I don’t care about ticket prices.

There, I said it.

I mean: obviously I do care, since I spend more per year on Arsenal than any other thing except for my mortgage, but what I really mean is that the ticket price debate really turns me off.

I should start by saying:

  • It’s depressing that football costs so much
  • It’s depressing that not everyone who wants to go to a game can go to a game
  • It’s depressing that we have to have these debates at all

But (and please don’t hate me here)…

The trouble is: I don’t think that there really is a solution.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: Fans arrive at the stadium for the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on January 24, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Fans arrive at the stadium but how many will still be able to afford to go in a few years? (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

We can blame the club – and yes they’re hardly victims in all of this – but realistically we’re arguing today about whether away tickets should be £20, £30 or £40, whether tickets at the Emirates should cost £100, £1,000 or £10,000 per season, effectively whether one person has any more right to a ticket that another. Everyone has their own view on what is reasonable to charge, and that is heavily influenced by their own financial circumstances and influences.

Some people afford their season tickets without having to think about it, some just about afford it without having to sacrifice too much of their preferred lifestyle, while some have to make significant cutbacks to worship at the Arsenal altar each week.

Others have already been priced out.

LONDON, 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)
LONDON, 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)

What criteria do we use to draw the line?

Who is to say what level of pricing is “fair”? Why is the person who can afford £5,000 a year any different to the person who can afford £500 a year or to the one who can afford £50 a year – which one is the “regular” fan?

Today we could cap prices at a certain level, but wherever that cap is set, there will be people who fall above and below the line, and those below will continue to be disgruntled.

Even if we did all agree on an arbitrary number, that will still affect people close to that line in different ways, with some choosing to make those significant cutbacks while others consider themselves priced out.

Short of offering tickets out for free, I’m not quite sure what we all expect the club to do to make everything fairer. I certainly don’t know what we expect Arsene to say in press conferences.

If he had a perfect solution, you’d think he’d have already shared it by now!

Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger looks on during a press conference on December 8, 2015 in Athens on the eve of the UEFA Champions League group F football match between Olympiakos and Arsenal. / AFP / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Even with an Economics degree, Arsene can’t solve this issue AFP / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS

Answers on a postcard

There are, of course, other criteria that usually get bandied about in discussions on who should be able to have a season ticket, but they’re usually equally flawed.

Take loyalty to the club.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: Fans display a banner about the price of tickets during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on April 4, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 04: Fans display a banner about the price of tickets during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on April 4, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Someone who has been going to Arsenal games for years shouldn’t be priced out, but equally, is it fair that the 21-year-old fresh into employment can’t get a ticket despite supporting the team their whole life just because the older generation got there first?

What about the kids who have been coming to games for years under the club’s youth policy but suddenly find that they have no access any more just because they are another year older?

Or what about equality of access?

Should we ensure that everyone gets an equal chance to watch Arsenal in the flesh, irrespective of means, location, or even commitment? Indeed, is the concept of season ticket holders itself outdated – should thousands of people really have priority to attend games ahead of others who can’t get tickets at all (unless they go around the official processes) just because they got there first?

READ MORE:
Why Arsenal need to step back before they can move forward
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04: Fans protest at ticket prices at the Emirates ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on October 4, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 04: Fans protest at ticket prices at the Emirates ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on October 4, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Of course I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but the reality is that everyone has their own opinion, everyone has different circumstances, and fundamentally there is no right answer.

Who are the club to determine who is the most deserving of tickets on moral or human grounds? There are a multitude of options but no silver bullet.

They didn’t help themselves with the surcharge over cup games, which incidentally is a whole different kettle of fish as far as I’m concerned. There’s a difference between telling people a price they don’t like and leaving them to choose whether to pay it, versus telling them a price which you then change at a later date. It’s effectively a hidden condition of sale, and it was neither clear nor contract certain.

But the real point is, on the main issue of ticketing, the club are sort of damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Even if they gave the tickets out for free, they’d still get kicked over the way they were allocated out.

I’m sorry if that makes me unpopular, but I’m sick and tired of the criticism of our ticket pricing when I can’t see the fair alternative that we’re all dreaming about.

Blame Adam Smith

I’m not immune.

Right now, I can just about afford my own ticket, but I also have to rent it from someone who doesn’t use it but also doesn’t want to give it back to the club for reallocation because he knows he’d never get it back again in future.

That sums up the situation – season tickets are like gold dust, and that’s why they cost so much.

Bayern Munich fans hold a banner as they protest in the stands against the cost of tickets, at the beginning of the UEFA Champions League football match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium in London, on October 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL
Bayern Munich fans hold a banner as they protest in the stands against the cost of tickets, at the beginning of the UEFA Champions League football match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium in London, on October 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL

One day I will probably also be priced out and unable to afford my ticket, but that’s true of a lot of things. I’d like to have a Ferrari for example, but I can’t afford it. We live in a capitalist society because that’s how our culture has been able to thrive, and it doesn’t make it fair or palatable, but it is the reality.

Everyone should be able to go to game who wants to, in an ideal world, but we don’t – and can’t – live in an ideal world.

So forgive me if I can’t get excited about how the club price tickets on the basis of supply and demand, not because I agree with the approach, but because I cannot see a viable alternative.

There are other, easier, and better initiatives the club could be pursuing to not only improve fan access to affordable tickets, but to also fill some of those empty seats that are so often remarked upon.

Heck, the club could even make more money out of filling those seats for a fiver or a tenner, and make a real difference to the support the club receives in the process.

That’s a story for next week though.