Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
Given that plenty of more gifted scribes than I have dedicated valuable column inches to airing their views regarding Arsene Wenger and his tenure at Arsenal in recent months, I feel almost reluctant to broach the subject.
However, having been an Arsenal fan for pretty much as long as I can remember – and having witnessed the Gunners once again dumped out of a cup competition by a lower league team at the weekend – I feel the overwhelming need to stick my oar in, too.
Forget the long-running, painfully protracted argument of whether Wenger should stay or go for a moment. What riles me personally more than anything is the club’s sheer arrogance when it comes to the financial demands it places on fans, not only its own fans but also on those of rival clubs.
The ticket prices that Arsenal charge are up there with the most expensive in Europe – it’s little wonder that travelling Manchester City and Liverpool fans vented their frustration at being charged £62.00 a head to be part of the throng in the away corner at the Emirates during their side’s recent visits to north London.
Arsenal recently announced that there will not be any ticket prices increases next season, but how about reducing the already exorbitant prices?
Wenger has defended the club’s pricing policy, arguing that the revenue is essential to help Arsenal to compete with their rivals above them in the Premier League. However, Arsenal have not been truly competing for some time – in fact they haven’t won a trophy since 2006 which, ironically, was the year that the club left its home of 93 years, Highbury, to take up residence at Ashburton Grove.
No true football fan will only support their club when they’re doing well – for most people, when you pledge allegiance, you’re in it for the long haul, through thick and thin. And no one that visits the Emirates will deny that it is one heck of an amphitheatre, for all that, in terms of atmosphere, it’s still lacking somewhat.
The problem is, however, that the powers that be at Arsenal constantly bang on about the importance of the club’s finances and the need to pay off the debts associated with the stadium. At times, it feels as though we’re talking about Arsenal PLC rather than Arsenal FC.
In essence, it feels as though Arsenal fans are still being penalised for the club’s relocation seven years ago. Paying for a season ticket at Arsenal is a bit like paying a landlord around 20 per cent above market rate to rent a property. The landlord tells you that he wants to pay off the mortgage on the property as quickly as possible, as if that will in some way or another benefit you, and that he wants to invest in the property, promising to make it better. But no improvements are forthcoming and some of the residents you most enjoyed seeing have departed – one enjoyed bumping into the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri in the communal gardens – yet you’re still paying an inflated price.
Frankly, Arsenal as a club is pushing its supporters’ loyalty to the limits. If the club keeps on talking in business terms rather than footballing terms, fans will start thinking of it more in business terms than footballing terms – and, to be candid, us Arsenal fans aren’t getting a good ROI (return on investment) at present, and haven’t been for quite some time. To my mind, Arsenal is slowly but surely being stripped of its soul.