To conclude Emirates Stadium Week, Arsenal.com spoke to director Ken Friar about the first year at the Club's new home.

What are your impressions of the first year at Emirates?
 
"I think it has been quite superb when you think what was involved. It was a massive project and you hope to get it completely right but you know you won't. However the queries that we've had have all been minimal. They were all ones we could deal with. If people had said we can't see from our seats or major things that we could not do anything about, then that would have been very concerning. So, all in all, it has gone very well."
 
How prepared were Arsenal at the start of the season? You were on budget and on time but there are always last-minute things that can go wrong.
 
"It is probably like a first night at the theatre. Outwardly everybody wanted to appear calm but everyone was on edge and the adrenalin was flowing to make sure everything went well. I feel everyone did a superb job."
 
What has surprised you about the new stadium?
 
"It pleasantly surprised me that things went as well as they did. We had virtually no complaints on opening day. That was bearing in mind people were coming to a totally new stadium, people were using tickets they had not used before, it is circular stadium and they had to find their way around. We have had problems with people using lifts when they should not as they are primarily for disabled access but they are management problems and will be overcome."
 
What sort of feedback have you had on your matchday operation?
 
"It was relatively minor. There were a few problems with catering. People ordering food and drinks were kept waiting too long and with the match starting there was occasionally some frustration, but that got solved. We also have to remember that the catering company had a completely new staff too."
 
What dialogue do you have with fans over the new stadium? There is a fans' forum isn't there?
 
"Yes but personally I don't get too involved in that now. Keith Edelman and David Miles sit on the fans' forum and if there is a constructive and feasible suggestion then we try to implement it."
 
What improvements do you want to make to the matchday operation next season?
 
"I don't really think that there is too much that requires immediate attention. We have certainly improved the decor as we have gone along and are branding the stadium in the way we hope our supporters will like."
 
Do you accept it is still a work in progress?
 
"There will always be a work in progress. We will never be satisfied and say 'well we have done it all'. Things change, systems change and new ideas come along. We have now dressed the stadium on the inside and we are dressing the corridors. Eventually we will do more and more as time goes on. But you can't do that on day one. If we had, then we would have been a year late. We knew we could do that once we had opened.
 
"What has really surprised me is the number of other events taking place in the stadium. The tours have really taken off.  Conference and banqueting is very successful and, on some evenings, we are serving 1,000 meals. That is very important to the club and often there is a spin-off. People like what they see and they sometimes then come to a match or they book a conference for later in the year. It is like going to a nice restaurant, you'll recommend it."
 
The transport problems have featured widely. What lessons have you learnt this year?
 
"We always realised there could be problem because we have increased our capacity from 38,000 to 60,000. We are still the best-served club in the country in terms of public transport. We have 12 per cent of the public now coming via car. The other 88 per cent are coming via public transport in the main. We try to get people in early. We stagger it so they don't all arrive at one time. We have a "happy hour" after the game to try to keep people in. Even if we retain only 5,000 or 10,000 people, that is enough to ease the problem. Midweek matches are different, because people arrive later and want to leave straight away to get home. But we are doing everything we can and the police are doing a great job. Where we have had problems this year is when the Piccadilly and Victoria lines broke down, on some occasions simultaneously. But that is a problem beyond us."
 
Arsenal averaged over 60,000 in the Premiership. Do you think you will sustain that for next season?
 
"I think we will. The season tickets renewal rates are enormous. They are extremely good. But everything about this business is about team results. We have a very young team. If you can blend the Thierry Henrys with the youth of Fabregas and Denilson etc then we will do really well. But if we are 18th in the League then who can say? But at the moment we are doing really well, every match is a sell-out and we need to do our best to keep that going."
 
Finally Mr Friar, what mark out of 10 would you give for this season at Emirates?
 
"I suppose I'd give us eight out of 10. Whatever you do there is room for improvement. Once you get to the stage where you think you have learnt it all then you'll soon realise you have not."

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 25 May 2007