Should Arsenal sell the seats of season ticket holders who repeatedly turn up late or don’t turn up at all? Helen Trantum thinks so. Read on to find out more.

Twitter does funny things to people.

Last week’s column obviously ruffled a few feathers, with one particular numpty – who I won’t name and shame because frankly they’d probably enjoy it! – opining that I was a stupid female dog. Lovely.

I’m pretty sad that football has gotten so expensive for fans of any monetary means, but equally I can kind of understand why it happens. I don’t see the silver bullet solution for the club and how that solves an issue without creating several more. If that makes me a stupid female dog (hey, one out of three ain’t bad!) then so be it.

What I simply cannot stand, though, is a situation which the club 100% do have a chance to address, without having any detrimental effect whatsoever: empty seats.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Arsenal fans take photos as they find their seats prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers at Emirates Stadium on December 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Not quite this bad Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Last Sunday, I had to leave the game at half time. Before you lambast me, it is the first time I have ever left before the final whistle, and it was as a result of Sky changing the fixture time (and day!) at such short notice that I couldn’t rearrange other commitments. I felt dirty beyond belief, begging stewards to undo doors and gates and sneaking past the fans who had slipped out onto the stairwells to make a quick phone call.

I felt guilty, like I was abandoning the team in their hour of need.

Yet that is exactly what the family in front of me basically does every single game. They turn up ten minutes late, they leave ten minutes (plus injury time) early, and they skip at least five minutes either side of half time too. It’s not quite forty-five minutes of football, but it’s darned close.

There’s a small part of me that is extra happy we scored in the last minute, simply because I know that family will have missed the ecstasy – that sheer happiness that can only come when you are fulfilled just as the last drop of hope was about to squeeze out of the bottom of your heart – which overtook every single Arsenal fan in the ground when Danny Welbeck got his head to Ozil’s free kick.

I digress.

Anyway, that family don’t even always make it to the game. Not only is that selfish insofar as it means I’m more exposed to the wind (obviously a critical consideration) but it is also selfish because there are so many people desperate to get tickets who cannot, at least through legal means.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17: Arsenal fans take their seats prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on August 17, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Can the club do more? Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

It is detrimental to the team, who are playing in front of a considerably less than capacity crowd, and it is detrimental to the people who logged onto the Arsenal ticket office only to find the fixture sold out, as every single competitive* match is at the Emirates.

*The Mickey Mouse Cup is not competitive in my book

So what could we do?

Hey, Arsenal! You know how you like counting cash so much? Here’s an idea for you: Have an entrance where people who’d like to watch the game but couldn’t get tickets can queue up. Every time someone hasn’t turned up to the game by kick-off you can then let one of the ‘stand-by’ supporters in, and even charge them – say a tenner – in addition to the money you have already pocketed from the season ticket holder.

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ONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Empty seats in the stand as Bayern Munich fans protest against ticket prices prior the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal FC and FC Bayern Munchen at Emirates Stadium on October 20, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

You get extra cash, they get their tickets, and the team get more bums of seats. Win, win, win.

You could give them a bit of leeway and say you have to be ten minutes late before you lose your seat, but frankly why should you? If we want to club to regard us as supporters rather than walking pockets of money, then maybe we should act like supporters and be there from the start of a game. You could always have an app for example that would allow people to flag if they are “stuck in traffic” and give them a couple of strikes a season.

An alternative view would be to penalise people who don’t turn up – after all, if you can’t make a game you can always sell your seat on the ticket exchange so that someone else can enjoy the experience instead. What if every match you didn’t fill your seat (or at least try to, via ticket exchange) your season ticket was then deactivated for the next game?

How likely do you think people are to skip Hull in the FA Cup if it means they miss Barcelona in the Champions League?

And before you think I’m some sort of desperate hooligan who is just trying to slam season ticket holders, remember: I am one myself. I would be fully in favour of measures which meant I had to hold up my end of the bargain and turn up to support the team or face the consequences.

A bin liner is seen on a seat at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers at Emirates Stadium on February 4, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
A bin liner is seen on a seat at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers at Emirates Stadium on February 4, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

There may be the odd occasion where unforeseen circumstances would make these sorts of penalties unfair, but the club could still have flexibility to waive them if they so desired. I’ve yet to think of many scenarios where a proper supporter wouldn’t turn up on time and stay for the whole game. The family in front of me may pay the same for their tickets, but as far as I’m concerned they are part-time fans, not supporters.

There are too many people who don’t get an opportunity to experience games at the Emirates because of their selfishness, and the club could do so much more.

I usually go to matches with my parents, and this weekend they’re not able to make the game. Instead, I’m attending with a friend of a friend, who is over from America for their first Arsenal experience. We’re meeting outside Arsenal tube, walking with the crowds over the Ken Friar bridge and getting to the stadium in time to watch some of the warm up and soak up the atmosphere.

It’s such a great experience to go to the Emirates – one I never tire of – and I’m as excited as he is to enjoy the day out on Saturday. It just drives me up the wall that the club aren’t doing more to make it possible for more people to have that same opportunity.

So forget ticket prices Arsenal, sort out the quick wins which are no brainers. You never know, it might even give us some on-field benefit too.