I’m sure that by now, the majority of Arsenal fans are now aware of a group known as the “Black Scarf Movement”, a collection of Arsenal fans that are unhappy with decisions that the Arsenal board are making as regards to ticket prices, transfer policy and future dividends being given to board members. And on the face of it, a lot of their concerns are legitimate problems.
Are ticket prices at Arsenal too expensive?
An average of £1000-£1500. Per year. During a recession. To watch 10 men in red and white and an 11th in a green patchwork quilt run around on a perfectly manicured field every fortnight. If you can afford that, then it’s not a worry. But the longer that prices remain this high then the shorter the list of people who can afford it becomes.
Is the money generated being spent wisely?
£1,000,000 a month to pay Squillaci, Chamakh, Fabianski, Arshavin and Andre Santos. None of those would even make our bench if everyone at the club was fit. It’s impossible to deduce from that anything else other than our resources are not being spent as efficiently as we might hope them to be.
Should the board be entitled to draw dividends from the club?
They certainly are entitled to a wage from the club, they do work for it, after all. But if fans don’t get money off their season tickets if the club is successful, why should board members get extra money in the same situation? Especially when a good proportion of the money they would be drawing from the club would have come directly from the fans’ pockets? How is that fair?
These are all issues that definitely need addressing. The club is not operating in a fashion that is economically fair to the people that have supported it for the majority of their lives. It costs too much to be a football fan these days. The price of tickets, combined with travel, food and drink, and all the paraphernalia that comes with supporting a team (New jersey every year, membership fees etc.) is reaching obscene levels. I wholeheartedly agree that something needs to be done about the financial plight that Arsenal fans face today. There’s just one problem with the approach that the Black Scarf Movement is taking….
None of these problems are of Arsenal’s making, and there’s nothing they can do to fix them. NOTHING. Let me explain.
All of the concerns noted above have one recurring theme: Money. Twenty years ago, very few fans knew the financial status of their club. Now, thanks to the internet and the work of many talented bloggers such as our own @SwissRamble (Get well soon mate.) we all are now very much up to date as to how much money the club generates every year and how it’s being spent. And like any other part of life, with information comes more questions. The key to getting answers though is by asking the right people, and in protesting against the Arsenal board, I believe that the BSM are asking the wrong people.
It’s easy to assume that it’s Arsenal’s fault that Arsenal tickets are as high as they are, but ask yourself this, why do they need to be this high? Is it because the board are looking to make exorbitant profits, or are they looking to maximise revenue in order to keep up with the likes of Man City and Chelsea who are throwing money away like confetti? And whilst ticket prices are high, it’s hard to dispute that it’s not representative of market value when there are 38,000 people paying it and more joining a waiting list for an opportunity to pay it.
The problem isn’t that Arsenal’s tickets are expensive, it’s that in order to be competitive today, they HAVE to be that expensive. And even at the rate that they’re at today, our highest paid player is earning around half, HALF, as much as some of those playing in Manchester. The spending power of an elite few clubs today has completely skewed the odds of winning in their favour and everyone, including Arsenal, is struggling to keep up. And the worrying thing is this; it’s only going to get worse.
The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team just signed a TV deal with FOX. It’s a 25 year deal that will net the Dodgers $240 million per year. PER YEAR. That single deal is higher than what 26 of the other 29 teams in baseball manage to make in total. In one move, the Dodgers have managed to propel themselves to the top of the list of teams who can spend money on players, ahead even of the money printing machine that is the New York Yankees, who make a fortune themselves from having their own TV network.
If FOX are willing to spend $240million a year to show the Dodgers on TV, then how much do you reckon SKY, who are owned by the same man who owns FOX, would pay for worldwide exclusive rights to Manchester United games if given the opportunity to do so? Real Madrid got one billion euros for seven years just for domestic TV rights, United would easily command double that fee for worldwide rights, if not more. All Premier League clubs currently receive around £50million a year from TV rights. If Man Utd suddenly started getting an extra £150 million a year, we’d only fall further behind them in terms of generating revenue, no matter how much we raised ticket prices by.
And if your rebuttal to this is, “Don’t worry, Financial Fair Play will save us.”, then you’re right, but only to a point. If FFP works, then everyone will be only allowed to spend what they can generate without a benefactor handing over hundreds of millions of pounds, which will stop clubs from losing gigantic sums of money. But it won’t stop clubs from continuing to exploit all possible revenue streams to gain an advantage over rivals. There will still be the need to keep up with the Joneses so to speak, and once all possible commercial avenues have been exploited, then the fans will again be asked to dig a little deeper in their pockets in order to help the club either keep up with their rivals or stay ahead of them.
Now that this genie has been let out of the bottle, there’s no way of putting it back in without implementing a world-wide salary cap that no club could breach. And whilst that’s a good idea in theory, no top club is going to give up an advantage as large as being able to out-spend others for “the good of the game”. This isn’t American sport, where franchises are as much as business as they are a sports team and owners implement rules that will benefit everyone so that everyone will make money. The only thing that football clubs were ever designed to do is try to win. Being financially superior wasn’t ever supposed to matter in whether a club can win or not, but it is now. And unless clubs unilaterally decide to even the playing field, then that’s how it will stay.
I don’t like that football has become as much about how many goals you can score as opposed to how many shirts you can sell. I don’t like that because football clubs can raise huge amounts of money every year, millions upon millions of pounds will be wasted on players that end up being of little or no use to us. I especially don’t like the prospect of someone owning our club and trying to keep us successful solely in order to make a profit for themselves. But this isn’t an Arsenal problem, this is a problem with football at large. And whilst I sympathise with those who feel like they need to organise a walk to raise their concerns, I can’t help but feel that they are targeting their grievances towards the wrong people.
It’s not a case of “Where has our Arsenal gone?”, but more like “Where has our football gone?”. And I know the answer to that. It’s gone to the bank. What I don’t know, is that it will ever come back.------------
If you’ve been having problems accessing this site on your work computer using the URLS globalgooners.com and gossip.globalgooners.com should sort that problem for you.
Get your free LadyArse app here for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phone [iPhone coming soon]
Get your free Arsenal wallpaper, Facebook covers and Twitter headers here