Big, BIG night tonight out in Rome. Good luck to the travelling Gooner Nation out in the Eternal City. Let’s hope for one of our classic European away performances like the San Siro (Inter in 2003 and Milan last season), the Bernabéu and the Stadio delli Alpi in 2006. Going further back, the 1995 Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final drama against Samp in Genoa in 1995 and the 1994 Cup-Winners’ Cup Final win against Parma in Copenhagen. Fantastic nights all. Oh how I wish I was out there in Italy with you.
I’d play the same formation we played against Roma at home, basically a “Christmas Tree” or diamond in the centre of the park. I think we REALLY need to have a go at them. We’re not a team constructed to defend like the old “Great Wall of Highbury” George Graham team. I heard a convincing argument from a fellow Gooner a couple of nights ago that a place in the starting eleven should be found for Theo Walcott.I agree. He looked mad for it when he came on against Burnley on Sunday. There always a very narrow line between confidence and arrogance. We’ve stepped over that line on a good few occasions in the last couple of seasons. Keeping JUST on that line is where we want to be tonight. We want them worrying about us, not the other way round, but with no complacency. The time for having it large is AFTER the final whistle.
To all those Gooners already out in Rome or on their way there, keep safe, have a great time and take care of yourselves.
Going back to the subject that was the subject of Monday’s blog by myself and Fàbregas the King, I’ve done some further digging on season ticket and membership renewals for next season.
I now understand from sources inside Highbury House that:
a)    The renewal deadline for Gold general admission season ticket holders will be 1 June 2009 as normal.
b)    The “base” price for Gold general admission season tickets will be frozen at this season’s level LESS 2.5% to reflect the temporary reduction in the rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) from 17.5% to 15%.
c)     Those Gold season ticket holders who didn’t “opt out” of the Burnley and Hull City FA Cup home ties will be charged extra on next season’s renewal on the basis of two category B matchday prices rather than 1/26th of the season ticket cost for each game. If we do go through against AS Roma tonight in the Champions League I assume that we can expect the “additional” match to be Category A (all Champions League home knock-out stage games have been Category A since categorisation was re-introduced) if Gold members choose not to “opt out”.
d)    The Silver and Red membership renewal date will be 1 June 2009. No news yet on whether the VAT reduction will be applied to these prices. The amounts concerned are relatively small of course, but it would still be a nice gesture and wouldn’t cost the club any revenue.
e)    The Gold, Silver and Red renewal letters will be going out “within days” but the deadlines will be as set out above.
Whilst I’m not looking forward to finding the extra dosh for the “additional” matches I’d rather be in that situation than us going out of the Champions League. I think I’m going to have start busking outside Finsbury Park station to raise the extra lolly mind! With my musical “abilities” (once described by one of my former music teachers as “being unable to carry a tune in a sack”),  people will sling me a couple of bob just to shut me up!  We can but hope that we’ve all got the problem of raising the cash to travel to Rome for a second time this season in May. In fact I’d love to have the problem of finding the money for an FA Cup Final ticket and a trip to Rome for the Champions League Final. Still, at least Rome is easier to hitch to than Istanbul, Athens or Moscow. It’ll also probably be warm at that time of year so a hotel bed might have to be an optional extra!
Speaking purely personally, my perch in block 112 cost me £1,825 this season. The refund I’m due for the VAT reduction is £38.83. I was also at both Carling Cup home ties this season, an extra £50 (£20 for Sheffield United and £30 for Wigan Athletic).
If we were to go through tonight and progress to the semi-finals this would mean I’d have to find £2,099.17 to renew for next season and “pay off” the extra four games for this season, assuming the two “additional” Champions League home ties would be charged at Category A, a fairly safe bet. I’m already looking at £1,915.17 for certain, including the Burnley and Hull City FA Cup home ties.
That is, I suppose, the price of success. In my case I don’t have a partner or children to worry about. I’m only responsible for myself. A lot of supporters have family responsibilities.  Two mates of mine, both long-standing Gooners and season ticket holders, each have three kids. In one case one son has been through university and is working, one is currently at university doing a year’s study abroad at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands before returning for his final year at the University of East Anglia.  His youngest is contemplating university in the a couple of years. My other mate has three sons too, all of whom he expects to want to go to university.
Any parent will tell you higher education costs – a lot. As we enter the thick of the worst recession most of us can remember, we’re all worried about our jobs. Arsenal and every other club needs to take account of this. We all want Arsenal to have the money it needs to bring us the success on the park we crave as supporters. Our pockets aren’t bottomless though. I’m glad the club has recognised this in a limited way in terms of ticket prices. Here’s some other things I’d like the club, led by our new chief executive officer Ivan Gazidis, to seriously consider with supporter representative groups like AISA:
1)    A variety of interest-free instalment payment options for Platinum and Gold members, including the possibility of price “lock-ins” for multi-season purchases. The Sunderland six instalments by direct debit scheme would be a good place to start. Supporters taking this option might be asked to make the first instalment payment in April of the preceding season to help the club’s cash flow whilst still “smoothing out” the annual burden for fans.
2)    An automatic “opt in” for Carling Cup home ties and “additional” FA Cup/Champions League/Europa League games over the seven included in Gold general admission season tickets with guaranteed discounts on the matchday prices for these games as an incentive to “opt in”. Fans could be given the option to pay for the additional games as they come up by direct debit (including from credit cards) or to have them added to the following season’s renewal, with a slightly larger discount for those opting for immediate payment as the “additional” games arise.
3)    A re-vamp and re-launch in consultation with supporter groups of the club’s Ticket Exchange Scheme (TX) to ensure the maximum number of actual bums on chairs as well as tickets sold. We all hate the increasing number of empty seats at sell-out games and, to state the obvious, an empty seat isn’t going to spend anything on programmes, catering, etc.
4)    Consideration of an Oyster style “pre-payment” scheme for Silver and Red members. This would help Club cash flow and allow supporters who have irregular incomes and problems with access to banking facilities and the internet to have a problem free way of paying for tickets.
Arsenal’s income is bound to be affected by the recession. Corporate hospitality and sponsorship/advertising/marketing budgets will all come under pressure. Merchandising income is likely to drop. Broadcasting income is likely to be pretty flat when the current Premier League deals expire at the end of 2009/10. The club needs to do everything it can to keep the ground full and to help fans struggling to keep afloat financially, never mind pay the sky-high ticket prices in this country.
I know that Ivan Gazidis has already met with all the main Arsenal supporters’ groups. That’s a good start. Time to get down to the detail now.
Memo to Ivan Gazidis. Let’s talk again. Soon.
Important as all the ticket issues are though, there’s only one thing on all of our minds at the moment. Tonight’s the night for champions to step up in Rome.
The Gooner Republic expects every man to do his duty!
Keep the faith!