ARSENAL FOOTBALL CLUB FANS’ FORUM 2010/2011 SEASON

Meeting held at 1.45pm on Saturday April 2nd 2011 at Highbury House

Attendees

Barrett, John – Silver Member Representative
Beale, Richard – Arsenal Supporters’ Club Representative (Domestic)
Beattie, John – Arsenal F.C
Case, Max – 16-21 yr Old Representative
Ellis, Paul - Arsenal Supporters’ Club Representative (Domestic)
Evans, Richard – Club Level Representative
Fellows, James – Away Scheme Member Representative
Futerman, David – Shareholder Representative
Gazidis, Ivan – Arsenal F.C
Gonnella, Mark – Arsenal FC
Hayes, Stephen – Family Enclosure Representative
Herlihy, Raymond – RedAction Representative
McCloskey, Daniel – AISA Representative
O’Brien, Michael - Arsenal F.C
Perry, Mike – Over 60 Year-Old Representative
Roberts, Elliot – Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
Selby, Stewart – LGBT Representative
Smith, Jill – Arsenal F.C.
Szabala, Jan – Arsenal Supporters Club Representative (Overseas)
Tanfield, Hazel – Red Member Representative
Thater, John – Gold Member Representative
Upson, Patsy – Disabled Supporters’ Representative
Worsell, Ivan – Arsenal F.C

Apologies

Ahmad, Zaheer – Ethic Minority Representative

Ticketing

There is obviously still high demand for tickets to games – in terms of fan segmentation, what is your thinking about ticket entry points?

In our lower tier, there are currently only 2 price points – behind the goal and along the side. What that means is that there are other people who would be willing to pay more for certain locations and those who would like to pay less for other locations. We understand that our fan base want and expect different experiences and how much they are willing to pay for the experience. Our aim is to match those differing demands more closely in the future – giving as many groups of fans as possible the match experience they are looking for. If we match this more effectively in future, then this gives us greater flexibility in meeting the needs of fans who are more price sensitive.

Red members can’t always get seats with their Junior Gunner children (as they go on sale earlier) and then have to pay full price for both tickets – can this be looked at?

We have increased the size of the family enclosure since we’ve moved to the Emirates and this season increased it to 5,000. There are some tickets set aside for Red Members and Junior Gunners and we will obviously need to look at this number again. The numbers applying in this category varies match to match and week-night to week-end fixture and we’ll try and introduce some more flexibility for this category of ticket purchase.

Can the club give an indication of season-tickets prices for next season?

In terms of background, there has been 1 price increase over the last 5 years of 2% and other comparable clubs over the same period have increased prices by an average of 20-25%. We haven’t as yet come to a decision on next years’ General Admittance prices but we have announced our club level prices for next season and there is a weighted average increase of about 4%. We want to find a sustainable balance with the relationships with our fans.

Unlike other clubs, we have created a sustainable financial future for ourselves but understand that our fans are frustrated at the lack of trophies over the last few years. All the money we make, apart from debt repayments for the Stadium is re-invested in the club over the long-term. We are looking to be less reliant on stadium/match-day revenues as the main source of our income in the future, so that we can offer more segmented and competitive prices and we are looking to diversify our revenue streams e.g. global branding and new commercial partnerships. We as a club want to compete at the highest level and we know our fans also want this. We are able to compete with the other top clubs by not spending as much money as them and being sustainable in our finances.  Our decisions are not driven by short-term thinking. 

Do you think that we have settled for financial responsibility as opposed to aggressively going out to market ourselves and take some risks in investing in our player base?

We look at it in a different way.  You can chase short-term success by financially stretching yourself and enjoying the glory whilst it’s there. We take a long-term approach and are looking to build sustainable success. Our relationship and emotional connection with the fans is not purely based on winning trophies and we think our fans’ relationship with the club is also not purely driven by success.  That’s not to say that being successful is not critical for a club of our size.

What was the policy in relation to the allocation of Carling Cup Final Tickets?

We reviewed the allocation of Cup Final tickets after the Champions’ League final against Barcelona and liaised with numerous fan representative groups on this.As you can expect, there are many competing demands on these tickets, including long-term season ticket holders, Club level members, fans who travel to many away games and so on, so we had to come up with a fair policy of allocating Cup Final tickets. For those who went to 3 or more away games, you automatically qualified. 2 or less you had to apply. There were a significant number of people who were successful who didn’t ultimately purchase so we then contacted some people who were on the standby list. We will also look at the allocation of disabled tickets for cup finals as well.

There was a game recently where the announced attendance was obviously a lot more than were physically at the game.

The numbers announced are those of ticket sales and season ticket holders who don’t attend are counted in that figure. This is an issue that other clubs also face and we will take a look at it at the end of the season.

Stadium

It was great that we were able to unfurl our 15 metre flag at the Carling Cup Final and that it was allowed to be moved throughout the lower tier.  We asked about doing the same at the Emirates and were told that we could not move it.

The reason for this is the policy of different local authorities i.e. Brent & Islington.  Islington’s view is that it is potentially dangerous.  We are talking with them and trying to get them to change their opinion. We have made progress with the council in that up until a couple of years ago we weren’t given permission for any large flags. We understand that it’s not really a viable option in the upper tier, but we are with the fans in allowing it to move in the lower tier.

Have there been any developments in terms of having some seating in the Upper Tier concourses?

We are constrained to a large extent in terms of the construction of  the stadium, which does limit our options in the Upper Tier and why there hasn’t been any seating in the past.  We are looking at connecting some seating to the railings but at this stage we can’t promise anything. Any seating, due to Health and Safety regulations would have to be hard fixed.

Is it not a human rights contravention to not be able to drink alcohol whilst watching a game – in most other sports fans can freely consume alcohol?

There were discussions about changing the ruling on this had England  won the 2018 World Cup bid. As that didn’t happen,it is very unlikely that the legislation surrounding this topic will change any time soon.  Similar to the issue around standing areas, no government wants to change the rule on these and then be directly associated with it if something happens. However, there is a Parliamentary Select Committee looking at the Standing and Drinking topics, amongst others, so it is something that will continue to be looked at. There are also licencing implications and costs. It would cost the club £750,000 every three years for our stewards to be able to fully perform their role in the seating areas if fans were  allowed to drink there. The rules are slightly different in Europe, in so far as any drink with less than 3% alcohol is deemed non-alcoholic.

In terms of seating arrangements more generally, we are re-looking at how the stadium is orientated around our differing groups of fans (e.g. family enclosure, elderly fans). The ultimate aim is to have a stadium that represents all sections of our fan base, including factoring in the price-sensitivity and age profile of people who come to the ground. Our challenge is to create and maintain a responsible and sustainable business model in the fervent world of football finance as well as ensuring that we’re not in danger of losing our fan base and our ability to continually compete on the world stage. Our ultimate ambition is to give pride to our fan base without ignoring the environment that we find ourselves in. We’re in favour and support the process of Financial Fair Play in football. A lot of clubs may have  lost the focus as to what their role is and who they exist for. The current financial culture in football is in all probability to the detriment of the long-term interests of the game, but it is the climate that we currently find ourselves in and have to work within.

Undoubtedly, the Premier League has been successful in the quality of the football, the players it attracts and the global fan base that it now has. It’s generated revenues have grown substantially over the years, but it will find it increasingly difficult to maintain that growth rate in the future.

There is probably room for some improvement in the lost property procedure at Arsena.lA mobile phone was recently lost and the customer service from the various organisations in terms of where it could have been lost (Arsenal and travel providers) was better with  other organisations than with Arsenal.

Our standard procedure is that after every game, our stewards will walk through the terraces and collect any items that may have been left behind by fans. We make a log of everything that has been recovered and we take the details of any items reported lost.  If there’s a direct match then we get back in touch with the person. We appreciate that this particular instance may not have been handled ideally and we’ll review our procedures surrounding lost items.

Inter-relationship between fans and clubs

Can the club talk to the players in terms of acknowledging fans after the game?There was no player appreciation of the fans after the Cup defeat at Manchester United. We appreciate that they’re disappointed as well as we are, but it is something that needs addressing. It does seem to be a particular problem at this club more generally in terms of references to fans in relation to this and after-match interviews. In a lot of cases, fans travel long distances to watch the team and it does get annoying when they’re not recognised after the game.

This is a valid point and is something that we’re aware  needs  working on.  In interviews on Arsenal.com for example, there are frequent, glowing references to fans by the players and the manager. Some players are really good and natural at it but we’re  aware that it is something we need to re-inforce. Other players communicate with fans in a different way using different electronic media  e.g. posting on Twitter. There are numerous ways that players can connect with the fans and we’ll be doing some more work in this area in the near future.

 We understand that this is very important for our fans and it will be led from the captain downwards.  It’s not a case of the players actively not doing this. We know it’s not ideal that our players clap from the half-way line and then walk off. We have to say that the support at the Old Trafford game was unbelievable and we know that it positively affected the players, even though we didn’t ultimately win that game. 

In the past, there has always been a tradition that when we reach the Cup Final, players wore suits during the pre-amble to the game – this time around players were wearing tracksuits for the Carling Cup Final. Is this relaxed attitude reflected on the pitch?

We’ve has similar comments in relation to how players turn up to away games. Ultimately, we want our players to feel as relaxed and prepared as possible.  Our approach is to try and minimise and limit the pressure players feel and we are most successful on the pitch when the players go out in a relaxed, comfortable but passionate frame of mind. We wanted the build up to this game to be as normal and relaxed as possible.The players were more than aware of how important the game was. We know that some fans think that some of our players don’t care – but we can assure you they do and taking the pressure off them prior to such important games helps them enormously.
It’s a shame the players feel that much pressure.  They are not far from being at the top and this season(apart from the Carling Cup) have only really come short against Barcelona and Manchester United in the quest for honours.

We have the youngest set of regular first team players in the premiership with an average age of 23 years. We are aware that currently, we are not the best team in England and we are constantly assessing our squad to see how we can improve it. If we fall short at key moments during a period of time then this is something that you need to address. There are different ways to address this issue but please be advised we are always conscious of it.

In terms of next season and inter-communication between forum members and fans, we will look at setting up a web/forum based system

The meeting finished at 3.30pm

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 28 Apr 2011