Empty seats at The Emirates – What can be done to correct this?

Emirates Stadium

I don’t hold a season ticket but I try to attend as many games as possible. I’m just a Red member, though I’m at position c. 20,000 in the season ticket list or so….

However, it’s not a good look if a club like THE Arsenal has some empty seats available.
It doesn’t look good on TV, nor in the ground whilst watching games.



Not a good look


But we are a well-followed club and have been for many decades.  Our average attendances, historically, have been amongst the very highest in the country, whether we’re winning leagues or not. We’re not like a Man City, with a trumped-up and very recent following.

The empty seats towards the end of the Wenger tenure were understandable. The fans wanted change, and it came accordingly.
However, the empty seats on show lessen atmosphere and deny other fans the opportunities to see games.

I’ve been musing about this for a while, since it doesn’t look for our club, and reinforces the view that KSE only cares about money.

To be fair, most games this season have been well-attended, even with the furore surrounding Emery and Xhaka lately.

But I personally, even in seemingly well-attended games, have seen empty seats on occasion and it would be good to have more fans cheering the team on.





There are some examples from other industries to draw on.

Imagine a season ticket for a train or bus/coach.
The operator wouldn’t mind if the user doesn’t actually take it up since they already have revenues. And somebody will take up the empty seat in any event. In the UK at least, most public transport services only operate at full capacity in rush hours anyhow.

So there are other examples of unused capacity, as it were. But then using a train isn’t the same as seeing a football team. One has an inherently more emotive tie than the other. There is no real train atmosphere, akin to football grounds at the least. And no “Thameslink vs. South Western Rail” derbies, nor European railway Champions League to compete for. Trains, for many, are just means to get from A to B, and that’s that. Following a football club, at whatever level, entails much more.

The same financial rationale applies here – in that season ticket monies are already accounted for by Arsenal. But more needs to be done to get more fans in.

These are some ideas I have at the moment:


More efficient use of Ticket Exchange


Ticket Exchange as many may know is the system where season ticket holders can sell their tickets online to Silver and Red members.
This is done often, but not often enough, as there is no penalty for not doing such.
Perhaps there needs to be a mandatory process here. Maybe tickets not used by holders automatically get placed on the ticket exchange.
Or there are some penalties for holders who don’t place them there.

Maybe season ticket holders pay a fee if they don’t give up a minimum number of tickets per season – such as 5-10.

Either way, there may be thousands of tickets that are “lost” in this way, and maybe more can be made available for those who don’t usually attend.

In fairness, this has been a concern of the Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST) for a while, and has been raised in discussions with the club. It has been missed, perhaps, with the brew-ha-has surrounding managerial changes and other key internal appointments. But it should be pursued all the same, as it’s a matter that won’t evaporate soon.


Increase Red member allocations


Perhaps the club can increase the number of Red member seats available for matches.
There currently are 3,000 per match, and if this increased to 5 or 6,000, then more Red members would buy them up.

There is the option of placing more ticket on general sale. However, this could allow rival fans to get in and part of the reason all clubs have membership schemes is to ensure more consistent home support and lessen hooliganism.



Record how many games season ticket holders attend


Entry to the ground is via a smart card, and thus the club must have the name, date, game, and time of entry for every fan. This must also be held on a computer or server somewhere, so the club can actively recall it when needed.
So if season ticket holders’ attendance can be identified, it could be useful if they only attend the big games and not the others. Or if they attend games at all. If season ticket holders don’t utilise their seats, then if it is only a minority of games that they attend, this could prove as scope to promote greater access.

This can prove useful in the event of monitoring game attendances, and seeing if there is indeed a drop off per game “sexiness”. Playing Spurs is naturally huge. As is Man United, Liverpool, City or Chelsea. But Brighton or Bournemouth aren’t in that bracket. If there are more season ticket holders who are attending the “sexy” games over the smaller ones, there are measures to root this out.





Special student/child membership


Perhaps there could be a student/child membership scheme, which would get the tickets season ticket holders don’t utilise.

It could be priced at a cheaper rate, and thus be able to attract younger people on lower incomes. It would ensure the next generation of Arsenal fans can be secured.

There already is a child membership rate, but this one could specifically be for those that come from Ticket Exchange.





It could be argued, strongly perhaps, that a season ticket bought can be utilised in any manner one chooses. To use the train ticket example, this is the case, and train firms won’t chase down passengers if they don’t utilise their tickets.
However, any season ticket is just a right to use a service in a given period. And there are always rules and conditions attached. In Tfl (Transport for London) trains, it’s illegal to drink alcohol on them. This applies to people with season tickets, day travelcards, or singles. However, the club still owns tickets ultimately and can determine the terms of use. As long as it doesn’t breach general contract law, or other business/consumer legislation, then a season ticket is just a grant by a club to see all of their games per season. The provider of any season ticket has the right to change the terms and conditions at any time, and a football club season ticket is applicable here.

So it’s not punitive at all – in my view. There also are other factors considering the use of any ticket, in any environment. Banning alcohol on Tfl systems is to improve user safety, as much as general cleanliness. This is a reasonable concern for passengers, and it’s about recognising new realities and accommodating people who use the service. The same is true of revamping season ticket terms.



Club incentives


Image result for stan and josh kroenke

The Kroenkes, father and son, could further ingratiate themselves with the fans by revamping the club’s ticket allocation policy

The club really has no incentive to act here – considering that it’s not really losing money. Well, the major reason revenues have dipped relatively is due to a lack of Champions League football, and not ticket sales per se.
As with all grounds, the season ticket monies are being recouped at the start of the season. So they don’t really lose out, and their revenue projections can be met in any event.
But it would take fan engagement to enhance this, and ensure that KSE can implement the changes required.

It doesn’t look very good to have numerous empty seats about at games.
But then these are just some ideas on how to rectify the situation and ensure that the club can get more fans inside to see our side play.

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One Response to Empty seats at The Emirates – What can be done to correct this?

  1. Zubair Ahmed October 30, 2019 at 1:50 pm #

    How many top rated matches have you been able to watch with your Red membership? I have been a Red member going on to be 2 years and have not been able to get a ticket for the big games?

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