Arsenal v Brighton 5th Feb 1983On the 5th February 1983 I was taken to my first ever live game. Aged just 9 I saw Arsenal beat Brighton 3-1. I didn’t celebrate a single goal – I didn’t know what on earth I was supposed to do. But in a scene not a million miles away from that in Fever Pitch when Paul is overwhelmed by his first visit to Highbury against Stoke I was totally hooked from that moment on.

From about the age of 14 onwards I became a regular to Highbury, most seasons missing only a few games a season. I was never really an away fan but I was regular at home. All the way up to the last season at Highbury. In that time I was lucky enough to experience everything (apart from relegation thankfully). I brought all the kits, I brought all the end of season videos, a programme at every game. I was the perfect fan. Loyal, passionate, I knew all the history, in my time I have been a Junior Gunner, a member of the Cannon Club and then a full on member (right up until present day). I’ve never been a season ticket holder – I’ve never been able to afford it or needed to be. Membership and then the evolved Silver membership was always enough to get me tickets.

My first cup final was in 1988 against Luton Town where myself and my brother stood on an empty terrace at the end of the game experiencing our first heartbreak until our Dad had come all the way round from the Luton end (the only ticket he could get for himself after getting us two in the Arsenal end) to drag us back home. Thankfully 12 months later we were dancing in his lounge when Michael Thomas scored the winner at Anfield.

Arsenal v Luton Town 1988

The “I was there” list is long, very long and I have been lucky. I have seen us win it all (bar the big European one). I have seen some truly world class players that back in the 80′s no one would have ever imagined they would have seen in an Arsenal shirt.

I have also sat through some seriously bad games, watched some truly bad players and prayed for a top 5 finish just to grab some European action. I remember cutting out the league table back in 1985 after 5 games after beating Liverpool. It was the first time we had been 1st since I had supported them. It only lasted a week and sure enough a few days before Christmas I was stood on a freezing cold North bank watch a really dull 1-1 with Watford.

But I loved it.

And now Arsenal want £45 out of me to renew a membership that does nothing more than allow me the privilege of buying a ticket.

Betrayed – No, that is a strong word.

Let down and now priced out – Yes.

I’ve renewed of course, we all have. And I would imagine I am now one of the fans Arsenal are trying to get rid of, those who renew year after year but don’t go to many games. In truth since our move the The Emirates I have been twice. I am no longer the type of fan the club wants hanging around. I don’t spend the type of money the club wants me to and I now go to the odd game.

Basically I have been priced out. I’m not even old school, I’m still in my 30′s, I’m not some old guy who remembers “how good it used to be when football was played by working class men who stood for the club”. But I am all but priced out.

Sure life has changed and I now have a family and kids. That isn’t cheap and your priorities change. I have moved further away from London so train fairs cost more to get into the city. It isn’t just Arsenal who’s prices have gone up but I do now join the club of what I would class as “real fans” that can no longer afford to go and watch football at the club they have given so much to. And this £45 renewal fee simply to gain the privilege of buying a ticket really feels like a kick in the balls.

Arsenal

I’m not naive. I know football is now about business and it has always been my choice to support Arsenal. At no point did they make me come to any games, buy the kits, videos, books, scarfs, hats, clothing or DVD’s but I do believe that modern football in the top flight no longer cares about the fans that backed them during the less desirable years.

Being asked to cough up £45 before I have even picked up the phone to try and buy a ticket is just taking the piss.

Sure you get the brouchure telling you how great you are and how great it is to be a fan and look you even get the chance to watch the team train pre season. But come on £45.

It’s just all too costly. A round trip to watch a game now costs around £100. If I want to take one of the kids…

It’s a rich mans sport these days. Going to a game has become a treat, not the weekly routine it once was.

Even the “fans” that now go have changed. The atmosphere has become hostile with suits that demand success having never known what it was like to stand on the North Bank with a crowd of only 18,000 on a damp November against Wolves.

I cringe when I hear the criticism hollered out in sheer rage and hate when a pass goes astray from those who never had to sit through Gus Ceaser slip over in the penalty box for the 5th time in the game.

Those who have screamed at Walcott all season have no idea who Glen Helder or Jimmy Carter are and never had to sit through some truly bad wing play that makes Walcott look like Pele.

It’s a different club now, the move away from Highbury changed everything.

Arsenal Stadiums

I understand the need for the move, nothing stays still. It’s impressive, the best club stadium certainly in Europe. Had the club not moved they would have been left behind.

It’s just a shame it came to this.

I’ll never stop supporting, I’ll go when I can but the modern game has finally priced me out.

 

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