Wednesday 2nd September 2020
All season ticket holders should now have received information from Arsenal on how ticketing arrangements will work for the 2020-21 season. You can also read this information here.
Firstly we would like to say how good it is that there are plans for football supporters to return to grounds from the beginning of October, subject to final approval from the Government – we expect the decision to be made toward the end of the month. The last few months have shown how diminished football is without fans. This return will be in accordance with specific guidance set out by the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) and is expected to start with a capacity of between 15% and 25% (9 to 15k).
In recent weeks the AST has had regular discussions with senior executives at Arsenal about these plans. These discussions have allowed us to set out our five key principles and also act as a sounding board giving input to the details of the new arrangements.
We have found these discussions to be open and constructive. It has helped us to better understand the new arrangements and the reasons for them. In many cases the decisions that have been taken have been determined by the limits of the club’s ticketing technology or the specific COVID-19 requirements set out by the SGSA.
While far from everything we requested has been adopted, we believe our dialogue has assisted the development of improved processes and set down some markers for on-going review during the season.
We would like to place on record our thanks to Vinai Venkatesham and his team for their engagement and their commitment to maintain dialogue as the new system settles down.
The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 and the need to be adaptable
Before commenting on the details of today’s announcement we wish to stress the importance of all supporters recognising that these are unprecedented times and the challenge of staging matches during a COVID-19 pandemic are considerable. The new arrangements fundamentally alter the way that we are used to attending games and the experience we know and love it. As football fans we tend to be creatures of habit and the new season will break many of these norms.
The new arrangements for staging matches will be an immensely challenging time for all of Arsenal’s staff and especially those who work on matchday. We urge all Arsenal supporters to follow the advice and information given by them and to show respect for all Arsenal employees and matchday employees no matter how frustrating and difficult the new experience may at times be.
Our main message to all fans is to consider very carefully whether you wish to attend games under the new social distancing guidelines. As Arsenal’s communications sets out, there will be a code of conduct all fans have to agree to and the following are some of the changes that are likely to be in place:
If you feel that the requirements above are not for you then you should opt out and take a season ticket holiday until 2021-22. If subsequently the Government allows 100% attendance during this season you will have the choice of whether to take up your season ticket for the remainder of the season under the usual arrangements. You may also have the option to subsequently opt-in during the season if restrictions still apply, but you will have to contact the club to request this and wait until the next ballot round begins.
We are pleased that Arsenal did implement our request that any season ticket holder who does not want to attend for the 2020-21 season, perhaps for reasons of shielding or finances, should be able to take a season ticket holiday. This will not impact your right to renew for season 2021-22 and no payment is required.
If you do wish to attend games this season you will have to leave your 2019-20 season ticket credit in the club, but it will not be used toward the payment of tickets for the 2020-21 season. We have made it clear this is something we had concerns about – it is a large sum of money for many fans to leave in the club for up to 15 months.
But we do acknowledge that Arsenal have set out clearly their reasons for adopting this policy: it assists with cash flow and demonstrates a commitment to the ballot process. It was also explained that the current ticketing system does not easily allow for the Initial payment to be used against the price of the match tickets.
We are disappointed that there is no option to ‘opt-in’ to the ballot for tickets on an individual match basis. The ballot will be random and held every four games or so. This means that supporters could be allocated tickets to games they cannot attend. This has been explained as being to ensure that all available tickets are allocated and purchased for every game. We believe this will lead to disappointment from fans who are allocated tickets to games they cannot attend. If this arrangement leads to tickets being allocated but unused, it will further reduce the capacity.
We asked for the Ticket Exchange to be open so that supporters who can’t make games for legitimate reasons (including being in quarantine) could pass on tickets. We felt this was important to ensure every ticket was used. It would also have enabled silver and red members to have some access to buying tickets. The club do not plan to open Ticket Exchange and we have asked that this is kept under constant review. We do understand that the current ticketing system would make it hard to operate the Ticket Exchange during this period and will seek further information from Arsenal.
However, this issue has been partly mitigated by the expansion of the ticket transfer ‘friends and family’ facility, which will allow Season Ticket holders to transfer tickets to others without any restriction on whether the transferee is an existing member.
We are concerned that there is no specific provision for silver and red members with the proposals seeing every ticket made available solely to Season Ticket holders. This is exacerbated by the Ticket Exchange not functioning. We have urged the club to keep this under review and hope that as capacity allowances increase that this can be reviewed again. Should silver and red members not have access to any tickets throughout season 2020-21 we will strongly urge the club to roll forward their membership fee into 2021-22.
Your feedback and updating arrangements during the season – how AST can help
These ticketing requirements represent a big change to normal arrangements. We recommend everyone studies them carefully, including the proposed COVID-19 code of conduct that you will have to agree to and will form part of the ground entry requirements.
Arsenal have also published FAQs and will have customer service agents to deal with inquiries.
If after reviewing these details and contacting the club you still have problems, or questions on specific policy decisions, then please send these to the AST at email@example.com. We will do what we can to assist AST members.
Arsenal have already made a commitment to us that they will keep all arrangements under review during the season so that improvements and adjustments can be made in light of supporter feedback and changes to the Government’s lockdown requirements. We will maintain a regular dialogue with them and feed in specific matters our members raise with us.
On Friday evening we will hold a short members’ meeting on-line where we will take questions and feedback. All members will be sent an invitation by email.
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