When the Gay Gooners discriminated against older fans of Arsenal Football Club in their misguided tweet about the away scheme needing scrapping because every fan on it was old, didn’t go anymore, and was a tout, it glossed over what was a valid point.
The valid point is not that the away scheme is the problem, or older fans, but the issue with the way Arsenal currently allocate credits for away games, meaning games very rarely go down to 10 credits anymore, let alone general sale.
Recently, friends of mine who site between 30-35 credits missed out on Burnley away. The game was sold out at 35+ credits. A crazy amount for a Sunday fixtures with horrid trains to a horrid town to play a horrid team.
The discussion with my mates then turned to Why did Burnley sell out so quickly? And soon included the comments by the Gay Gooners.
We quickly disregarded the Gay Gooners point, as it is not down to away scheme members as there numbers are capped and have been unchanged for years. They are unable to return tickets to the club, meaning that they do not affect what games sell out at.
Whilst the rubbish they tweeted was disregarded, it did lead to the discussion.
So why did Burnley sell out so quickly?
A lack of crap away days
The key reason for games now selling out so quickly is the lack of crap aways these days.
Back 5 years ago, you used to have half a dozen games go down to 0 credits. The likes of Wigan, Blackburn, Sunderland and Bolton. All these 4 have since gone down. You then had the likes of Stoke City and Swansea City.
All 6 of these sides were in the Premier League in the 2011/12 season.
This meant not only where there games that people with more credits decided not to go too, there were also more games that people with lesser credits could go too.
Let me paint a scenario:
I have 10 apples, 10 people want an apple. Everyone gets one.
Next week, I only have 5 apples. 10 people still want an apple. 5 people leave unhappy.
This week I have 1 apple. 10 people want an apple. 9 leave unhappy.
That is the situation we are now in. There are less tickets coming available due to less crap games being played. Therefore there are less tickets filtering down the chain to those with less credits, meaning less of an opportunity to build the credits up.
Let’s go back to 2011/12 and compare the league to this season. 11 sides are still in the Premier League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Stoke City, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur & West Bromwich Albion.
The 11 teams to have dropped out are: Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham, Norwich City, Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland, Wigan Athletic & Wolverhampton Wanderers.
These have been replaced by: AFC Bournemouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield Town, Leicester City, Southampton, Watford, West Ham United.
Now let us do a bit more analysis on these. You can pair the following clubs as being similar in terms of journey:
Aston Villa / Leicester City
Fulham / Watford
Queens Park Rangers / West Ham
Wigan Athletic / Burnley
We have then lost and gained the following:
So we have lost 5 sides with rubbish journeys and replaced them with a London game, 3 South-Coast games and a new ground.
The likes of Brighton, Huddersfield, Crystal Palace and Southampton, the majority of fans with plenty of credits will go too. The likes of Bolton, Blackburn, Sunderland and Wolves, they would probably turn down.
What this then means is the likes of Burnley away, more fans are interested because more fans have missed out on other games.
Then you have the actual allocation for these games.
Whilst Burnley and Wigan are fairly similar to travel too, Arsenal used to get 4,800 for Wigan. Burnley meanwhile give Arsenal 2,400. 50%. That is 2,400 fans who could have gone to Wigan away will not go to Burnley away.
Another one is Fulham. They infamously have a neutral area next to the away fans in the Putney End. When Arsenal visit, we get the entire stand. This is around 7,200 seats. For Watford it is just 2,200.
Just two games looked at an Arsenal already get 7,400 less tickets. That has a kick on affect that other games become more in demand.
So how many away tickets less are Arsenal due to get this season in comparison to 2011/12?
My calculations are that we have 10,000 less away tickets now than 5 years ago.
Even if these figures are a little bit out, that is still a big difference between available tickets now, and available tickets 5 years ago.
The primary reason tickets for all games sell out these days is there are less crap away games and less away tickets available, therefore increasing the demand for what is left.
When it came to the cups, the increase allocation for away fans would mean that the Champios League, FA Cup and League Cup were ideal opportunities to go to an away game and increase your credits.
For those that do not know, your credits are built over the last 2 season and the current season.
So if you want to 5 games in 2015/16, 3 in 2016/17 and 1 this year, you will have 9 credits. Cup games over the last 2 seasons are a brilliant opportunity to jump up a level or two. With 10+ domestic cup ties a season, over the 2 previous seasons, you can easily jump up a couple of bands by doing the cup games.
As long as Arsenal are drawn away.
And that is the problem in recent years, we have not been drawn away that often.
In the last 2 seasons, plus this season, we have played 15 domestic cup games (excluding visits to Wembley).
9 of those cup games have been at home.
Of the 6 away, One was at Sutton where we got just 700 tickets, one at Spurs which is, well Spurs. That leaves Hull City, Nottingham Forest, Preston North End, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday as realistic opportunities for people under 20 credits to gain more credits in cup games.
Just 5 games…
It makes a big difference.
The increased demand causing tickets to sell out at higher credit levels then causes people to hoard credits. To buy tickets for games they have no intention of going to, to gain the credit for future games.
Games such as Burnley, I know people who have bought at 35+, just to ensure that they maintain their current credit level for the games that sell out at 40+. The likes of Spurs, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Watford.
I know people with 35+ who missed out on Watford. Missing out on this fixture has made them worried. Made them buy tickets to Burnley just to increase their own credit count.
Now whilst this is not correct, or fair, it is cause and affect.
The higher credits tickets sell out at, the more credits people need, the more they buy tickets for games just for the credit. It all snowballs.
This leads to the £26 ticket.
I was very disappointed that after all the fighting the Football Supporters Federation and many supporters clubs have done with Twenty’s Plenty, that the Gay Gooners solution to the current ticketing crisis was to increase tickets prices to decrease demand. No wonder so many dislike them.
But the £26 ticket price is a problem. If Burnley away was £50, it is unlikely people would buy tickets in the hope of selling on, as they would not want to be stuck with them.
At half that price, they are not only more comfortable taking a hit but know a lot more fans are more likely to buy off them.
The £26 tickets have made things better for fans that go to games, but also increased the demand for tickets.
Prices should not increase, but cheaper tickets are part of the problem.
These leads me on to the last reason tickets are selling out quicker. Twitter, Facebook, Social Media in general.
Back 10 years ago, you would not dream of buying a ticket for the credit to sell on (unless we got a horrible Eastern European side away where ticket prices were 50p).
The increased demand for credits, and the cheaper tickets means more people than ever are buying to sell on. And it has never been easier to do this with social media.
Back in the day, if you could not go to a game, you would have to hope to sell to a mate, or a mate of a mate, or someone at work.
These days, you put a post up on Twitter or Facebook, and you will have a buyer within 10 minutes. There is little to no risk in buying a ticket to then sell on.
This then filters back up the chain as more and more people are buying £26 tickets, to hoard credits, enabling themselves to go to better games that require a higher volume of credits.
There is a clear problem in the distribution of tickets for away games. I have merely highlighted what, in my opinion, has created the problem.
Not all the issues are due to fans buying credits to sell. In fact the biggest issue is that there are less away tickets on sale, and less crap games that people do not want to go too.
There is no clear solution, as whatever the solution will put someone out. That is perhaps a blog for another day.