What do Arsenal need the extra £4.5m for?

Arsenal offer the most expensive season ticket in the country at £1,825, with the most expensive single ticket for a match at the Emirates costing £94, and yet this week the Gunners have announced that they will be increasing season ticket prices for the 2011-12 campaign by 6.5%. The club, who have not won a trophy since 2005, maintain they have given careful consideration to the rise, which is in line with inflation and the 2.5% increase in VAT.

Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, accepts that the decision to implement the increase was a difficult call to make, having frozen them for some time. “We thought about this increase, the first in three seasons, very carefully. We fully understand fans are facing rising costs in many areas of their lives and their club faces the same issues,” he explained. Arsenal will make approximately £4.5million over the next year as a result of the increase, which has caused uproar amongst the Supporters’ Trust for obvious reasons.

It has been reported that Arsene Wenger retains roughly £40million to be purchased on transfer fees and player wages, and has had this money available since last summer. The fact that the Frenchman chose to delegate his fortune so modestly on the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Sebastian Squillaci and the free signing, Marouanne Chamakh, not to mention bringing Jens Lehmann back to the club for a handful of appearances on the bench, has left Gunners fans feeling defrauded. The argument is; how can fans be required to pay more to watch exactly the same level of performance and without actually seeing their money spent on new recruits to improve on prior failings? What do Arsenal need £4.5million for when the manager is so reluctant to spend it?

Seven-time Champions’ League winners, AC Milan, offer a season ticket which at the time of writing exchanges to £116.90, or £22.90 more than one game at the Emirates, and includes all home European matches. Considering the club spent £20million on Robinho and attracted Zlatan ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano to the San Siro within the last nine months, the Rossonieri faithful are reaping astonishing value compared with English fans. Wigan are the only Premier League club who offer their fans close to this rate, their £295 fee actually being the sixth cheapest of all 92 football league clubs. Only Accrington Stanley, Bradford City, Hereford United, Crewe Alexandra and Port Vale offer cheaper season tickets than Roberto Martinez’s side, and this sorry fact seems confusing when placed against the value fans receive on the continent.

I had a look at what the Bundesliga has to offer earlier this week (article here), and it appears German fans enjoy the most reasonable, perhaps idealistic, match-day experience. The average cost at the turnstiles at clubs in Germany’s top division is around £10, and also doubles as a free rail pass, which guarantees fans at least one easy transport route to the stadiums. Premier League fans can only dream of such stability and efficiency, but even football league clubs’ supporters suffer from exorbitant season ticket prices, with Ipswich offering their most expensive seat at over £1,000, the fourth highest in the country behind Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Arsenal do not need the extra money they are asking of their supporters but know they can get it. Unfortunately this situation affects English fans year on year, and continually leaves spectators wondering what the extra money will be used for. In the Gunners case, a section of observers are debating whether or not the added season ticket profits are directly assisting to pay for Stan Kroenke’s purchase of the club, or if they are being filtered out in other ways. For now, we must accept that football operates on a simple supply and demand principle, which never ensures new signings or more trophies but always works to the detriment of supporters.

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