grimsby for years (many good friends have been lost due to my tired anecdotes).

But, Grimsby is relevant to this thread, because travelling to support your team is also an opportunity to see towns you wouldn’t have any sane reason to go near otherwise. Follow a football team and see the world! If I hadn’t gone to any away games with Watford, I’d never have set foot in Huddersfield, Peterborough, or Swindon – it really doesn’t bear thinking about. But, there’s a cost to pay for these life enhancing experiences, with travel, food, seventeen gallons of beer, and your match ticket, it all adds up. Which brings us nicely to the issue of Arsenal’s infamous sixty two quidder.

In theory Arsenal should be a great London away day. The stadium is easy to get to, only a couple of stops for Euston and King’s Cross, and there are plenty of pubs nearby. But, if a lot of the fun of going away is in the sense of adventure and the social aspect (i.e. going for a few beers) you can probably have just as much fun at other grounds, apart from Coventry – you can’t have fun at Coventry. This would explain why City fans weren’t massively fussed about paying £62 to see their team at The Emirates. It would be very hard to hand over £62 for a ticket to a domestic fixture that happens every season without feeling like you’d just been horribly duped.

At this point I’d like to insert a quick Simpson’s reference: when Homer swaps the last ever Ribwich for the lease on an Italian man’s car. The man eats it in five seconds and says “I have the buyer’s remorse.” That’s what we’re dealing with here. The Sixty Two pound Arsenal ticket is football’s Ribwich.

The question being debated last week is whether the failure to sell out the away allocation was the start of a trend, or if it was just a one off caused by specific circumstances – it being January and the game being on TV. We’ll have to see, but it’s surprising attendances have remained so high for so long, given the costs involved for fans.

ticketTicket prices have been rising relentlessly ever since the Premier League was established. To provide some context, in 1992 a ticket for the North Bank at Highbury cost £8; in 2012, a Category A ticket for Arsenal starts at £62 – a mere 775% increase over two decades. I’m no economist, but that feels like it might be just above inflation, just a bit. If earnings had kept pace with Arsenal’s ticket prices since 1992, the average salary would be £90,066! Not bad, eh? My round!

Meanwhile, back in reality, average earnings are £26,500. And, that figure is for the UK as a whole and doesn’t account for the massive disparity between London and the rest of the country. And disparity or not, the cost of living has been going up for everyone recently. The price of food has gone up, gas and electricity bills have gone up, the price of fuel has gone up, train fares have gone up, rents have gone up – basically, everything’s gone up except wages. Good times! With all of this to consider, the longer this recession continues, the more likely it is that fans will refuse to pay the extortionate fees charged by Arsenal.

I don’t often feel obliged to stand up fans of the Premier League’s biggest clubs, but on a matter of principle it seems wrong that they are charged massively inflated prices to see their team everywhere they go. It’s fine for the home team to charge more for their own fans – it’s up to them if they want to pay it. But, the home team is putting the prices up based on the quality of the opposition – if the home side was that good they could charge the same all year round.

There are lots of aspects about modern football I dislike, and fleecing the fans of the big clubs might feel like a way of striking back, but it’s not. It’s a tax on fans that will only damage the away fan culture in English football. There’s no justification for Arsenal to charge travelling fans such offensively high prices, and the more fans that refuse to pay it the better. So, to sum up, for £62, is Arsenal away worth it? No.

P.s. here’s cleethorpes jan 7 2011 018a picture of Cleethorpes seafront to entice you to Grimsby.

 

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18 Responses to The joy of away days: is Arsenal worth it?

  1. luke says:

    Why not focus on the high prices at other grounds that away fans of big clubs pay? £50 at Norwich, £58 at QPR, £57 at Man City, £60 at Chelsea.

    Away fans get ripped off up and down the country. Merely focusing on Arsenal’s pricing is slightly strange.

  2. drwinston001 says:

    Fulham is one of the great away days in my mind but at £49 a ticket it’s ridiculous and as such I have only been once in the last 5 years or so. A pint by the side of the Thames, followed by a stroll through the park to the Cottage to watch your team play the epitome of mid-table mediocrity (no offence meant to a club I genuinely like but it’s true) for £49 is actually worse value than what many would consider a near top of the table clash for £62.

    The best thing about all of this is it’s brought the problem to the front of people’s minds. Unfortunately, it won’t stay there very long and the clubs know that.

  3. Marcus says:

    Is £62 a rip off for a football match? Yes

    Are fans getting ripped off generally by football culture that has come to embody the worst features of modern capitalism? Yes

    Did that Man City fan with the banner unfurl a similar in that match against Q.P.R., protesting about the inflationary effects his club’s owners on the game? If he did, it didn’t garner much publicity

    I know that Man City fans aren’t to blame for this, and I know that others have made the above point. I also don’t want to defend Arsenal’s corporate owners. Nevertheless the villainization of Arsenal in this affair is really beginning to stick in the craw.

    And I disagree with the logic that it’s ok for clubs to put up the prices for their own fans, but not for away fans. It’s no less unfair to rip off Arsenal fans than Man City fans. It’s more unfair, in fact, seeing as they’re getting ripped off at every home game and not just once a year.

    • Michael says:

      From what I can gather, the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association and the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust were consulted on current pricing structure. It’s £81.50 for an adult family enclosure Category A ticket – what family are they courting here, the Windsors? It’s a joke. This is why Arsenal are vilified. They are not the only club doing it, but it’s their own policy that made them the scapegoat.

  4. Marcus says:

    Jacking up ticket prices is the the way Arsenal have been able to fund a wage bill that’s rocketed in recent years as Man City have thrown money around like they just don’t care. If finding scapegoats is the game here, the one I’m seeing is clad in sky blue.

  5. wondrinfree says:

    I would accept the critisism of Arsenal’s ticket pricing from any club with the exception of Man City (and Chelsea). It smacks of Marie Antoinette’s obnoxious ‘let them eat cake’ quip. You cannot critisise Arsenal for not competing/winning anything for years and complain when they take steps to do so – not with any integrity anyway. Arsenal rely on their gate receipts to survive/attempt to compete, your owners pay for everything so yours are largely an irrelevence, . Perhaps you should be demanding why the gate isn’t free at your home games.

  6. Andrew says:

    The biggest problem is the categorisation charges at away clubs.
    As you mention, there is no problem with charging a home fan more for the biger games, as that simply adds as a taxation on those fans who only choose the bigger games. At Arsenal for example, their season ticket prices are avaerage out of the 19 league games, so Arsenal fans with season tickets, dont actually see that £62 price.

    What the main gripe is, why should i pay £62 to see my team play at Arsenal when a Wigan/Stoke or West Brom etc fans will only get charged £26 to sit in the same away end?
    I dont choose who I support based on the attractiveness of the game, I go every game home and away.
    What should happen, is rather than Arsenal charging £62 and £26, they should charge all visiting supporters £35 or £40.

    As a supporter of a top side, it costs me nearly £300 more to follow my team to away games and sit int he same away seats, as it does a team who is classed as a category C club.

    Its not just Arsenal, a lot of clubs use these categorisation of games.

    Away prices at Qpr, Spurs, Chelsea and Man City are all vastly over priced.
    Norwich and Swanse have increased their away prices this season to silly levels. £50 at Norwich for category A games.
    Birminghams category A Premier league prices were scandalous.
    The rise in prices at Manchester City over the last 3 seasons has been staggering.

    Its these category price bands that need to eb abolished for away suppoerts. one price for all away clubs at any given club. Not discrimination against away fans who support a so-called more glamorous club.

  7. Larry Catt says:

    Man City simply couldn’t sell the big allocation. There was no organised “protest”. Tickets returned and sold to Arsenal fans. Unfortunately for Man City fans – with their new found status and subsquent parade of trophies that looks likley to continue, they have moved into Category A pricing once occupied by Newcastle United pre relegation 3 years back. City fans, rightly, are not used to it but that pain has been felt by fans of Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Man Utd and Chelsea for decades and, this doesn’t make it right, but away fans are charged the same as home supporters for tickets in similar areas of the ground. In the main, this means away fans do receive the cheapest ticket prices in the stadium given the usual allocation tucked away in a corner – certainly true at Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea. You can’t have away fans paying less than home fans – that way lies security problems and inequity – the argument needs to be concentrated on reducing overall ticket pricing. The focus on away fans is a red herring and takes away the points that need to be made in the bigger picture in getting overall admission costs down

  8. Hayden says:

    This may seem daft but here goes anyway.

    Before the start of every season when clubs put ticket prices in to categories they should be made to create just two categories. A and B.

    In the A Category that would be the highest price for an away ticket which shouldn’t be more than the average ticket the home supporters pay. For example if Everton’s avg ticket is £35 then every club in Cat A would be charged no more than £35.

    Now in the B Category should be the lowest which you can charge which would be capped at say £25. Now I mentioned on Twitter whether this would be justified that away fans would be charged less than home fans and would it mean clubs increasing home ticket prices. Now I was told “the new TV revenue would be enough to subsidise that area” is what I was told on the FSF Twitter feed.
    So bearing that in mind…
    The way clubs are categorized would be 10 teams put in Cat A and likewise in Cat B. In my opinion this would be a good way to keep ticket prices in order.

    What do others think?

    • Michael says:

      It’s not perfect, but I’d support some sort of cap on away fan tickets that prevented clubs arbitrarily hiking up prices.

  9. Marcus says:

    Either you show solidarity with other football fans or you don’t. Why should a Man City supporter deserve a cheaper ticket than an Arsenal supporter watching the same game?

    City became a Category A side when they decided to spend whatever money it took to win the title. I don’t see too many of their fans waving banners saying “We Want Our City Back”.

    High ticket prices are part of the English football package, red in tooth and claw. It’s fine to take issue with that package, but I won’t reserve special sympathy for City supporters.

    • Michael says:

      Agree to a point, but then if home fans were that appalled at their ticket prices they’d stay away, wouldn’t they? I know Arsenal fans who turned in their season tickets this year because of the price, but there were other fans ready to snap them up.

      If Arsenal or United or Chelsea suddenly had a thousands of ST’s unsold at the start of the season you can bet they’d take notice then, but until that happens there’s no pressure for the clubs to act.

      The reason I’ve focused on away fans is because it’s already an expensive day out, more than ever with other costs factored in, and I don’t think it’s right that clubs charge some fans a premium. And I accept it’s not just Arsenal, all clubs do it. And they’re all wrong too.

  10. Arsenal fans = Lance Armstrong. ‘Everyone else is doing it , so why shouldn’t we?’

    • Marcus says:

      Arsenal fans = Lance Armstrong? Seriously?

      Again, so much for solidarity. It’s not like these aren’t prices that Arsenal fans are paying themselves.

      How about some perspective:

      City’s original ticket allocation of 3,000, at £62 a ticket, would have generated £186,000 of revenue. There are two players among the 22 that started last Saturday who earn more than that in a week, i.e. for whom that amount wouldn’t cover what was, in effect, their appearance fee that day.

      No prizes for guessing whose colours they wore.

      Yet Arsenal fans are expected to subsidize the supporters of a club that repeatedly sniffs around its best players, unsettling them and driving up the price of keeping them, which they pay for through their own higher seat prices.

      Let’s get real here.

  11. Lloyd says:

    Good stuff, Michael. I’ll raise your Huddersfield, Peterborough and Swindon with Fleetwood, Irthlingborough and High Wycombe.

    Away day expenses are lower than they could be now that my team, Plymouth, are playing in League 2, but you’ve hit the nail in listing the various associated costs, all of which – when totted up – sit firmly in the debit column when trying to decide whether to schlep over to Wycombe on a Tuesday night.

    Yet, even though the football has generally been terrible, I’ve more often than not opted to attend. Instead, it’s home games that have taken a whack – I live further from Plymouth than most of the towns I visit for away games and the experience is so poor at the moment that I just can’t bring myself to make the effort.

    But that’s a whole different subject, perhaps.

  12. Dave says:

    It’s not just the price of the tickets. It’s often the train fare, pie and tea and programme and added extras too.

    I hear Ipswich are going to trial selling beer, which is great and many fans would like the option, but that’ll eat into funds too.

    With this new super duper TV rights deal you think that the Premier League would say, right, as a thank you to fans, we’re forcing you not to increase ticket prices for x amount of time.

    Like most of the comments say though. It’s not just Arsenal, QPR are just as bad.

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