The sneaky Arsenal board have set a ridiculously early deadline for Club Level renewals and strongly hinted that season ticket renewals will also have to be confirmed before this season has even finished.

In a statement today, CEO Ivan Gazidis announced:

“Supporters wishing to renew Club Level season tickets have until April 10, 2012 to guarantee their seats for next season. The process for supporters to renew Gold Level season tickets will start in April.”

So not only do Club Level holders have to stump up an extra 2% this year, but they must commit at a time when there will still be seven league games to go and the fate of European qualification will probably be undecided. I can only speculate as to what the Gold Level process “will start in April” means, but logic dictates a commitment to renewing will need to be made then as well.

Give us your money Gooners so I can keep drawing my £2m salary

So why are Arsenal taking this unusual step? Last year’s equivalent announcement was on May 4th, today is February 23rd — why so early this season? It’s purely because they don’t want supporters to know if we’ll be in the Champions League before deciding whether to renew or not.

The 6.5% price hike last season drew massive criticism and fans began to question whether paying the highest prices in Europe to watch a declining, under-motivated side win nothing for six years was value for money anymore. They certainly would think twice if European football wasn’t on offer so Arsenal have cynically side-stepped this issue by demanding an early decision.

They’ve also dodged the very pertinent query raised by the AST this week of whether there would be a price reduction for season tickets should we fail to qualify for the Champions League. Today’s announcement is an emphatic ‘No chance’ to that. Instead, Arsenal have simply ignored the AST and attempted to put a positive spin on the news, opening their statement with:

“Arsenal Football Club has announced a price freeze on General Admission season-ticket renewals for next season. The move means 35,000 existing Gold Level season-ticket holders will see no price increase in watching games at Emirates Stadium for the forthcoming campaign.”

Well after last summer’s increases I should bloody well think so. That price hike was hard to take for most fans and ultimately only raised about £3m for the club. A few weeks later Arsenal made a £17m profit from summer transfers — was the rise really necessary?

Gazidis continues with more shameless spin:

“Our season-ticket holders are the heart of our Club and we are recognising their loyalty by holding their ticket prices for next season.”

Bullshit. If you want to ‘recognise our loyalty’ wait until the end of the season to see whether or not we qualify for Europe and set next season’s prices accordingly. By not doing so you’re ensuring we have to pay Champions League prices again irrespective of whether we get to see any Champions League football.

This unprecedented move is yet another example of an increasingly cynical board treating us more as customers than fans. I still remember Arsenal Commercial Director Tom Fox commenting on our 40,000 season ticket waiting list a while back:

“As a US sports executive… you think, you’re not charging enough for tickets.”

And hey presto, a 6.5% increase. I understand it makes economic sense, but in terms of fans already paying top-dollar that is not being re-invested properly in the team, it smacks of exploitation to raise prices even further in such hard economic times. Which of course is what last summer’s price hike was — exploitation.

I now look forward to more spin from the board to help convince us fans to renew. I still remember what Gazidis said last June as reported in The Independent:

“Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has told his club’s fans he shares a “profound disappointment” with them but has promised a busy summer in the transfer market as the club look to end their six-year trophy drought.”

It was indeed busy, but not in the way Gazidis had spun it. He was trying to placate angry fans and make them think Arsenal were about to bring in real quality to improve the team, but instead we sold two of our best players and then panic bought on deadline day.

He misled us, which is something I’ve gotten more and more used to recently. It’s like the club insisting there’s 60,000 at every home game despite 10,000 empty seats. I don’t want to know how many tickets were sold for the match, I want to know how many people attended it. That’s what an attendance figure should show. But to admit disillusioned fans aren’t coming to games anymore doesn’t sit nicely with this board’s agenda.

Now there are stories running from ‘sources close to the club’ that we will have £100m to spend next season and that we’re about to smash our wage structure to keep van Persie and buy Gotze. Hmmm, I wonder who these ‘sources’ are?

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