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Was Arsenal's low attendance a sign of things to come?

Last night's North London derby marked the lowest attendance to date at the new Emirates Stadium with the crowd being announced as a mere 53,136.

For a derby match against Tottenham Hopeless that's a very poor turnout indeed. And before anyone starts harping on about the transport difficulties in getting to the Home Of Football last night, you should be aware that Arsenal's attendance figures do not actually reflect the turnstile numbers.

It's been a bugbear of mine for some time now that Arsenal's attendance figures are actually based on ticket sales rather than the amount of people who turn up at the stadium on match day. That's been obvious on a number of occasions when large empty spaces have been apparent especially at Club Level and in the stadium's executive boxes, but the crowd figure has been announced as near capacity.

This is perhaps some kind of historic hangover from Highbury, where rumour has it that the club could not accurately count the number of fans who came through the turnstiles, so it would estimate the figures based on ticket sales...

Of course, the state-of-the-art turnstiles at Emirates Stadium can easily count the number of people who attend a game, but for some reason the club seems to prefer to base its attendance figures on ticket sales, perhaps because it can calculate the numbers in advance.

But that's a separate issue. The most perplexing thing about last night's low crowd is that I can't remember the last time that a North London derby was anything other than a complete sell out.

The fact that the game fell just after the expense of the Christmas season and the cheapest adult ticket was £38 may have something to do with it. As everyone who regularly goes to games knows, the Gunners have among the most expensive season tickets in the country, but they purposefully do no cover Carling Cup games, so that as many fans as possible get the chance to see live games, according to the club's propaganda.

But when the best part of 7,000 tickets fail to sell for a Gunners versus Spuds game, the policy must be flawed.

Tottenham have a lot to answer for, as it was the greedy Spuds board that last year insisted that Arsenal increase its prices for the Carling Cup clash in the semi-finals. Hence the inflated prices for this year's semis as well.

However, is this the sign of things to come at the Emirates? Is the club in danger of pricing out the ordinary fans? Last night I had an £18 steak pie at the stadium, which kind of backs up that theory, but what do you think? And should Arsenal change their policy on basing its attendance figures on ticket sales? Share your thoughts here using our comments section below

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Posted by Gordon Masson on January 10, 2008 12:46 PM in Debate of the Day| News| Players
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My understanding is that it was a sellout in terms of all tickets being sold, but not in terms of actual attendance. There could have been a couple of factors in play, included Tube service. The match start was delayed 15 minutes because of a major Tube interruption at one of the stations or lines servicing the Emirates. I also read somewhere that Arsenal had desired to lower the price for this fixture, but Tottenham would have agreed to do the same for the return match, and would not.

Posted by: Mark Barbeau | January 10, 2008 4:46 PM

I was monitoring the Arsenal website for any sign of tickets being allocated to general sale but this never happened. The match was made available to members only and the website stated that tickets were available up to kick off time. I am sure that if tickets had been put on general sale as for the Newcastle match a few months ago there would have been a higher turnout and those who were not members may have got the rare chance to visit the stadium and see a game.

Posted by: Patrick Henry | January 10, 2008 5:33 PM

In addition with regards to the travel problems Kings Cross station was closed and this caused a hold up but I live by the ground and got caught up in the travel chaos but having made a slight detour made it home within 15 minutes and would have made it to the game on time had I a ticket!

Posted by: patrick henry | January 10, 2008 5:36 PM

The article is factually incorrect. Attendance figures are based on everyone who enters, NOT ticket sales. The depressing point in this though, the EVERYONE includes staff,crew,caterers etc.

BUT it is correct to say that yet again Tottenham are more concerned with money by insisting on Cat B pricing, rather than Arsenals preference for all Carling Cup Games being discounted. Memories of last time we met the scum in a semi final? The squabbles of the scum insisting on certain pricing yet again were a factor.

Oh and the following occured on the tfl system-
1. signal failure at camden town on northern line, suspended
2. signal failure at the same time period t finsbury park, victoria line, suspended, and al southbound victoria line shut for the first hour after the game.
3. kings cross st pancras, first overcrowding, then yet another security scare.

Posted by: Clare Hayward | January 10, 2008 8:54 PM

Every league cup game has always gone to a general sale (except this one)as a lot of people on the membership schemes will not go to league cup games no matter who we play. You only have to see how quickly the other games sell out to know this is not a trend.

Posted by: paul witham gooner | January 11, 2008 11:20 AM

As a season ticket holder, I personally was priced out of the game (£45 for my seat) and I know a lot of other season ticket holders in the same position. I understand why they didn't include last seasons Spurs CC game with season tickets because they were only £20 a ticket, but when they are charging full whack it should be included as one of our cup games. I may be incorrect but I don't think we reached our limit on cup tickets (6 or 7 for season ticket holders) last season.
Regarding tickets going on general sale, there are two reasons why this would not happen. 1) Entry to turnstyles is through membership cards, Arsenal no longer issue tickets except to away fans (guess their turnstyles are different). 2) They run the risk of away fans buying tickets in the home sections.

Posted by: Dave T Gooner | January 11, 2008 1:57 PM

In fact, Euston Square, Warren Street, and Euston tube stations were also closed before the game. There were problems at Finsbury Park too. After the game, no southbound trains from Highbury and Islington AT ALL, and when I arrived there no entry to the platforms for the overground trains either. I came from near Swindon, and my drive from there to Baker Street was only a little longer than the time it took me to get from Baker Street to the Emirates. As this is far from being the first time there have been major transport problems,how about a third world transport system as a reason for a low turn out at weekday matches?

Posted by: Bill Park | January 11, 2008 4:24 PM

for me this is not a sign of things to come but a sign of how stubborn arsenal as a club is. as a fan and student it is very hard for me to get and renew membership every season so i am not a red or silver member. i like many other fans checked for general sale tickets every day and was very surprised to find that even on the final day only members were still allowed to buy them. i will bet my life on it that were those empty seats put on general sale the whole stadium would have been full, more support for our team which would have in turn spurred on our team for a win instead of grinding out a poor draw.

Posted by: tanim | January 12, 2008 12:11 AM

i want to renew my red alert membership

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Posted by: springspring | July 16, 2008 8:03 PM

I`m a little bit perplexed as to the £18.00 Steak Pie. You must have chosen the family size de-luxe Raymond Blanc hand-raised version.

Posted by: Biscuitbum | July 16, 2008 9:39 PM

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