All Guns Blazing column: Arsenal’s lack of solidarity with travelling fans over Atletico Madrid’s high ticket prices adds to air of disenchantment
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All Guns Blazing guest columnist Rosie Tudball raises an issue which has had loyal Arsenal fans fuming ahead of the eagerly-awaited tie with Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final.
Arsene Wenger is not in the good books of many fans these days but over the last few months there has been a noticeable increase in the number of empty seats during home games at the Emirates.
Apathy – which stems from frustration at the long-serving Frenchman refusing to walk away from the club as it appears to regress in terms of challenging for the Premier League title over the second part of his reign – has led thousands to simply refuse to attend games by voting with their feet.
There is still a chance of silverware by lifting the Europa League – but it seems the club has missed a golden chance to win favour with the club’s travelling fans.
Next week the Gunners will face the challenge of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, over two legs.
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It’ll be Arsenal’s first European semi-final since the 2008-09 season when the Gunners were eliminated by Manchester United 4-1 on aggregate.
The team will need all the support it can get from its fervent travelling fans in the crucial leg in Madrid in two week.
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Support however doesn’t come cheap nowadays, and many fans of the club have been left in a state of shock as the official prices of the trip to the Wanda Metropolitano were revealed.
The average price Arsenal fans have to pay for a ticket to the semi-final in Madrid is £79 – an outrageous figure considering Atletico supporters will spend somewhere in the region £38 for their entrance to the Emirates Stadium next Thursday.
With UEFA ruling five per cent of a stadium’s overall capacity is to be handed to away supporters, Arsenal have been allocated of a slim figure of 3,437 within the 67,703-capacity stadium.
The club have some of the most loyal travelling supporters in the country, who have travelled far and wide this season – from Stoke to Belgrade to Ostersunds, to Moscow and everywhere in between.
It’s time that the club paid back their loyalty and studied into the actions taken by Manchester United in this seasons Champions League.
United fans were expected to pay £89 to visit the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in the first leg of their round-of-16 game against Sevilla last month.
Fans fought back, as it was noted Liverpool fans were charged £30 less to go to the same stadium two months earlier.
Following the uproar, Manchester United subsidised their supporters the £35 difference in tickets and took further action to charge Sevilla fans £89 of the privilege of attending a game Old Trafford.
So why aren’t Arsenal showing solidarity with their fans by doing something similar?
Arsenal fans, along with any fan being charged such an extortionate price, deserve better.
After a season of severe underachievement and a failing relationship between fans and the club, now would be the time for Arsenal to inject some missing faith into their supporters and demand UEFA and Atletico Madrid to reconsider prices.
Tickets have been an integral point of conversation at the club this year, with swaths of empty seats highlighted by TV coverage embarrassing the club’s top brass – not to mention corporate advertisers.
With hard-pressed and frustrated fans now also facing inflated European ticket prices the club have scored an own goal by not standing up for them.
With Wenger’s future still up in the air could this lack of solidarity add to the general air of disenchantment surrounding the club at the moment?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Follow Rosie on Twitter @RosieTudba11