Tim Payton explains how Arsenal could make the allocation of Cup Final tickets even fairer and also get more people supporting Arsenal at the Emirates
It didn’t take take long for the euphoria (and nervous anxiety) of watching this Arsenal team make the FA Cup final to subside to the frantic concern of how to get hold of a ticket for May 17th . A worry exacerbated by the fact that Arsenal had a record number of fans ever attend an FA Cup Semi final – approximately 55,000 – who would all love to walk up Wembley Way again.
This is Arsenal’s first FA Cup final since moving to the Emirates and this brings a new conundrum.
At Highbury there were only 20,000 Season Ticket holders. Enough for everyone to have a ticket even given the meagre allocation from the FA.
At the Emirates there are 44,000 Season ticket holders including Box and Club level. Clearly something has to give. What are the Club to do?
Well firstly lets give credit to Ivan Gazidis for speaking out on this issue already and challenging the FA’s allocation arrangements.
To give just 50,000 tickets to the two competing Clubs shows a disregard to fans who have followed their team all the way to the final. The FA was happy to take money from Arsenal fans at the semi-final stage but now it’s the final those same fans are being turned away in favour of corporate sales and football insiders. Many of these tickets will only make their way onto the black market.
Ivan Gazidis sits on high powered FA Committees, I urge him to keep an ongoing interest in this issue and work inside corridors of power at the FA to get this corrected in future years so fans don’t continue to miss out or get stung by touts.
We must also hope that other Clubs take the same leadership role that Arsenal have in recent years and hand back the tickets they are given so that more real fans can go.
But for now Arsenal have to decide how to allocate the 25,000 tickets they have been given. No system is perfect and whatever the Club do can’t keep everyone happy. There will be winners and losers.
Rightly in my opinion, Arsenal reward fan loyalty by allocating priority for Cup Final tickets to those who have a Season Ticket and attend the most matches over recent seasons. The snag to this is at present they only keep a record of Away attendance, using the credit system.
In a perfect world, they would also introduce home credits, recording how many times Platinum, Gold, Silver and Red members attended games at the Emirates.
Not only would this system make it easier to reward loyalty, but it would encourage those who don’t always come to games to put their ticket back into the Exchange giving more fans a chance to watch Arsenal. And we know that the fuller the stadium is the more the atmosphere and noise builds and how advantageous this can be to the team.
For this system to work, home credits would be awarded on the seat being used for each game and/or the placing of the ticket into the Ticket Exchange (not necessarily whether it is then sold on which is outside the control of the ticket owner).
Of course this solution isn’t perfect as one person might use their season ticket 28 times and the other season ticket might be used by 28 different people. But it is as fair as you can be until the day we introduce face recognition or fingerprint entry – and that’s a debate for another day!
So what do Arsenal say about this suggestion? In recent discussions they have been sympathetic to the case and say it is under review. The next step is for the Club to make a final decision to invest in better ticketing technology and an upgrading of the ticket exchange so they can make it happen.
Hopefully the debate this year’s FA Cup Final has created will convince them to push ahead, and there will be many more Cup Final appearances by Arsenal and we can look forward to less empty seats at the Emirates and an even better way of allocating those tickets.
This article is written in a personal capacity.
Tim Payton is a Board Member of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, which seeks to facilitate wider supporter involvement in the club and promotes mutual supporter ownership of Arsenal through the Arsenal Fanshare scheme.