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Hitting where it hurts: Fans starting to stay away from the Emirates

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This may be the only form of protest that works.

Arsenal v Chelsea - Capital One Cup Fourth Round
More of you are staying away.
Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Arsenal have an amazing stadium. They’ve been there for 11 years now, and in those years, we keep hearing about how the Emirates generates more matchday revenue than any stadium in England, which isn’t really an attestation of how great the stadium is for playing and viewing as much as it is for their skill at revenue generation, but is still impressive.

Well, guess what? Arsenal’s match day attendances are falling. And not by, like, one or two hundred people who overslept or missed their train or whatever. Yesterday’s match saw anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 fewer people show up than usual - and there was no mass protest, no organized walkout.

It just seems like apathy has been creeping in - Arsenal are metronomic in their regularity, and that hasn’t turned out to be a good thing over the last few seasons, so it would seem that fans (and season ticket holders) are finding better things to do with their Saturdays than to go watch Groundhog Day for the third season in a row. And when you add in that Arsenal were playing the less-than-glamorous Hull City on a “cold and windy” Saturday afternoon, it’s easy to see why someone who is frustrated with the club would just say “sod it, I’m going to stay home”.

It’s gotten to the point where even club officials are noticing it - if only to tweet out a denial of the 10,000 number. I wasn’t there, and I didn’t get a good view on TV, but I do know that it’s very hard to reliably eyeball headcounts at a sporting event. That said, I don’t discount the view of a season ticket holder and regular attendee, who is probably very able to at least ballpark a number of no-shows, so I don’t have a huge problem when the AST guy in the article says 10,000 people didn’t show.

I also don’t have a problem with the Arsenal official saying the number was “way out”, and not remotely close to 10,000 - that’s his job. He’s supposed to minimize things like that, and make it sound like Arsenal are somewhere in between fine and not-fine. Given those two sources, I tend to lean more towards the AST view of things - people do seem to be staying away, and if that continues, Arsenal will want to make sure they do something to address the problem as soon as they can.

On the other hand, though, those people who are staying away have already paid for those tickets, so it’s not like Arsenal are losing money yet. But it looks bad to have a beautiful stadium be 10% empty, and hopefully Arsenal can stop the rot before it becomes a legitimate problem and talking point.