Updated: May 10
It’s being reporting that Manchester City fans at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium were forced to take down a banner reading “£62, where will it stop?” today. There’s a picture of the banner here. City fan Rick Taylor has explained the details on his Twitter feed. Apparently a steward asked him to take the banner down because it was “breaking ground regulations”. He refused, so the steward asked the police to intervene. The police said unless Taylor handed over the banner, they would arrest him.
It would be interesting to find out why a banner reading “£62, where will it stop” breaks ground regulations while others reading “Arsene knows” and “Arsenal Japan Supporters Club”, for instance, do not. It would also be interesting to know how happy the police are at being asked to enforce a Premier League club’s intolerance of criticism. Perhaps those Arsenal fans who have been moved to call for “Arsene Out” after some relatively poor performances need to watch out in future.
The answer to the question on the banner is, of course, ‘when fans stop buying them’. But those who dismiss the complaint do the protesting City fans a disservice. City returned almost 1,000 tickets, so many did vote with their absence. It’s also been sad to see some people attempt to equate the high ticket price charged to City’s fans with the money of the club’s owners or the fact that City were given a stadium funded by the taxpayer. There is plenty to discuss around both these points, but making the fans pay for the perceived sins of the owners or the institution seems a strange kind of argument.
City fans are to be congratulated for making this an issue, as are those journalists who this week risked the ire of the football authorities by writing some excellent pieces about the Greed is Good league. Paul Hayward’s piece in the Daily Telegraph is particularly good, and his summation of the pricing policy as “exploitation tarted up as supply and demand” deserves to stick. The arrogance of the football authorities is so overbearing, they probably don’t even realise the serious implications of restricting genuine opinion, and I hope the police tell them they want no further part of it. I’m only sorry that Spurs fans didn’t make the same fuss when we forked out the £62 earlier this season. But too many of us, me included, just accepted that was the way it was, and got sucked into supporting our club rather than seeing the bigger picture.
Lest it be thought I’m making a partisan point, my club Spurs charges similarly high prices, and implements the same graded games rip-off Hayward so roundly condemns. It’s not just one club, it’s the whole league – QPR were charging £55 for their cramped away end on Saturday. I passed on that one just as I’ve passed on Stamford Bridge’s £50+ for a restricted view and selection of charming anti-Semitic songs for a good few years now. If this week has been the start of a sustained backlash against the great football rip-off, it’ll be a good start to the year.