Like the majority of clubs across England, The Arsenal have yet to announce season ticket renewals for a campaign that begins this weekend with the traditional Community Shield opener.
All clubs are awaiting answers from the government as to what restrictions will need to be in place.
These range from:
- Reduced capacity to allow social distancing
- No food and drink to be sold to limit queuing and time spent on the concourse
- Fixed entry times to reduce crowding outside for the 14:55 rush
- Restrictions on standing and singing
Once clubs have the advice, they can then begin the process of designing their own criteria and measures for the forthcoming season.
So what should Arsenal do?
Season ticket opt-out
With stadiums likely to be at limited capacity, the first thing clubs should do is offer fans the opportunity to opt-out for the season.
This will allow them to freeze their season ticket for the year without losing it for the next season.
Allowing fans to opt-out will mean season ticket holders who are vulnerable and those who are just not comfortable going to games are not punished.
It also means that those fans who have been made redundant during COVID19 do not feel the pressure to get into debt renewing their season ticket.
The advantage for Arsenal is it reduces how many fans have a season ticket when it comes to allocating tickets with lower capacity.
Arsenal have approximately 42,000 season ticket holders in a ground that holds just over 60,000. If grounds are only able to open with 1/3 capacity, that would be around 20,000 seats to be split between executive boxes, club level, gold, silver, purple, red, Junior Gunners and family enclosure members.
If every season ticket was renewed, it would be fans going to every other game.
But if 10,000 people took the option to opt-out, than those fans happy going would then get tickets for approximately 2 in every 3 games.
But what about silver, red, purple, Junior Gunners and family enclosure members?
Under normal circumstances, silver, red, etc members would be entitled to buy any remaining tickets after season ticket holders, away allocation and sponsors and cooperate tickets have been handed out.
Under full capacity, this usually breaks down to approximately:
- 4,000 silver members (6% of all tickets)
- 3,000 Junior Gunners (5%)
- 2,000 red members (3%)
Allocations can vary slightly if the visiting team do not take their full allocation.
These ratios should be kept in place under restrictions.
So if 20,000 fans can attend games, 1,200 should be silver members, 1,000 JGs/family and 600 red members.
The remaining 17,200 would then be what is allocated to season ticket holders.
How would season ticket holders be charged?
Throughout the season, we may well see capacity at stadia increase. It could also decrease or even end up with empty stadiums once more.
This makes it impossible for clubs to come up with exactly how many games a season ticket holder will go to in 2020/21 and how much to charge them.
The only solution is to charge “pro-rata full price” upfront, with credits being issued for games fans were not “selected” for in the same way cup credits work.
On the pro-rata full price, the first few games of the season are likely to be played behind closed doors. We can not see a situation where fans are in grounds before October.
This means fans would have already missed out on home games and should not be charged for games already gone.
There are 19 home Premier League games, so if 4 have already been and gone before fans can enter a stadium, your season ticket price will be based on 15 games. Fairly simple and fair.
However, what some will feel is unfair is being charged for that 15 games when you might only be able to go to 10. That is a consequence we are all going to have to accept. And remember, if you are unhappy, you can always opt-out.
The club could then give “credit windows” where they pay back fans for unused games (fans can also decide to just leave their credit “on account” to be used against their 2021/22 season ticket).
This would allow fans to be refunded for games that have been and gone that they were not selected to attend.
These windows could be:
- 1st – 6th December 2020 – Pre-Christmas payout
- 22nd – 28th March 2021 – pre-Easter
- End of season
This will give fans 3 opportunities to be refunded the games they have not been selected to attend.
What about Ticket Exchange
At the moment, if a season ticket holder is unable to go to a game, they are able to post it on the Ticket Exchange once the game has sold out. This enables red and silver members to buy tickets.
Season ticket holders are not permitted to buy through the Ticket Exchange.
For 2020/21, season ticket holders who were not selected for the corresponding game should also be able to purchase tickets through the Ticket Exchange if not selected.
Logic dictates that unselected season ticket holders should get “priority” but the club can not control when tickets are put up on the ticket exchange by fans.
The only logistical way to do it is to have a “free for all” where gold, silver, red, etc members all have the same opportunity to buy off the Ticket Exchange.
Arsenal should also drop the requirement that the “game must be sold out” before fans can post up tickets.
Arsenal season tickets cover the 19 Premier League games and first 7 FA Cup / European games.
For the 2020/21 season, Arsenal should change this to just the 19 Premier League games.
This reduces the upfront payment fans will have to make for their season ticket.
Season ticket holders can then “enter a ballot” for cup games, in the same way they do for cup finals.
They have to opt-in to the ballot, and then if they “win a ticket” they get the opportunity to purchase one for the corresponding cup game. Only those season ticket holders who have purchased their season ticket for 2020/21 should be allowed to enter the ballot.
For cup games this season, Arsenal should also “standardise” ticket prices throughout the stadium so that ballot winners pay no more than they normally would for their own seat.
It would be unfair on someone who usually pays £37 for their seat to then pay be asked to pay £115 for their ticket purely because their seat is covered for that game and their only option was upper tier on the half way line.
Any tickets left over after the ballot first get offered to losing ballot entries, and then non-gold members.
Like a standardisation of ticket prices for cup games, Arsenal should scrap category pricing.
Rather than Cat A, B & C depending on opponent, they should take an average price ticket price for every game.
So let’s say my season ticket is usually £1,100 for 27 games. Pro-rata Arsenal are set to play 15 league games. My season ticket cost would then be £611.11. That works out to £40.74 per game.
Instead of me paying more if I get selected for a game against Manchester United, or less if it is against a smaller club like Burnley, I pay the same. Likewise my refund is the same regardless of who we play.
Category pricing is done due to “supply and demand”, but with limited stadium capacity, demand is going to exceed supply regardless of who we play.
Removing category pricing for a season is fair.
We would be surprised if there are any away games this season.
The lack of away fans will allow for more home fans in the stadium.
At Arsenal, away sides have around 3,600 tickets. That is an extra 1,200 home fans able to go to games.
Away credits should be frozen for the season.
Finally, what happens if we make a cup final?
When it comes down to the ballot for season ticket holders, only those fans that opted-in to a season ticket should be allowed entry.
It would be unfair if a fan who opted out of their season ticket because it was “unsafe” suddenly decided it was safe to go to games because we made a final, and then got a ticket ahead of a fan who has been going throughout the season.
Any tickets remaining after the season ticket ballot should be offered to silver and red members based on how many games they had attended in 2020/21, rewarding those who have been to the most.
Only after season ticket holders and silver/red members who have been to games have and their chance to buy tickets, should they be offered to opted-out season ticket holders and those members who have yet been to a game.
Whilst we do not know exactly how the club are going to do things, we do know that when season ticket renewals come out fans will have not much more than a week to buy their ticket.
Some fans will complain it’s “not enough time” but fans should really have the money put away for May/June renewals.
The club are not really to blame if a fan has decided to spend that money, or not saved any.
From what we can work out, this is the fairest way to allocate and manage tickets for 2020/21.