Two Years On Week has so far bought you an exclusive Q&A with Peter Hill-Wood and a special look at some of the facts and figures on Emirates Stadium. Now we turn our attention to the Club's director Danny Fiszman with what is, again, an exclusive Q&A. Read on for Danny's thoughts on the improvements made at The Emirates this year, the importance of the move from Highbury and what is to come in the future. 

Danny, what is your progress report on Year Two of Emirates Stadium?

Well it is continuing to improve. We have been very successful with the team on the pitch and they are clearly happy here. I think the fans are happy and we came first in a fans' survey as the best matchday experience of any stadium in the Premier League — I think that speaks volumes in itself. We will continue to improve too.

What has been your highlight of Emirates this year?

I think having Mr Sakozy here. Using the stadium as his home base rather than the French Embassy says something for the Club, the stadium and of course with the connection he has with the manager. I just think the principal of having the head of the French Republic coming to the stadium to use it as his office is amazing.

Arsenal's Premier League average went from 60,045 to 60,070 so that proves there was no let up in interest. Do you expect Emirates to continue to be sold out next season?

We certainly do. I see no reason why it wouldn’t be. We have big demand, big interest and as long as the team keep producing the same football that we played and hopefully bringing in the trophies they deserve then we will continue selling out.

The first year saw Youth Cup games get 11,000, even 38,000, and last year saw a Ladies game take 5,000, although it could have been double that. It proves then that it is not just the first-team but Emirates Stadium now has its own pull.

I think people want to come to Emirates who under normal conditions might not be able to and will take any opportunities. The international fixtures we have also sell out, so there is a pull of the Emirates but in the end it is the game taking place that pulls in the crowds.

Just compare Year One and Year Two. Are we a slick club now in terms of a matchday?

We are slicker than we were but we have to constantly improve and I think we have learned a lot. It was a big jump from Highbury to The Emirates and I think the teams, from stadium management, the catering staff, stewarding, whatever aspect it was, there was a big learning curve and I think they have done exceedingly well and continue to do so. So yes we are improving all the time but seek to improve further.

Ticket prices have gone up for first time in four years. What is the reason behind that?

There is substantial inflation in football so rather than keep holding them back and then have a huge increase it is better, after holding as long as we could, to have a small steady increase rather than a big jump. One other thing is that there are comparisons made on our season tickets — you see A versus B and we seem to be expensive at times, not the most expensive, but it is never compared apples with apples. Season tickets include cup games and Champions League games which other clubs, certainly in London, charge extra and in fact a premium on their usual prices. All our prices are the same and we include seven cup games within the season ticket so it should be judged in those lights rather than a pure top line number.

Where does the revenue from Emirates Stadium fit into the budget compared to other sources?

Certainly TV revenue is very important to us, all broadcast revenue is important. But gate income represents very close to 50 per cent of our total revenue, so it is substantially bigger than broadcasting. It wasn’t but that is good because if there any changes in the market for broadcasting then in fact it will make us stronger because we have greater gate income.

The Club implemented a Ticket Exchange scheme. How did that go down?

As a principal I think that it went well. I don’t think we managed as well as we could have or as it will be. The principal behind it is to match fans that have tickets and can’t go with the fans that have no tickets and want to go. We want to do it as cheaply and as efficiently as possible. There are organisations that do that for clubs but then charge a 20 or 30 per cent premium to the matchday price. We didn’t want that as a profit centre, we didn’t think that was right, so we are doing it in house. It may not be as slick as it should be but we will improve it and it will work very well in the future.

Transport is always an issue. Has there been an improvement?

I think it has been to great extent and the fans start to understand how the stadium works, where there are problems with transport, should they stay 10 minutes behind, 20 minutes, or go straight away. I think they get to learn to manage for themselves. At the same time we are working with authorities as and when it is possible.

The international friendlies continued and we hosted our first concert when Bruce Springsteen came. Any other events planned?

I think we will continue with the same sort of events. We hope to have another concert next year and we have had good results from the Springsteen concert. The internationals sell well and hopefully we can bring Brazil or other teams to the Emirates. The Emirates Cup of course is hopefully be an annual event.

The conferencing at Emirates won two awards. That aspect of it must have been good to boost the profile of stadium?

It has certainly boosted the profile. It is rewarding for the conferencing team who work exceedingly hard and shows what a great job they have done. There are hundreds of events here at Emirates and I think last year we had 1,000 here. They are wide-ranging, things like youngsters sitting exams to the visit of Mr Sarkozy, so we have a wide range and people keep coming back. That shows that Emirates works well, the conferencing team are doing a great job as well as the catering back-up that goes with it. Getting awards is great but effectively what is more important is that we fill the stadium 365 days a year.

Can you just fill us in the development of Queensland Road?

It is a mixed use development which will have residential, cinemas, restaurants, office space which will set off the last part of the development and be the right context for the stadium. It is in planning and hopefully as soon as we have permission we can go to market. It is not a development we will do ourselves, we will be looking to bring in partners.

Are we hoping to have Emirates Cup every pre-season?

Certainly hope so, yes.

How well did it go down last year?

Exceedingly well. We have sold out for two years so that indicates that fans want to come, see the new players, see the teams we are bringing in and it is lovely at the beginning of August and it has gone down very well and we intend to make it an annual event.

What more is being done to make the team areas ‘Arsenal’?

We have done a lot of work on those areas and I think Arsène is now happy with the changes we have made and the improvement we have made. Initially when we built the stadium it was just let’s get it done, get the team in and see how we improve. We have got a stadium and now want to make it our home. The team were not beaten last year and have lost just one game in two years in the Premier League. They have made it a fortress and made it their home. We want to make that homely feel for our fans.

Has Arsène asked for anything specific?

Not that I can recall. He is normally quite demanding but for once he seems to be satisfied, at least in that area.

It is some record we have here isn’t it?

Indeed and we are delighted. Look at some of the other new stadia and teams have had struggles. It has taken some teams something like six months to win a first game. So we are delighted.

Finally, one wish for year three, what would it be?

Four trophies! On top of that it is just continuing improvement for all of our fans. For example we have opened a call centre which enables them to reach departments and the part of Arsenal they need much easier. Also we can track their requests and make sure we follow everything up.

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14 Jul 2008