With success on the field comes an inevitable interest from lots of different people, and when that success becomes international news, there is always going to be fresh faces and fresh problems for the club to face. Nice problems though, the sort of problems that don’t threaten bankruptcy, closure and relegation. The issues we have around Arsenal tickets is a nice issue to have, unless you’re going to miss out.
Before I start, I’ll clarify that I’m not going to miss out. Having been helped by people for Ipswich (home and away) and Brighton I grabbed the opportunity a final strEight ticket afforded me, and as it turns out it was a wise move. I do understand not everyone has £120 laying around to spend up front, and I understand they feel aggrieved at potentially missing out on the big match.
Firstly, well done to Kevin Cooke for appearing on Facebook live and being honest and upfront about the ‘issues’ surrounding the ticket situation. For those who don’t know Arsenal only allowed us to have 9,000 tickets on the proviso that every sale is traceable, by that they mean there is an audit trail. They want to see where each and every ticket has gone, and the only way they can do that is by Lincoln City selling them to people already on their database. If you bought a final strEight and moaned about how long it took, this is why.
This form of ticket selling isn’t new, at big clubs it is the norm. In the modern world you can’t just turn up at Man United and pay on the turnstile. There are buying clubs, priority lists and the like for each and every game. Ticket touts became a significant problem and the big clubs took steps to negate their threat. Those of you who regularly attend matches of a bigger club will already know this.
The 15% rule doesn’t apply for really big clubs either. Stadiums over a certain capacity only have to give up to 5,000 tickets to travelling fans. Arsenal kindly agreed to 9,000 as long as the stringent conditions were put in place. The alternative was for Arsenal to give us 5,000, just enough to go around the season ticket and other priority holders. Would we rather have 5,000 fans in the Emirates, or 9,000?
I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to look at this in such an objectionable manner if I were set to miss out, and I imagine for some reading this is not going to make things a great deal easier. Neither Lincoln City, nor Arsenal are doing anything wrong. the big club are not undermining the little club. The little club are not profiteering. Both parties are doing whatever they can within the constraints of the modern game to ensure as many Imps fans as possible get to watch the big match.
I’ve seen a couple of complaints on social media I’d like to address. There’s the parents who have an Arsenal supporting child who wants to go to the game. I’m not pointing at a specific post here, but I’ve seen a couple. Little Jimmy wants to go to watch his local team play his idols, but Dad / Mum aren’t happy because they can’t get him (and one assumes themselves) a ticket for the game. Maybe they’ve been to see Lincoln once or twice this season, maybe not.
Unfortunately sentiment doesn’t play a part in this. There’s a large number of people want to go to the game, not all of them have a sob story or involve children in their complaints. A lot of fans who have followed Lincoln all over the country year after year are struggling for tickets, so why should a kid who doesn’t even support Lincoln get the nod? If he was that big an Arsenal fan perhaps Mummy and Daddy should have signed him up to their supporters database instead?
I’ve also seen some pretty harsh things written about ST holders speculating that they won’t help out fellow fans. I appreciate the post in question was probably written in anger at the possibility of not getting a ticket, but it is grossly unfair. As I mentioned the generosity of an ST holder ensured I got to go to Burnley, and I’d had two or three other offers as well. I had offers from people queuing for the Ipswich and Brighton games too. I firmly believe priority holders will help out other fans where they can. I’d wager a lot of fans are already in possession of their tickets thanks to other people helping them. The Imps family help each other out when they can, but one way to ensure you probably won’t be helped is by going on social media and making derogatory comments about ST holders, final strEight holders and the like.
I’ve also read some fans are contacting the national media to try to highlight the problem. I can assure you this is a ridiculous move. Of course the media will seize on it, look how they seized on the state of the Sutton dressing rooms after Arsenal had been in there. Did they mention to donation Arsenal made to the club? No. By trying to involve the gutter press we’re dragging Lincoln City and Arsenal down needlessly. The Premier League giants have given us 4,000 more tickets than they have to, and remember they have sold out. They didn’t need to fill the upper tier with Lincoln fans, they’ve behaved with dignity and grace. We have agreed to operate under their regulations, and so we should. Where is the story here? Two clubs agree on a ticket strategy but a handful of people miss out? I’m not usually as up front with my opinions, but contacting the national media is absolutely ridiculous, it undermines both clubs and it reflects badly on our fans. Don’t do it.
It is a crying shame that our biggest cup tie ever has attracted such a glut of negativity, especially when nobody is to blame. We’ll take arguably our biggest ever away following to London, bar the play-off finals in Cardiff. It’s a special day, a historic day that as many fans as possible should get to enjoy. I feel for those true fans who cannot afford to purchase advance incentives and therefore miss out, up until the final strEight promotion I was one of you. However, I also understand the need to comply with the rules surrounding the ticket sales, and acknowledge that Arsenal have done what they can to make sure we enjoy our day as much as we possibly can.
I hope that priority ticket holders don’t decide to give their tickets to ‘such and such’ at work who’s little boy likes Arsenal. I hope they look out for genuine fans.
Good luck to those genuine fans hoping to benefit from someone’s priority, I know that as Imps fans we look out for each other.
For the record my final strEight priority affords me two tickets. I have purchased one for myself and one for my partner. I’ll justify this by telling you she has been to twenty or thirty games since we’ve been in the National League. She even did Mrs Poacher once, and in 2017 alone has been three times, and she gave up her Burnley ticket so it could go to a deserving fan instead (Ed Bruntlett, draw winner and Imps fan for over ten years). I shouldn’t have to justify it, but as a fan with a conscience I feel I ought to.