Arsenal Football Club and the men in charge of running it have lost touch with fans. We already knew it, of course, but this latest tiff about ticket prices only confirms the fact.
Arsenal fans have had to pay up to £126 for the privilege of watching their team in action against Manchester City on Sunday, with away fans and those seeking cheap tickets still asked to stump up £62.
City returned 900 of their 3,000 allocated tickets for the weekend's game with fans slammed the costs as "ridiculous."
For home fans, the £126 ticket would get them an upper tier spot near to the halfway line, while lower tier corner tickets - like those in the away section - are marginally less than half that figure.
For the sake of comparison, £126—admittedly the highest figure of many available ticket prices—equates to about $201.50 as of Wednesday morning (via XE.com). That lump of cash would buy almost 50 gallons of gas in Alaska, which has the United States' highest gas prices at $4.04 per gallon (via GasBuddy.com as of Wednesday morning).
That obviously is a lot of gas, and £126 is a lot of cash—especially for a midseason Premier League match.
In fairness, Manchester City did win the league last season. Therefore, with a marquee opponent visiting, Arsenal have given Sunday's match "Category A" pricing—the highest of the season.
In other words, prices aren't always this high. Even so, asking fans to pay between £62 and £126 is absurd, especially considering Arsenal's reputation for penny-pinching in the transfer market.
Not surprisingly, Manchester City returned more than 900 of their allotted 3,000 tickets, citing high prices for the lack of sales. The Mail quotes Kevin Parker from the City Supporters' Group as saying away tickets at Arsenal have increased by almost £30 in four years.
The numbers would seem to back that idea. A BBC survey in October found that Arsenal offer the most expensive matchday experience in England's top flight. Not big-spending Manchester City, not Roman Abramovich's Chelsea, not the "evil empire" of Manchester United—frugal, thrifty Arsenal.
The report also found that the average cost for the cheapest adult ticket among England's top four divisions has outpaced inflation five times over.
In fairness, Arsenal's cheapest tickets are competitively priced. But according to BBC Sport's numbers, Arsenal offer the most expensive tickets in the top flight.
That might be fine if high ticket prices reflected the results on the pitch, but that is simply not the case.
Arsenal famously have not won a trophy since 2005 and currently sit sixth in the Premier League table with more than half the season played. The Gunners' best remaining chances for silverware this season are in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.
It's true that elite clubs need money to compete for trophies, but Arsenal have not demonstrated lately that high prices lead to on-field glory. Instead, captain and leading scorer Robin van Persie was sold to Manchester United in the summer, and influential midfielder Alex Song departed for Barcelona.
Van Persie is now scoring goals for fun at United, who lead the league. Spanish league leaders Barcelona, meanwhile, are offering some tickets priced at £7.30 for Thursday's Copa del Rey match against Cordoba (per Daily Mail).
While those two clubs consistently compete for trophies, Arsenal's drought has stretched nearly eight years now. What's worse, manager Arsene Wenger has been quoted as saying that qualifying for the Champions League is like winning a trophy for his club (via Daily Telegraph).
It's also true that the construction of Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium has affected ticket prices, but the new stadium was supposed to put the club on equal footing with Manchester United and other rivals—not just raise ticket prices.
Wenger's words about Champions League qualification were roundly lampooned, and rightly so. Now, with the issue of overpriced tickets, Arsenal find themselves in the spotlight for financial reasons again—and the coverage is once again negative.
The developments of this week show demonstrative proof that other teams' fans are starting to shy away from Arsenal's high ticket prices. One must wonder how long it will take for the home fans to do the same.
A spokesman from the Arsenal Supporters' Trust sympathized with City's fans, pointing out that high ticket prices could affect the gameday experience inside the stadium (via London Evening Standard).
"Clubs need to think carefully about their pricing structure for away fans," he said, "because I don’t think it is good for the game when there are less away fans because the atmosphere will suffer."
As the possibility of another trophyless season looms, Arsenal must think carefully as well about the true cost of tickets—not only for away fans, but for the home supporters as well.
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