Arsene Wenger has urged fans of Leicester and Arsenal not to miss the first 5 minutes of Sunday’s game as they plan a protest against Sky’s decision to change the date of the game at short notice.
Fans of both sides have been left inconvenienced and out of pocket by the decision, and a Leicester fan group have followed the lead of Bayern Munich fans who staged a similar protest in the Champions League back in October.
They will be joined by many Arsenal fans who feel as if the television companies treat fans unfairly, and don’t give enough consideration when making changes. The Leicester game was not originally selected for coverage back in December, but as their run has continued what was supposed to be a Saturday 3pm game became a 12 noon Sunday kick-off, just 21 days notice and well after trains, planes, hotels and other arrangements had been made.
Speaking at his press conference today, Wenger said, “You want everybody there when the game starts. For me, the game is a joy and everyone has to be part of it. You can protest before and after, but during the game you want everyone to be there.
“It’s a moment of happiness in your life. Life is not every day fantastic – sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s difficult for many people. Football is a moment of happiness in your life, so don’t miss it.”
And in an ideal world protests before and after would make a difference, but we’ve seen far too often that they don’t. The only way for fans to really communicate how mistreated they feel is to do it in the full glare of the TV cameras – as Liverpool fans showed last weekend. And when you’re protesting specifically at the TV company, making their life difficult is only possible during live coverage.
And on the ticket price issue that has so exercised fans over the last week, Wenger said he believed English clubs face challenges that those in other leagues do not.
“I don’t think we are on the same level ground as foreign clubs,” he said. “For example, Bayern Munich paid one euro for their ground whereas we paid £128m for ours.
“In France they pay nothing at all for their stadium, nothing at all for their maintenance. We pay absolutely everything ourselves so we have to generate more revenue. It is true we get more television income, that is down to the audience and success but as well it is down to the pressure of the market to pay for players at a higher price.
“I looked at the comparisons. Our cheapest prices are cheaper than anywhere in London; our most expensive price is a fraction higher than the other clubs in London; our most common ticket price is lower than many places in England.”
Which may well be true, but being not being the worst doesn’t obscure the fact that ticket prices in general are such that fans are walking out of stadiums on the teams they love, and unless that’s addressed properly then the displeasure and disenchantment will remain.
For more, check out Tim Stillman’s column – Enough is Enough.