The cost of dedication

Old season ticket
Ticket from the olden-days

Now, as all those among you lucky enough to be season ticket holders at the finest club in the land will attest, this week the renewal forms for next year dropped onto the mat – or to be precise, arrived in the inbox.

The eagle/misty-eyed will have noticed that one thing has been consigned to history – the self-addressed and stamped postcard that used to boomerang its way back to you once the paperwork had been received by the club. Being a middle-aged and grumpy sort of bloke, I miss that postcard already.

The other thing that disappeared, alongside the old ground itself, was the paper season ticket, which resembled a raffle ticket book, with its tear-out matchday tickets at the front and indecipherable coloured cup-tie coupons and special match vouchers at the back.

Replays and other assorted unscheduled matches required a special kind of intelligence to arrange tickets for: the ability to pick out the correct voucher (“is it coupon B, or special match voucher 21?”). These things came with experience. You could always tell the rookie season ticket holder in such circumstances, skimming through the book in a blind panic as deadline day for ticket applications loomed.

Voucher
Voucher

The other two things that have changed considerably are the price, and the availability.

Getting my first season ticket, in the year we signed Kiwomya, Helder and Hartson in a desperate attempt to climb the table prior to George Graham’s sacking, required nothing more than a phone call to the club. They had plenty available and all I had to do was head down to the ground and choose the two seats I wanted.

As for price, well in 1994-5 I paid £260 for my season ticket, naturally in the East Lower at Highbury. The price rises thereafter mirrored the huge increase in popularity of the game itself, the arrival of expensive European players and of course, the huge growth in player wages.

The club has to its credit held prices now for three seasons running – though they were admittedly already among the highest in the land – but the prices below do nevertheless indicate the inflation in ticket prices at Arsenal since the conception of the Premier League. I only now have two of the electronic stubs – inserted inside the cover of each season ticket – to indicate the prices I paid, but suffice to say that in the four years between 94 and 98 the ticket price had risen from £260 to £390, and by 2008, it was nearer £900.

Still, every season I moan about the cost, yet every season I’m back for more.

It’s a little bit addictive…