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The Failure To Give Arsenal Credit Just Makes The Critics Look Childish

It is strange, although in many respects it is just a confirmation of what we already know. Find a story that can be given an anti-Arsenal twist, and it gets maximum publicity. All the papers, the BBC, and of course those black scarf people who claim to be Arsenal supporters but spend all their time talking about getting “their” Arsenal back, they jump on the bandwagon.

But find a story which whatever way you look at it has a positive Arsenal slant, and no one will touch it with a barge pole.

Want to find someone willing to talk positively about the phenomenal bit of business Arsenal did with Malaga last season over Santi Cazorla and Monreal? Well apart from the regular couple of pro-Wengerian blogs, no chance.

Instead that story is ignored and the search is on for the next anti-Arsenal story.

You’ll remember beyond any doubt the fuss that was made because Manchester City fans were asked to spend the same amount as Arsenal fans for tickets for the AFC v Man City game. Man City fans didn’t fancy it, so the tickets were handed back, only to be snapped up within a day by Arsenal fans anxious to get to the game.

You’ll have heard the first part of the story – but not the bit about Arsenal fans buying up all the spare tickets in double quick time. That’s pro-Arsenal. That’s not news.

Now there’s another story that could be used to show Arsenal in a positive way – but don’t hold your breath. The only place you are going to read this is here.

Bournemouth – a football club commonly associated with the lower leagues – have somehow managed to get themselves a friendly with Real Madrid on 21 July. And the headline is that the prices are £60, (£55 for season ticket holders). Half price for the kids.

So the uproar begins, and for a short while Bournemouth (for many years known by the quainter name of Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic – which makes sense since they actually play in Boscombe not Bournemouth) is in the news.

Comparisons are made with prices in the Spanish League – where you can see an actual league match for less than this friendly.

And yes you can see League games in Spain for less – in a league which is a two horse race, and in a country where Real Madrid are under investigation as a club that is involved in what seems to be a highly dubious land deal involving the city authority. With the sort of help that Real Madrid seem to have been getting from their city, Bournemouth could afford to pay people to come and watch them.

But such matters are a little complicated. They smack of politics. And foreign things. Not really what we want to cover in British newspapers.

What is not widely mentioned is that this will be the one and only chance for many people to see Real Madrid in real life rather than on Sky. £60 for a one off isn’t that much. Major shows in the West End cost more. So do concerts involving top pop and rock stars. Indeed last time I saw Bob Dylan playing in Bournemouth the ticket cost me much the same price. Real Madrid, Bob Dylan. Take your choice. But the price is the same.

So what does this have to do with Arsenal?

Well, if you would like to take in the Arsenal, playing a pre-season game, and indeed another game as well, just for fun, you can in the Emirates Cup matches in Arsenal’s regular start to the season. (Regular except for last season when the non-tax-paying Olympic organisers said that we must not hold it, and sadly our government gave in to the non-tax paying pressure).

The price for two games at the Emirates ranges from £12 to £39. £39 is the top price for a seat at club level. £12 is for the cheaper seats for concessions. And yes Arsenal is giving concessions to the older fans and children as per normal for the Emirates Cup. But don’t tell anyone. It spoils the anti-Arsenal argument.

So is this debate in the newspapers, or the blogs? Well, no. It isn’t. We hear a lot about Man City, but not this friendly. Nor indeed the fact that season ticket holders have in recent seasons been able to watch Arsenal play the likes of Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Barcelona (twice)… all as part of their season ticket.

So, no, we have not heard any of this. Instead we have heard about one of the Black Scarf “fans” talking about how he challenged Richard Scudamore on the issue of prices talking about how “so many fans” have been “priced out of football”.

And the evidence?

Well, who needs evidence when there is a chance to make an emotive point? “Priced out of football”. Let’s say it enough and eventually it becomes true. Well more or less.

In the season 1957/8, the basic price for entry to Arsenal (standing behind the goals) was 2/6 (or two shillings and sixpence to spell it out). There was no discount for children or the elderly. 2/6 was the price, take it or leave it. There were complaints. Outrageous – not least because Arsenal had not won anything in years. Except that was the price and those of us old enough to remember, remember our dads paying up.

My point is – Arsenal has always been an expensive club when compared to some northern teams, but it also has had a habit of running the occasional bargain – like the Emirates cup. “Priced out,” no. “Gentrification of football” – oh don’t make me laugh.

The gentry don’t sing songs like “Fergie’s rent boy”. They don’t use disparaging anti-semitic words to describe members of the Tottenham Hotspur fraternity. Gentrification indeed.

Anyway, the word on the street is that the Premier League is getting worried about away ticket pricing. Quite possibly because the League has been made up of people totally out of touch with reality for so many years they didn’t even realise we had away support.

Yes there is a bit of a decline in away support and I’ll tell you why I am going to fewer away matches now. First, because some of them are on at 5.30pm on a saturday, and getting home from places like Newcastle when leaving at 8pm on a Saturday evening is not how I want to spend the best bit of my weekend.

What’s more, why should I travel away, when the games are on TV?

And this really is the point. The games are on TV. That makes the Premier League lots of money. Lots and lots of money. And they don’t want that to stop. So we’d better find someone else to blame. Hey, I know. Let’s blame the clubs.

But really this is nonsense. The Black Scarf might seize on such half baked semi-arguments, but we are not all so cynical, so silly, so simplistic and so onetrack. Even if matches were not on TV we’d still think twice because of the timing, the lack of trains and the cost of petrol.

If the Premier League has made a mistake it is in thinking that despite televising matches and putting them on at crazy times, we’d still all go to away games like we did thirty years ago. Some of us do, some of the time. But sometimes, watching the game on TV and then going out to a party, or having an evening in with the Mrs is a better deal.

You want me back in those awful seats you reserve for us in away matches? Play the game at 3pm on a Saturday. Then I go. Oh and give Arsenal credit for including Champions League games in its season ticket prices. That would help too.

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