Arsenal wrote to gold members (season ticket holders) on Thursday evening to inform them that they would be placing a surcharge against their season tickets for the Champions League tie against Barcelona later this month. In an email, the club explained their rationale, that Barcelona will be rated as a “Category A” match and cup credits are broadly given a “Category B” rating.
So the difference will be charged against season ticket renewals for the 2016/17 season. Gold members will be given the option to opt out of the Barcelona tie and surrender their seat. Ordinarily, this option is only extended to members once all seven cup vouchers have been used.
Barcelona is the 7th cup credit of the season, but the club are obliged to provide an opt out option, since they are effectively introducing an extra charge outside of the season ticket price, paid last May.
In a confusingly worded email, Arsenal explained that, “As a result of our continued progress in cup competitions this season, our FA Cup Fifth Round home match against Hull City on the weekend of 19/20/21/22 February is the sixth cup credit for the 2015/16 season and will be a category C match.
“Consequently, our UEFA Champions League Round of 16 fixture against FC Barcelona, to be played on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 will be our seventh cup tie credit of the season and has been designated as a category A fixture.
“Due to the number of matches played this season and the categories assigned to them, there will be an additional cost to your season ticket for the 2016/17 of [between £18-30 depending on the price of your seat]. This additional cost will be added to your renewal price for next season.”
With a new £5bn TV windfall to come this summer, adding to the already swelling pile of TV cash, the decision to make this surcharge has obviously been met with some opprobrium. The announcement isn’t especially well timed as the team falter in a winnable title race, whilst Liverpool’s decision to raise ticket prices has attracted a lot of media attention around the subject.
As well as being unnecessarily covetous, the announcement comes at a time when media focus on supporter welfare issues is high. Liverpool fans announced their plans to walk out of the next home game after 77 minutes in protest at rising prices. Whilst Leicester fans (and some Arsenal fans, myself included!) will sit out the first five minutes of the upcoming Arsenal v Leicester home match to protest Sky Sports’ late decision to alter the kickoff time.
Arsenal will surely have been hoping for a better result against Southampton prior to this announcement, but they would have needed to let supporters’ know as soon as possible to uphold their obligation to offer members the chance to opt out of the Barcelona match.
Ultimately, it feels like Arsenal have driven another chasm between themselves and the fans and this will probably manifest itself in a more bitter atmosphere at games, which seems a shame when the club are trying to reignite a title challenge.