Football fans fight back
You play to empty seats

Fans are getting ever more savvy in which matches they attend!

As I sat in my lofty perch in Block 100 of the North Bank waiting for the FA Cup match with Hull City to kick off, I looked around the stadium.

What did I see?

In the away section. I saw that only a few hundred Hull City fans had made the journey.

Who could blame them. The BBC had scheduled the match on a Sunday evening with a 5.30pm kick off time.

It’s a round trip of over 400 miles to London and back to Hull.

As has become the norm, there were also thousands of empty seats in the Arsenal sections of the ground.

The match was included as one of the additional fixtures in the cost of the season ticket, but clearly wasn’t a sufficient draw for many to actually want to attend.

It was the day before most people were going back to work, and children back to school, after the Christmas and New Year break.

Not something that those responsible at the BBC for scheduling matches would give a second thought too. Any more than Sky or BT do.

As a fan you are just expected to turn up when you are told, to create an atmosphere for the watching millions and are berated when you don’t – and lambasted when there are empty seats around the stadium.

The number of empty seats at Arsenal home matches has now, I would say, reached record levels.

Despite what the official attendance figures might say.

A seat sold isn’t the same as a bum on it.

Some will say the drop off in actual attendances is because of the performance of the team.

It’s also clear that many season tickets are in the hands of people who don’t attend matches themselves.

These are the seats sometimes occupied by”tourists” or more often than not remain empty.

These might be contributory factors but I think it goes deeper.

Fans are now much more selective in which games they attend.

The majority of those that sit around me would never give up their Arsenal Season Ticket.

But many now take advantage of the ticket exchange scheme for a few matches every season to help offset the cost of their season ticket.

Whilst others just don’t turn up for certain matches.

They say. Why go through the hassle of the journey to and from a match, and the extra expense incurred, when you can watch at home.

If an Arsenal match isn’t being shown live on TV, you can easily stream it from the Internet or go down your local pub to watch it.

With so much money in the game should the broaadcasters and the clubs be concerned by empty seats at matches?

I would say yes. People are now consuming football in a variety of different ways.

Whilst nothing comes close to the atmosphere of being in the ground, at a match, there are other options available now.

You don’t have to physically be in a ground to participate.

You also don’t need to pay a subscription to a TV broadcaster to watch. As I’ve mentioned you can now stream matches.

You can interact with others around the world through social media before, during and after a match.

Broadcasters have saturated the market. You can watch live football on TV seven days a week. Surely a match on Christmas Day can’t be too far away

Broadcasters choose the best times to schedule matches to maximise advertising revenue, and for their viewers and subscribers.  The match attending fan doesn’t feature on their list of priorities.

The fan though does have the ultimate sanction. The option not to attend.

Empty seats don’t look good for broadcasters, clubs or sponsors.

The clubs have squeezed the pips out of fans over ticket prices.

Arsenal have of course banked the money from the sale of the season ticket, but they are missing out on the additional revenue the stay away fans would spend on merchandising and through the club’s food and drink outlets.

Any club should be concerned if it’s core fans are staying away.

So it should come as no surprise that fans are now ever more selective in the matches they attend. Taking advantage of the other options to watch matches available to them.

The football fan landscape is going through a change just as radical as that taking place in politics.

What do you think?