Cesc – A Vow Of Silence/Season Ticket Renewals

The Cesc Fàbregas affair rumbles on, as did the transfers of Nicolas Anelka and Patrick Vieira before him. All agony for the Gooner Nation. I have nothing further intelligent or new to contribute so I won’t. I’m taking a vow of silence until we have some firm new information. Transfer speculation drives me mad at the best of times. I want to put my head out of the window and scream at the moment.
I took the money out of the Britannia this week to pay into my current account for my season ticket. Over the past five seasons I’ve disciplined myself to save monthly for my following season’s ticket by standing order into a savings account. Like many people during the recession I’m now even more wedded to having no debt at all. I’ve paid off all I owed and won’t take on any more. Whilst the very worst of the recession appears to be over I’m not counting on it. The only thing I need less than being on the dole at 54 years old is to be on the dole at 54 years old with debts hanging over my head.
I looked at the cheque for £1,762 – the cost of my ticket less a £63 “refund” for the unused cup credit from last season. It is a LOT of money. For the first time since I became a season ticket holder on the old standing North Bank three decades ago in 1980/81 (the first season for which season tickets were sold for the terraces) I’m seriously mulling over whether to renew.
The Cesc saga isn’t the reason. It’s just a huge amount of money for me, about three weeks’ net pay. That’s like Cesc paying about £200,000 for a season ticket in terms of net pay. Being single with no kids I only have myself to support. I really don’t know how Gooners with family responsibilities cope. My mate who I sit with has four children. Three teenage boys, one about to go to university with the other two likely to follow him and a young baby girl. He runs a successful small business. He’s seriously contemplating whether to renew.
As our seats are in the highest category of general admission we didn’t suffer the rise that all other categories of general admission season tickets did in 2007/8. The only prices that weren’t increased that season were ours and the highest level in Club which had to be purchased for a minimum period of four seasons. All of us who have season tickets in the highest category of general admission haven’t seen a price rise since 2004/5. Next season will be sixth season in which our tickets haven’t been increased in price. All others aside from the highest level of Club season ticket holders have experienced only one increase in that time. Let’s be thankful for small mercies I suppose.
Yet I still feel my ticket is well, well overpriced. At Highbury it was very expensive but I could just about justify it to myself as my one big annual luxury purchase. My seat was adjacent to the directors’ box in the East Stand eight rows from the front. A fantastic view. The equivalent at the Grove would be centre-block Club. I couldn’t afford £19,000 for four seasons even if I wanted to.
I’m now fourteen rows from the front of the upper tier in Block 112 at the Grove. A decent view but nothing like that I enjoyed at Highbury. I’m paying the same for a substantially inferior view. True, prices have risen since 2004/5 but not massively. One of the factors that make me think very seriously about renewing is the change in what being a senior shareholder and/or club director means at Arsenal.
David Dein kicked it all off by trying to “bounce” the rest of the board into selling the club to Stan Kroenke. His view was that Arsenal needed its very own sugar daddy to compete with the Abramovich billions. Football in this country has always had sugar daddies. Up until the cable/satellite/digital revolution which unlocked the possibility of subscription television you had to be wealthy but not uber-wealthy to own and fund a football club. You now need to be a billionaire. That restricts the number of people capable of funding a club to a handful around the world.
I’d have been far more impressed with Dein’s ideas if he had been prepared to take a very small price for his shares in return for the new owner pumping his millions directly into the club’s bottom line. As it happened the rest of the board “bounced” Dein rather than the other way around. Dein then sold out to Alisher Usmanov, trousering £75 million in the process (on top of the profits he’d already made on his original £292,000 investment in the club by selling shares to his then friend Danny Fiszman). What Dein had argued was best for Arsenal turned out to be VERY good for him. Not a penny of that £75 million has benefitted Arsenal. Dein also drew a handsome salary and bonuses from the club during his time as executive vice-chairman.
I honestly believe that Dein is a Gooner. I think he allowed his ego to tell him that what was good for him was good for Arsenal. Dein is an intelligent man with good contacts in the football world. He has a gift for getting on with people. I don’t think the England World Cup Bid Board has used his talents as well or as extensively as they should, at least from what I know.
We know that Stan Kroenke is a businessman. His pluses are a record of long-term investment in sport including football in the USA. The minus is that his true sporting love is known to be basketball. He has no attachment to the history and traditions of Arsenal at all.
Alisher Usmanov has never had any involvement or attachment to Arsenal prior to buying into the club. He has baggage which deeply worries me. Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith has demonstrated that she cares about extracting every last penny from the sale of her shares, a windfall acquired by marriage for which neither she nor her husband paid a single copper. She appears to have little or no interest in finding the right person to maintain the Bracewell-Smith family’s proud multi-generational custodianship of Arsenal.
Which leaves Danny Fiszman. From all we’ve seen Danny seems to worry about Danny first and last. I may be doing the man a gross injustice but I think he’ll do what in his best interests rather than Arsenal’s if push comes to shove. He doesn’t live in Switzerland, lovely country that it is, for the views.
All of this leaves me wondering if I should renew my season ticket. I’ve got ten days to make up my mind. Something I never considered at all in the drought seasons of 1980/81-1985/6. The thought of not renewing never even crossed my mind.
By the way my refund of the unused cup tie credit doesn’t amount to one category B match ticket for my seat which is £66, never mind a category A match which would be £94. In the past the club always calculated the refund payable by using 1/26th of the cost of the season ticket for each unsused cup credit.
This would be £70.19. I know the sums are small but nevertheless symbolic. I’ve taken this up with the club. Needless to say I’m still waiting for an acknowledgement, never mind an answer.
Let’s be clear. I’m a Gooner. I always will be. I just don’t know whether I’m inclined to make rich people even richer anymore. I’m no Luddite, but the game seems to have lost so much of its soul and connection to its life-blood, the supporters in the last decades. Don’t get me wrong, supporters have never been truly valued, but at least we weren’t systematically fleeced for every last penny as we are now.
I’m under no illusions. I don’t imagine for a moment Arsenal cares whether I renew or not, somebody will in all probability take my place as a season ticket holder. I don’t expect to be coddled and told how wonderful I am. I’m not a diva. I do expect to be treated with respect and to have the annual investment I make in the club via my season ticket, a LOT of money for me, valued. I don’t think it is really. Lip service is paid, but really I’m just a source of income. That makes me very sad after over 42 years loyal support. As a friend of mine crudely but graphically puts it, I prefer to be kissed when I’m being screwed.
If Arsenal and the game generally carry on the way they are then an increasing number of fans are going to turn up in fancy dress, disguised as empty seats. My doubts about renewing have little to do with our lack of success on the field over the past five seasons. Of course I’d be less inclined to think the way I am if I was still in the warm afterglow of a League, FA Cup or Champions League triumph. I would still wonder whether I want to contribute to making rich people even richer if we had won a trophy or trophies this season though. I’m quite content to copper up to fund a good team and manager. I’m less inclined to line the pockets of people whose interest in Arsenal is principally what they might get out of it.
Keep the faith!

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