I became a Junior Gunner in 1995. I was 11. I did not come from a big footballing family. At the time, my mum would have said she was a West Ham fan (even though she was bought up in Finsbury Park) and my dad was more interested in The Tour de France. For my 11th birthday, I got bought a junior Gunner membership and tickets to Arsenal v Aston Villa. Arsenal won 2-0. From that day on I was hooked to going to games.
Every year I went to more games than the last. I moved from Junior Gunner to Cannon Club when I hit 17. I remained at Cannon Club until I was 19 and then automatically became a silver member. That was 12 years ago.
Recently the club have quietly changed their rules on this.
Many think this change is unfair, others think it is just. Here are some of the arguments for and against…
One of the biggest issues is that they destroyed records of how long people had been members when we moved to the new stadium.
This means that everyone who was a member in 2006 has the same joining date.
Where this becomes highly unfair is you could have a Cannon Club member who has turned 18 now, who became a Junior Gunner at 3 years old (15 years ago) and their first 5 years get ignored. Written off. All because someone decided to destroy the records.
The Junior Gunners are the life blood of the club, they are the future.
18 is a crucial age. Drink, clubs and girls come into someone lives.
Previously to being 18, you could have a teenager who has not missed a game for many a year. They turn 18, and are ‘downgraded’ to a red membership. They no longer get priority on tickets. No longer go to as many games. And as other distractions come in, holidays in Magaluf to pay for, their interest in Arsenal dwindles. Until they stop going altogether. Arsenal are alienating their future.
The average age of match going fans in the Premier League is 41. Arsenal’s is higher than this. And going up.
By alienating the youth, both through expensive ticket prices and lack of availability of tickets, you are risking the clubs future. There will become a point a few years down the line where those who currently go week in week out are dead. And due to a whole generation of Arsenal fans being disregarded for the club, there is no one to take up the tickets. Resulting in even more being sold to corporations.
The youngsters at Arsenal are the future. They often make the noise. They go up and down the country. Turning round to them at 18 and saying they can no longer get priority for home games is simply wrong. They could have been going to every single game since they were 8. It is not “thanks for your support” but a big two fingers up at them.
Rather than blaming the stance or touts, Arsenal should do more to tackle the memberships clearly being used for touting. Investigate those who have more than one membership – I hear of plenty of people who have a season ticket, and numerous silver memberships they rarely use or loan out.
Remove the silver members who hold a membership who rarely go, or never go. It might be unfair, but these are taking up a spot on the silver membership list that could go to someone who go’s regular, go’s week in week out.
I wonder how many silvers are owned by companies. That only get used for Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool & Manchester United.
It is these types of members that the club should be punishing, downgrading to red, not the loyal, regular youngsters.
Maybe they should just get rid of silver and red memberships altogether and introduce a home points system that is similar to the away system? The more you go, the more you can go in the future.
What the club say is completely right and fair.
There are only a limited number of silver members. You can not have every year Cannon Club members joining the silver membership automatically. This will create 2 problems
1) The silver membership will become oversubscribed
2) It is unfair on red members
The first point is self explanatory, but the second point needs expanding.
How is it fair that a Cannon Club member automatically gets a silver membership, over and above someone who is a red member who might have been a red member for a longer duration than the Cannon Club member.
Also, if the silver membership is limited, and Cannon Club members get priority over red members, you end up in a scenario where every year places come up on the silver membership, they are filled by Cannon Club members, and as a result the red membership never moves.
It is fair that if you join the club as a red member on the same day as someone who joins the club as a Junior Gunner, you both sit at the same place on the silver membership waiting list.
Whilst the club mentions ‘touts’ as a problem, I also know normal fans who have signed younger sisters and brothers up as Junior Gunners and then use their tickets. And then once the progressed from Cannon Club, they would upgrade to silver and have previously skipped the list.
Treating all Junior Gunners and red members equally is the correct thing to do.
Like with anything that happens in life, there are winners and losers. Everytime the government releases a budget, some pay a little extra, some pay a little less. You can not please all the people all the time. So what do you think?