If you have yet to check out the free videos of the Ivan Gazidis Q&A session with the Arsenal Supporters Trust (on Arsenal.com) can I advise you to set aside a couple of hours. It should be worthwhile though if you are prepared to evaluate and interpret what is being said.
The CEO is clearly a comfortable communicator, and I came away from watching his performance with the impression that he had given a little bit of encouragement to a wide range of Arsenal supporters with widely differing views.
For example, I was pleased to hear him virtually confirm in the first of the three films that the move to the Grove had an effect on the amount of money available to Arsene Wenger, because of the structuring of financing the building of the stadium and the associated property ventures.
Later though he was careful to suggest that these matters were never black and white, that money was available to Arsene when required, and that manager and board had worked in tandem on matters relating to the running of the club. So those who would have you believe that Arsene is solely responsible for a perceived lack of investment in the squad will not have been alienated.
He also confirmed that there was money available to spend this summer as a result of the property debts being wiped out, but regular ‘holic readers will have been expecting that anyway!
Overall, one could not help but be impressed by the man, his refusal to talk about individuals when questioners mischievously tried to elicit comment on players or the management team, and his ability to keep people interested and entertained without saying a great deal that was new.
There was one little revelation that raised a few hackles for me though. A discussion about empty seats at the Emirates brought about a commendable response about improving the Ticket Exchange system, so that tickets can be released by those unable to use them later and more efficiently than is currently the case.
The response then turned to a proposed review of the existing membership system, and that is when I, a humble silver member, saw my future at the Grove put at very real threat. Basically he suggested that the club would be looking at the situation where silver members currently not attending all games might not get preferential treatment to newer potential supporters who had not yet progressed to that level of membership.
Now I am writing to him separately about why that is a very worrying development for me personally. I’m aware you won’t be interested in my selfish reasons specifically. Suffice it to say I am already dependent upon friends with sufficient credits providing me with away match tickets when they are not able to go.
Now my expensive home match excursions are under threat, at a time when the numbers of season tickets being offered for hire by their owners is increasing rapidly, and club level packages are not being sold at the anticipated volumes or values. If I could afford to be a season ticket holder once more, I would be. The price of them, allied to the cost of travel from the West Country, makes that an unfeasible option, although they are freely available for hire on a season by season basis from holders who cannot afford to fund them.
Be very careful, Arsenal, not to anger those who have stuck with you through thick and thin, and who have earned a degree of priority as a result. I’m sure common sense will prevail, but be aware that you are in danger of alienating a couple of generations of fans who will not come back once you have thrown years of unquestioning support and financial commitment back in their faces.
The bond scheme drove a number of good supporters away from this club. Those who remained loyal did not expect to be put in a similar situation in a stadium with sixty thousand seats. I feel for those who wait for years to advance from red membership, but those who have already made that particular journey will not take kindly to being penalised again. Be very careful, Ivan.
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