Monday, 5 November 2012

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Footie Footie Footie. Ball Ball Ball.

Some of you may know that I also have an alternative platform for ranting and spleen venting. I've been a writer for The Gooner for the last 22 seasons.

This is a treatment for an article which may or may not appear in its pages aimed at an Arsenal supporting readership. However, it seemed that many of the themes were applicable to a non-partisan audience so I've tweaked it to be a little more circumspect.

[Update: Published on the Online Gooner website] 

Spurs Release Commemorative Video
The League Cup match against Reading threw up a whole host of questions about Arsenal's away ticket policies and those of our opponents.

FA and competition guidelines stipulate that 15% of tickets should be made available to away fans. In this respect Reading came in above this figure. The South Stand seats 4,350. This is 18% of capacity. So far so good.

Except, if tweets to the football correspondent of the Reading Post are anything to go by, Reading fans were unhappy at the number of Gooners amongst them.

Now I suspect if the match had finished 4-0 there would have been precious few complaints, but the following day Reading fans expressed concern and some outrage that Arsenal fans had tickets for the home areas of the ground. Some even going as far to say it could have ended in Chelsea like trouble.

To be fair to Reading, their home games this season have to all intents and purposes been sold out. However, if you look back to a previous League Cup round against Peterborough the attendance was 7,262. Arsenal away tickets sold out in just over an hour to away scheme members and those with enough away 'points'. I know I tried to get one. Not a hope in hell. Yet, home tickets were on sale right up until the day before the match to home fans. I could easily have gone if I had wanted to.

In fact, this is a text exchange I had with a Reading supporter pre-match:

 "Going to the match tonight?"
"No. Tickets in the Arsenal end sold out."
"Don't want to mix with our fans?"

So, on the one hand Arsenal fans are being attacked by Reading fans for buying tickets and on the other for not buying tickets!

At heart, there were two problems.

1)    A mismatch between away ticket availability and demand
2)    The Arsenal away points scheme.

Availability is a difficult one to address. Clearly Arsenal had the whole of the South Stand, but could probably have sold double their allocation.

The second problem is more of Arsenal's making – the unintended consequences of the away points scheme.

On the face of it, rewarding frequent attendees at away matches with priority to buy away tickets and attend cup finals seems fair. instead what happens is a self-perpetuating situation were people buy away ticket with "their" points to keep their away credits topped up, then sell their tickets to people desperate to go, who will never be able to buy away tickets in their own right because they never have enough away points. The perfect vicious circle.

The only way to solve this would be to ensure that every away ticket is used by the person purchasing it. This however would require an enormous amount of co-operation with the away club, who quite reasonably, once they have flogged the ticket are less inclined to worry about it.

Which then leaves the ordinary fan in a dilemma. Should you buy tickets for the home end or forgo the match?

My first Arsenal game was in the Milton Stand at Fratton Park. My friend Neil insisted on shouting “Quinn, you donkey” throughout, which thankfully Pompey fans mistook for questioning the abilities of Mickey rather than Niall. I’ve been in the home end at Leicester, Derby and also Southampton for Ian Wright’s debut hat-trick.

Taking your non-supporting mate or family member to a game is one of the joys of footie... although I don’t think my nephew thanks me for Arsenal v Pompey at Highbury.

Under current circumstances, it is a fact of life. A sale is a sale and 99% of people are there to watch football.

The answer is simple. Show some respect. If you wear colours expect to be shown the door and don't complain about it.

But on the other hand, segregation of fans is historically a recent phenomenon. Chill out. We’re all not Chelsea fans!