Tonight’s game has not sold out. Even before the Beast from the East came in, it was not going to sell out. Despite what the “official” attendance is – which we all know is actually “tickets sold”, the actual attendance could be the clubs lowest in history.
Already this season, we have (unofficially) seen less than 30,000 turn up for a Europa League game against BATE Borisov, and the back-end of last season around 45,000 turn up for the Premier League game against Sunderland.
I would not be too surprised to see tonight’s “through the gates” figure dip under the 20,000 mark.
Back at the beginning of the 1992/93 season, 20,796 turned up to watch Arsenal v Oldham Athletic. At the time, the North Bank was being rebuilt so capacity was restricted.
The weather is bad, and will have a huge effect, but the reality is the game was not selling out anyway. There are a variety of issues that all go into the melting pot:
Apathy – Arsenal fans are fed up. Some would have already been planning not to go today before the weather and the last weekends game. They would have been looking to put their ticket on the ticket exchange prior to even the fixture change. Some fans have already thrown the towel in on this season, and probably will not be back until next season.
Then add in Sunday’s defeat. I wonder how many hundreds – or even thousands – woke up on Monday morning, logged on to arsenal.com to post their ticket up on the ticket exchange, only to find the game had not even sold out.
Arsenal fans are frustrated, and we have seen that throughout the season, with their being plenty of empty seats at the Emirates Stadium, even for an afternoon kick off on a Saturday.
Ticket Prices – When it came to general sale, the lowest prices were £64 due to it being Cat A. The most expensive price was £95.50. The ticket prices often leads fans to playing poker with the club.
The ticket exchange only opens when the game is sold out. This leaves fans with a choice, buy at £95.50, or wait for the ticket exchange to open in the hope of getting one at £64. Often the most expensive tickets take a while to sell out as many wait for the ticket exchange to open.
With the game changed to a Thursday night, it means even fewer people were interested in the high-priced tickets, and therefore fewer tickets being made available at the lower end due to ticket exchange note opening.
Late Scheduling – The match was originally scheduled for last weekend. This would have sold out.It was then moved to today, but that even had a caveat.
Had Manchester City draw against Wigan, they would have had an FA Cup replay. They would have been held yesterday, meaning that the Premier League game would need to be rescheduled once more.
The fixture was only set in stone on Monday 19th February. That was 10 days ago. The late scheduling meant that the Arsenal fans that come from far and away – both within the UK and abroad – were unable to make arrangements in terms of trains, hotels and annual leave, unless they paid through the noise for it.
Thursday – And the game was rescheduled for a Thursday.
We as fans might be used to mid-week games, but prior to this season, we had barely played on a Thursday. It is not a great day for football games.
Ticket Exchange – The Ticket Exchange is brilliant. It allows fans who have season tickets that are unable to go to sell their tickets on. But it only opens once the game has sold out.
Due to fans apathy, due to ticket prices, and due to a late change on the Thursday, this has meant the game has not sold out. Which means that those fans who can not make mid-week games, and usually sell them regardless of opponents or apathy, have been unable to sell their tickets on.
Thousands sell their tickets on the Ticket Exchange for every mid-week game. The 4 chaps in front of me travel from Devon and Birmingham. They can not do mid-week. The 4 next to me travel from Reading and Basingstoke. They are often missing for mid-week games as well.
Nothing to do with being fed up with the club, and all to do with logistics. They can not get home from many mid-week games (or are unwilling to get home at midnight with work the next day).
With the Ticket Exchange not opening, these few thousand fans have not been able to sell on their tickets, meaning their seats add to the emptiness.
The Weather – There would have been many who, despite the apathy and the late scheduling, would have still been going to the game. But with the weather over the last 24 hours in London, many of those will be staying away.
It is cold, it is snowing, the wind cuts straight through you. It is not the type of weather you want to be standing (or sitting) in an open air arena watching football. I wonder how many are now staying at home because they would rather be in front of a fire, under a warm blanket, with a cup of tea and a bowl of stew?
Yesterday, thousands could not get to work due to the weather. Today thousands can not get to The Arsenal due to the weather.
Trains – And due to the weather, some train companies are considering running a reduced service from 10pm onwards. Even for fans who live fairly local, on the outskirts of London – the likes of Loughton, Gillingham, Chelmsford and Romford – will now potentially struggle to get home.
Way take the risk on going to the game if at 5pm this evening the train companies decide to run a reduced service?
You put all of these reasons in a pot, and we could see less than 20,000 people turn up. The only ones are local fans who can walk to the game, or live on Underground lines such as the Victoria Line which is unaffected by the weather.
Last night for Tottenham v Rochdale, a little over 20,000 turned up – and a quarter of them were Rochdale fans.
The best bet is for Arsenal to call the game off. Reschedule it for two weeks; the weekend of the 16/17th March as we are now both out of the FA Cup. A sunny spring afternoon.
I am looking forward to my tea and stew tonight.