Arsenal urged to consider banning season tickets of fans who fail to show up
Arsenal will be urged at Monday's annual meeting to address the issue of empty seats at the Emirates and consider rescinding the season tickets of fans who regularly fail to use their seat.
Freedom of information requests over the past two years have exposed how thousands of tickets each season are bought but not then actually used by the buyer or even made available via the club ticket exchange to those other supporters who would be desperate to see a game.
Despite the official sell-out attendance for Wednesday’s night Champions League win against Ludogorets of 59,944, it appeared that several thousand supporters had not turned up even after paying for their ticket. It is consistent with previous statistics.
For example, it was revealed in 2014 that the Metropolitan Police’s official average gate attendance at the Emirates in the previous season was 53,788. That was nearly 6,000 lower than the officials numbers, although this did not include those fans who entered through stadium car parks. Even then, the actual estimate was that around 4,000 tickets went unused in each game. The problem is understood to be less acute in the Premier League than some of the early Champions League fixtures, although a Freedom of Information request last season also showed a shortfall of around 1,000 per league game.
The board will be asked to consider this issue at the AGM and encouraged to implement both incentives and potential sanctions for ticket holders. Fans also believe that a more accessible digital system could be created to facilitate re-sales and the deadline for buying tickets could be extended.
The concern is that there are groups of super-rich corporate fans who buy a season ticket each year to be sure of seeing the very highest profile matches but are not then interested during the rest of the season. Arsenal have a huge waiting list for season tickets.
“It’s disappointing to see so many empty seats at ‘sold-out’ matches when the demand is clearly there,” said Tim Payton, spokesman for the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust. “If someone is only using the ticket a few times a year then they should be warned and after that they should lose their priority for the next season. It is a win-win to get this sorted. More people on a match-day means new fans and extra revenue in other areas but, crucially, it would also improve the atmosphere and benefit the team.
“If Arsenal are concerned only with making money then the board won’t be bothered how many ticket holders actually attend. If they’re interested in the atmosphere within the ground and in encouraging the next generation of young fans to become regulars then this issue should be a major concern.”
Some German clubs rescind season tickets if they are regularly unused and, while the situation at Arsenal has been particularly highlighted, all Premier League clubs face this issue to differing degrees.
As well as ticketing, the Arsenal board will be asked about safe standing and whether they support the introduction of the sort of rail seating that has been used at Celtic Park and in Germany. The issue of new contracts for key players, notably Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez and Héctor Bellerín will also be raised, as will Arsène Wenger’s own future.
The atmosphere of the meeting, however, is expected to be far less tense than in previous seasons. This is down to an encouraging start to the season and a sense that Arsenal’s board have listened over previous controversies, notably that the company of majority owner Stan Kroenke did not this year receive a fee for “services” provided and that season-ticket prices have been frozen until 2019 and away ticket prices have been lowered.