Arsenal Football Club Supporters Consultative Forum 2005/2006 Season
Meeting held in the Red Zone, at 11.00am on Saturday April 1st 2006.

Attendees (in alphabetical order):
ARMITT, Lee - Gold Member
BOWLES Mick - Arsenal Supporters Club Branch,
BUDDLE, Rita - Over 60 year old Representative
COXHEAD, Stephen - Red Member
DOCHERTY, Amanda - Arsenal F.C
DOWD, Chris - Silver Member
EDELMAN, Keith - Managing Director, Arsenal F.C.
GOODWIN, Steve - AISA Representative
GOULDING, Peggy - Arsenal Supporters Club - St Thomas’s Road
MABERT, Allan - Disabled Supporter (Roger Salmon, Helper, was also in attendance)
MILES, David - Arsenal F.C.
MIRZOIAN, Olga - 16-21 yr Old Representative
NORGAARD, Henrik - Arsenal Supporters Club - Overseas
O’BRIEN, Michael - Arsenal F.C.
PATRICK, Martin - Executive Suite / Private Box Member
PYMAN, Steve - Family Enclosure
RANDS, Neil - Gold Member
REDFEARN, Paul - Metropolitan Police Liaison Officer
ROBERTS, Elliot - Electoral Reform Services (Independent Chair)
SANDZER, Philip - Gold Member
SMITH, Jill - Arsenal F.C
WALKER, Sophia - Silver Member

Apologies for absence:
Mark Halfpenny
Henrik Noorgaard

Minutes of the last meeting:
No matters arising.

Future Structure of the Forum:
Due to the move to the new stadium for the 2006/7 season, there will be new categories of fans attending matches who currently don’t have any representation on the Fans’ Forum. The vast majority of positions in the currently constituted forum are fine, but there does need to be some fine tuning of the positions to take account of these new categories of fans. The main change will be the new Club Level, of which approximately 10% of fans attending matches next season will belong to. The overall aim of the restructuring is not to increase the number of members of the forum, as at 17 it is at its optimum level. It is to more accurately represent the fan base of Arsenal Football club. The proposed changes are:

  • To increase the number of Red members on the forum from 1 to 2
  • To reduce the number of Gold and Silver members from 3 to 2 for both.
  • To replace the current Executive Suite / Box (combined) representative position with a separate Executive Box Level & Club Level representative

Stephen Coxhead, the current Red Member representative joined midway through the 2004/5 season and it is proposed that he keeps his position for all of next season to ensure continuity of representation for that fan base. The forum agreed with the recommendations.

The vacant and new positions will be advertised to fans in the next couple of weeks.

Ticketing Arrangements
There will be 35,000 season tickets available in Emirates Stadium, which will leave us with approximately the same number of match day tickets as are currently available at Highbury. We have already allocated 25,000 of these season tickets and we have also written to the top 8,000 in the waiting list, offering them the opportunity of a season ticket. Islington residents will also take up some season tickets (which was part of the arrangement for the new stadium). We have a small number of club level season tickets (about 500) left and we’ll shortly be writing to those above 9,000 on the waiting list to see if they want to obtain one of these. We believe these will sell out in the next 4/5 weeks. We won’t know the exact position of other waiting list members until about the end of May, when the first wave of season ticket allocation is scheduled to finish. We will be allocating match day tickets in exactly the same way as we do now.

For the final 2 home games for this season, for those who have only seen 3 games or less so far this season, they were not allowed to apply for tickets for the last 2 games. Therefore the more games you have been to, the higher your chances of getting tickets for these 2 games. We have had some criticism from some silver members about this process, but this is a unique situation. For Champions’ League games, we won’t be using the process, otherwise you will ultimately end up with the same sub-section of fans being eligible for match day tickets. We will also keep the current system for away tickets, as those who’ve travelled the most should be more eligible for high-profile away games, in recognition of their dedication.

Some fans have complained about not being able to get tickets for the Real Madrid/Juventus Champions league games, even though they’ve been to nearly every game over the last few years.

Because of UEFA regulations that apply to our stadium, there are fewer tickets available for Champions League games. Also, about 1,250 tickets are allocated to corporate sponsors etc, which constrains the number of match day tickets we are able to offer to fans for these games.

For the Wigan game, it is our intention not to issue duplicate tickets from several days prior to the match. Wigan fans have been allocated blocks 17 & 18 in the Clock End.

Will the family enclosure section be expanded in the new stadium?

There will be a bigger family enclosure at the new stadium but we do not know the take up rate of season tickets in this sector as yet. We do not yet know how many silver members will move up to the gold member scheme - once this figure is apparent, we will know how many extra silver members there will be. There is no separate silver member / family enclosure list.

Ticket prices will be frozen for next season - can the club give a longer-term commitment on ticket pricing?

It is hard to give hard and firm commitments on this issue as we don’t know the future rate of inflation etc. However our plan is to increase ticket prices by 2-3% per season. It’s easier for fans to manage if there is a yearly increase in prices as opposed to a 10% hike every few years. At the end of next season, we may look at re-structuring ticket prices across the bands but it is not in our business plan to dramatically increase our revenue from ticket sales.

Can Arsenal explain the reason for charging disabled fans from next season?

This is a decision that has the almost unanimous support of our disability forum. We try to be fair to all our fans and we don’t feel that disabled fans should get a free ticket for games as there are other groups of fans e.g pensioners on low incomes who will also ask for free tickets based on their situation. Disabled fans may require a helper and because of this we offer their helper a free ticket, as abled bodied fans do not have this issue. We felt that disabled fans should pay something for their own ticket and it was agreed that this should be at half-price. So overall, you could say that most disabled fans are effectively paying a quarter price for their ticket. We have ensured that all levels at the new stadium are accessible for disabled fans. We feel we have struck the right balance on this. We will be able to have more disabled fans at our new stadium and they will be able to enter the stadium in the same way as other fans.

Arsenal have been one of the best clubs in the country in liaising with disabled fans and have struck the right balance between a business mind and a social conscience and the disability forum works very well with Arsenal's Disability Liaison officer. The vast majority of disabled fans agree with this new policy and disabled fans want to contribute to the excellent services at Arsenal as much as anyone else. Arsenal provide excellent services to disabled fans, including the award winning audio match day programme and disability groups have been working very closely with Arsenal F.C on access issues at the new stadium. Arsenal is ahead of the game in this field and the long term goal is to have equality of access to all stadiums around the country.

Some Clubs are charging extortionate prices for away fans - e.g £42 at Birmingham - the away supporters club took a heavy loss on this as we had to buy our full allocation - other clubs have been able to reduce ticket prices - is Arsenal able to help on this?

We have been raising this issue for a long time and will continue to do so, especially when some Clubs are charging the same prices for home and away fans with wildly different facilities available. There is another Premier League attendance working group in a couple of weeks and we will raise this issue again. There needs to be a universal policy on this as clubs with differing membership schemes are currently charging different prices.

Metropolitan Police - Paul Redfearn
There are 3 dedicated police officers within Islington that work exclusively with Arsenal and our working relationship is exemplary. The fans of Arsenal are widely recognised as being well behaved, which is a good reflection on them, the Club and the way stewarding works on match days.

Unfortunately, Arsenal, like any other big sporting body, has touts working around them. Arsenal has some massive games coming up and no doubt touts will be trying to work at these matches. We have previously tackled this issue head on, with our territorial support team working during the first 3 home games of this season, leading to 15 people being arrested. Since the start of the season, we have successfully prosecuted 18 touts and these are now banned from being close to any stadium on match days.

Additionally, Arsenal F.C has withdrawn the membership this season of about 200 fans that have been found to be touting tickets. As we will be using electronic membership cards in the new stadium, we should see the end of people on the streets offering tickets outside the stadium. We are happy to publicise the work that we are doing on ticket touting on the Club’s website. We believe that it will generally be a lot harder for touts to operate under the new arrangements. As their avenues of working decrease, so it will be easier to concentrate on the new ways touts may try and work. As we have seen, Arsenal F.C, as well as the police, can and have dealt with these touts in the ways open to them so we ask fans to keep reporting touts to both Arsenal and the police. There is an issue about touting tickets on the internet, as the Crown Prosecution Service doesn’t currently deem this as a public space - this makes it extremely difficult to prosecute touts using this media. Data protection issues and other hurdles also make it very difficult to carry a case through to court.

Touts are currently using the phrase “does anybody have any spare tickets” as a euphemism for selling tickets — this phrase gets around covert recordings by undercover police and obviously can’t be submitted as evidence. The police and Arsenal F.C are aware touts are still working and can be seen at underground stations during the morning of a match, but the police have to strike the right balance between all their responsibilities. Ticket tout legislation was originally aimed mainly at avoiding the breakdown of segregation at football matches — luckily Arsenal is one of the safest places in the premiership. There are around 50 police inside the stadium on match days and the vast majority of those are posted near the segregation area between home and away fans. By linking in with other police forces across the UK, we can amend this number depending on specific intelligence.

Can you talk about your relationship with TFL (Transport for London)

To a large extent, fans moving away from the stadium takes care of itself — Arsenal is lucky in that it has excellent public transport links to an from the stadium. At other grounds, it can take a long time to get away from the stadium - queuing times of 20/30 minutes to get on the underground are comparatively very good. As you know, Finsbury Park station is undergoing development and we feel this will improve in the future. For next season, we will be working on new logistical arrangements to take account of the location of the stadium and the increased number of fans going to games. We feel that more fans will use Highbury & Islington station to get to and from games and we are looking at the logistics around that.

How is your working relationship with European Police forces for Champions League games?

Even though the treatment Arsenal fans got at the Real Madrid away game was not good, it was better than most other away fans get there and this was down to the huge amount of preparatory work our police put in prior to the game. We have to accept there is a different culture across Europe and our fans have to accept that to an extent. There was provocation of fans at the game, but our fans showed a remarkable degree of restraint. We need to keep re-emphasising to our fans not to bring bags to the game, as this slows everything up and creates tension - we also strongly recommend that our fans arrive at the game about an hour before kick off so that there’s not a big rush just before the game starts (which obviously again adds to police tension there). The police have written a long letter of complaint to the Madrid police about the treatment of Arsenal fans. We have a huge number of meetings prior to these games, including the forthcoming trip to Turin. We have representations made by the Club, the Police, the FA and the Commonwealth office - we do as much groundwork as we can in these situations but ultimately the local police have their own arrangements. There is a big problem with crowd trouble in Italy and other European countries, which may dictate how our fans will be treated there.

Atmosphere

What’s the current state of play with the Anthem?

We have been working with Shovel, formerly of M-People, in developing the anthem and also we’ve been working with the artists who worked on the Arsenal album. When it’s ready, we’ll be working with the Red Action group in promoting it. We’re hoping to have it ready for the Wigan game but we must ensure that we get it right.

Overall, we think the calling of players’ names is working well.

It’s true that sometimes it works well and other times it is overtaken by dynamic events led by fans prior to the game. It works very well at Carling Cup games, as groups are sitting together. If it is to work in the new stadium, it needs a concerted effort by a group of fans for others to pick up on it and get involved. Sometimes events take over e.g. the chanting of Vieira’s name prior to the Juventus game. We will also ensure we have photos of every player to use in the future. We can try variations on this theme for the last few games of the season.

Maybe the music can be removed before kick-off to allow the name announcement to work properly.

At Emirates Stadium, 2/3 minutes before the team comes out, the new Club anthem could be played to welcome the players on the pitch. As they line up, the Premier League song could be played and then prior to kick off, we could do the name roll of players, without any other music interrupting it.

Will there be a statue outside the new stadium?

No. The podium is big, but not huge and we also have to take into account that the podium is a public right of way. The clock from Highbury will be somewhere outside the stadium. Once some final details have been confirmed we will make an announcement on this.

Other Questions

Are there any plans to have subsidised travel for fans going to the Emirates stadium?

The more we have looked into this, the more complicated we have found it. We have had meetings with TFL and the underground in trying to develop a swipe card system, similar to the Oyster card, but this has proved practically impossible to introduce.

Can you let us know information on the deal with the Israeli tourist Board?

We were initially looking at 5/6 big sponsors for a few years and connecting those to the new stadium but as we went down the road on this, we found it better to offer more potential sponsors various sections of rights. One of the categories was tourism and the Israeli tourist board wanted to be involved with this. Other examples are Emirates being our airline partner, O2 being our mobile phone partner and so on.

What are the plans for the Wigan game?

We will be having a closing ceremony which will hopefully start at 5pm and last about an hour and half. We will probably have a marching band and also a large parade of legends and former managers, with an announcer on the pitch linking everything together. There will also be music and links between Highbury and Emirates Stadium, including displays on the pitch relating to our history at Highbury. The event will be covered on Arsenal.com, which will also have behind the scenes footage on the build up to the event. For the final game, there will be a commemorative programme which will have a replica of the programme produced for the first game at Highbury. There will also be an A-Z of Highbury publication that fans will have the option of buying with the programme.

We will emphasise that anybody who runs on the pitch at this game will be banned from Emirates stadium.

We will also be releasing a farewell to Highbury DVD. The exact content of this and other DVDs being released will be contingent on what happens for the rest of this season.

If we get to the Champions League final, what will be our ticket allocation and will the game be shown live at Highbury?

About 20,000. UEFA take a lot for their commercial partners. Also about 10,000 tickets have to be sold to local residents.

In the past, when we’ve shown games that are live on Network television, not many people turn up, although for a game like this, it is possible that we could have more people wanting to attend. The other problem is that the quality of the screens is not great and we will have difficulties in setting them up on the pitch. And also there are other events scheduled for the same period. We will however check with stadium management and look at the logistics of it. — we do have to get there first!

After what’s happened at Wembley, will Arsenal apply to host any England games?

We have thought about it - but if you look at the matches some of them probably won’t sell out. It is something we would have to give more thought to.

6 forum members came to the end of their term of office and Arsenal F.C, as well as the forum itself, thanked them for their contributions and ideas over the last 2 years. They were presented with a memento of their time on the forum. The 6 retiring members were:

Lee Armitt
Rita Buddle
Allan Mabert
Martin Patrick
Steve Pyman
Sophia Walker

The meeting finished at 1.05pm

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 24 Jul 2008