A solution to the new Arsenal Stadium Mystery

"Honest...I counted 54,505 but all my tickets were sold"
“Honest…I counted 54,505 but all my tickets were sold”

Interesting news coming out of the Emirates Stadium this week was the over-stated “actual” attendances being declared at Arsenal’s fine stadium.

In the eight years that Arsenal have been at their new home, seven have seen aeverage crowds rise above 60,000. Their last season at Highbury saw them draw 38,000 per game. It’s a remarkable increase and vindicates the club’s decision to move grounds.

But according to the Metropolitan Police, Arsenal have been overstating the “attendance” by around 6,000 people per game, although the club can claim “sold out” on every occasion. But the people turning up for games does not match the ticket sales. If it was the other way round, then Arsenal would have problems, but what this revelation does show is that Arsenal season ticket holders are being very discerning about which games they show up for.

Some people are fuming. Given there is probably still a waiting list at Arsenal, the frustrated fan who has been turned “casual” because of being unable to buy a regular ticket, and forced to rely on a diet of less attractive European games and Capital One fare, has every right to feel aggrieved.

But legally, Arsenal – or any other club – cannot forcibly take tickets away from fans. It’s a free market and first-come, first-served. However, what Arsenal can do is penalise those fans that buy season tickets and do not use them on a regular basis. It’s all automated, so the club can produce all the Management Information Services it needs to identify the supporters who leave their seat empty.

Why not offer loyalty renewal discounts to season ticket holders who attend more than 75% (or more) of games? But do not allow the same discount for the season ticket holder who may have bought a ticket to insure their place at the really top games.

There’s another thought. Some people may be buying multiple season tickets to “sell” seats for inflated prices on an ad-hoc basis. They could, in effect, be creating a secondary market.

It’s in Arsenal’s hands and not that difficult to solve. It’s a strange one – you would think having qualified for a very expensive seat, the season ticket-holding fan would want to attend games? Especially at a top four Premier club that has a reputation for playing good football in an ultra comfortable stadium.

I would be curious to see if other cases like this emerge over the coming season – Arsenal fans cannot be the only ones who are being selective.

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