Arsenal are allowing thousands of supporters to slip through their grasp this summer, as the club's excessive season ticket prices prompt an unprecedented amount of fans to reject the chance to purchase a ticket, despite spending years on the waiting list.

The signings of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, and the apparent imminent arrival of Santi Cazorla for a club record fee, would seemingly afford an air of optimism at the Emirates Stadium as doubts remain over the future of captain Robin van Persie.

However, this is being offset by the club's inability to shift a vast number of season tickets, as fans decline or defer the opportunity to take Arsenal up on their offer.

The demand for Arsenal season tickets has been impressively high since their move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2006, with tens of thousands placed on a waiting list that normally takes years to ascend.

Yet this summer has seen swathes of fans climb the list at an alarming rate, given the reluctance of those above them to purchase season tickets available in the top price bracket, with Arsenal's prices significantly higher than any other Premier League club.

Such have the problems been finding buyers for numerous £1400 tickets, Arsenal have plunged the depths of their waiting list - which stands between 30,000 and 40,000 - with fans as low as 22,000th offered a seat for the new season, GMF has learned.

Arsenal have confirmed that they are finding this summer more challenging than previous years in their quest for new season ticket holders, to join around 40,000 people already paid up.

The club have attributed this to a number of factors, including applicants having out-of-date details, but said the recurring reason for rejection was the financial constraints of those approached.

This is a stance that has been reiterated by a number of fans GMF has spoken to, with many baulking at the prospect of having to pay the equivalent of over £50-per-game over the course of the season.

But the overriding message from supporters is that the club's continual decline on the field and lack of success over the past seven years have led them to question the value in committing themselves to a season ticket.
 


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One Arsenal fan told GMF: "Even though we've signed Giroud, Podolski and Cazorla - and possibly we've got more to come too - there's no chance I can afford £1400 to sit in the most expensive seats and watch an unknown quantity try and gel together, with or without RVP."

GMF has also discovered that many fans who have been long-standing season ticket holders now favour renting out their ticket on a matchday basis to other supporters having grown tired of onfield failings coupled with exorbitant prices.

This is also increasingly becoming a tactic for new season ticket holders, with supporters reluctant to lose their place on the waiting list if they decline the club's offer.

Coincidently, the club have already moved to restructure their matchday ticket categories to create cheaper seats, with the addition of a category C making some Premier League games available for £25.50 - a £10 saving on the cheapest equivalent last season.

This decision has come as an almost necessary action for Arsenal, with last season offering a stark realisation of how disillusioned fans were becoming as attendances for low profile fixtures dropped to their lowest since the move to the Emirates.

The Gunners were forced to offer cut-price ticket promotions far more frequently during the season than any other campaign in recent memory and have now decided to take more permanent action.

However, this has seen prices for category A matches increased even further, with fans wanting to watch the north London derby against Tottenham now expected to pay a 23 percent increase on last season.

The average price for a category A game is now £62, with the most expensive ticket in the top band priced at £126.
 


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There will, however, be approximately 90,000 lower-priced tickets during the season after the addition of category C, but this has failed to completely placate those campaigning for more drastic measures.

"We're pleased," Gavin Silvey, chairman of Arsenal Independent Supporters' Association, told GMF. "But when you factor in the other costs of getting to a game, have the club really done enough to convince people to come to matches instead of stay at home?"

He added: "It is fantastic that fans will now be able to see some Premier League football for under £30, even if it comes as a necessary response given the poor sales of last season.

"But the top price for a category A game is simply far too much for a football match. They have got to come up with some smart thinking."

Among this smart thinking, says Silvey, would be to restructure season tickets to allow fans to have more of a say over which games they attend rather than have the cost of their ticket driven up by lesser valued cup fixtures.

Currently, an Arsenal season ticket includes 19 Premier League games along with the first seven relevant cup matches of the campaign, but this is something AISA are keen to see changed.

"A Premier League only season ticket is something we've campaigned for," explained Silvey. "Some fans want to attend the cup games, and they should be allowed the chance to do so. But the inclusion of those fixtures in a season ticket is turning a lot of people off.

"It becomes ridiculous when the official attendance for an FA Cup game is recorded as 60,000, when there are clearly thousands of empty seats usually occupied by season ticket holders."

As far as season ticket sales are concerned, Silvey is not surprised that Arsenal are finding the going far tougher this year than they have done previously.

"We knew that they would struggle a bit more to sell season tickets this summer compared to last, given the state of things on the pitch and the economic climate," he said.

"We asked the club how far they had gone down on the waiting list to find new season ticket holders, but [Arsenal chief executive] Ivan Gazidis was a bit flippant."

It comes as no surprise that Arsenal have not been forthcoming with the specifics of their season ticket troubles given the lengths they have been forced to go to in order to find willing buyers.

But it is apparent that a relative nadir has been reached since Arsenal's departure from Highbury almost six years ago, and is clear the club must strive to do more to pacify a group of supporters disenchanted after years of failure.

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#Robin Van Persie
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