An away win and progress into the next round of the cup. What shall we do with the rest of the week? It’s as good a time as any for a protest. Not a good, old-fashioned march with placards but with our feet nonetheless. Organised electronically, of course.
The Premier League’s announcement yesterday of a price cap on away tickets was a small but important victory for supporters yesterday. The disappointment in it is that they failed to seize the opportunity to embrace the Twenty’s Plenty aim.
Arsenal went a step further. The club will provide an additional £4 discount, meaning that the top price that away supporters will pay as they follow Arsenal over land, sea and Leicester is £26. It’s a significant move on their part and appreciated, even if the money will barely scratch Arsenal’s funds.
It begs the question as to why they can’t reach reciprocal agreements with other clubs, charging those visiting The Emirates £26 if the same applies to Arsenal’s return fixture? There was a cabal of like-minded clubs who leaked their intention to follow this course of action recently so there is a willingness there.
Arsenal supporters are likely to gain more than most with this Premier League move. Ticket price structures are such that the matches are invariably Category A even if the corresponding fixture at The Emirates is C. A figure bandied around mentioned a saving of £370 over the course of a season which underlines the extent to which the cash cow has been milked previously.
This is the beginning of the process though. The aim of charging away supporters £20 per match should surely continue, not resting on its laurels at this starting point?
At the same time, Red Action have announced that they support a boycott of Sunday’s cup tie with Watford. It’s the only game this season, barring a miracle in Barcelona next week, where season ticket holders have the option of attending without wasting their money. The game isn’t covered by a cup-tie credit so it’s an optional extra.
There are plenty who disagree with that course of action. As with the banner being unfurled after a win, the strength of feeling behind the statement is that Red Action are the organisers of much of the fan participation at The Emirates.
I understand why they have chosen the course of action but suspect it is nothing more than an exercise in futility. Season ticket holders who ‘opt out’ will find their seats gleefully snatched up by other members who would otherwise struggle for tickets in such a crucial game. The aim for massed ranks of empty seats is unlikely to happen, certainly not to the extent of the recent Swansea match.
There is also the argument that an isolated incident which is how an individual game will be viewed by the club’s hierarchy, is that effective. Liverpool supporters leaving en masse on the 77th minute proved that with the right publicity, supporter protests can have a strong visual impact.
Some argue that it had a negative impact on the pitch with Liverpool dropping a two-goal lead late on. I wish people would make up their minds over whether the crowd impacts on players or not, even managers dispute whether they do.
The fundamental problem I have with the proposed action is that it’s on the vaguest of grounds. “If you are unhappy with how our club is being run” is not much of a focussed rallying call, lacking the specifics of ticket pricing or any other objective. Mentioning a “£36” saving on your season ticket renewal suggests to the casual reader that it is motivated by self-interest.
Yes, the club could be more fan-centric in its focus and if commercial revenues continue to rise, if broadcast income continues to become a bigger percentage of turnover, that might happen in the future but in the short-term, there will be a series of small ‘wins’ but what is given with one hand will be taken by the other.
Tying any boycott into the £3m Consultancy Fee is pointless; KSE will still take that money on a nod and wink from the board. No amount of empty seats is going to change that.
Unless the whole of football changes – as with the away ticket pricing – Arsenal are not likely to do anything which will fundamentally weaken them against rivals.
And I haven’t even begun on the manager yet…