Good morning Kickers! There’s a few little things going on in team news but I’ll save that for a rapid fire team news finish. Instead, today’s main helping will be all about traveling Arsenal fans. We’re going to start with answers to the common questions I field about traveling to London and procuring Arsenal tickets. Then we’re going to delve a bit into Richard Scudmore’s plan to have games held on foreign soil and then wrap up with my alternative to his plan.
I have now traveled to London three consecutive years to see Arsenal. I have stayed in three different types of hotels, procured match tickets in three different ways, and traveled with and without company. The most common question I get is “did you have fun?” Well, of course! Because fun to me is free museums, getting lost in a city full of colorful and interesting shops, “real ale,” and topping it off with a match at the Arsenal. Who could NOT have fun? Well, you might not have fun if you don’t have enough money saved up to be free spending, if you eat at the wrong places, if you’re an annoying person, if you’re clueless, if you’re rude, and if you expect to be treated special because you’re an American.
But let’s focus on the fun. Most of the museums are free. On my first trip I saw Seurat’s bathers and it is awesome. And I mean awesome as in “it takes up the whole wall and your jaw actually drops at the scope of this work.” On my last trip I went to the Tate Modern and got to see some Jackson Pollacks and a whole exhibit on minimalism (which is a genre I am working in with my photography). Do you like stolen antiquities? Go to the British museum, it’s free. Photography? There’s a museum for that. It cost £5. Oh no. The point is simply that the UK has been around for a long while and through their empire they have amassed a massive collection of other people’s cool stuff. You should go see it.
How about beer? Do you like beer? I do and it’s by far the best deal at the bar. Usually I pay less than £3 per Imperial pint – which is a 20 oz beer, not some wimpy 16 oz American pint! My favorite beers are the “real ales” which we call “cask conditioned” or, if you’re ignorant, “warm and flat… hurrr!” Real ales is the proper name for any beer that is made naturally and allowed to create it’s own bubbles through a secondary fermentation or “cask conditioning.” This second part is the reason why the ale is never kept cold. Yeast doesn’t like cold and goes dormant so the kegs used to be kept in the cellar — not too warm, not too cold. I could go on and on about how serving beer like this releases more flavor, that they are better for your stomach because there’s no CO2 injected into the beer, and on and on. But I won’t because most Americans (heck I think even most Brits) don’t care for Real Ales. If you’re one of those people, never fear! Every pub has at least one cider, a handle for Guinness (which has a pretty good alcohol to calorie ratio), and probably three cold lagers. Two years ago, Stella was the ubiquitous lager and this time it was ‘Ice Cold Carling.’ I just realized that I could write on and on about beer in London: let’s just say that there’s a beer for every taste and it’s cheaper than Whiskey.
“So, how do I get match tickets Tim?” This used to be more tricky than it is now but it’s still not easy. The first time I went I didn’t have tickets before I left. What I had was that sort of bravery that comes from utter ignorance, you know, like George W. Bush when he said “bring ‘em on, he he hehhe hehehe heh.” I kinda knew that scalping tickets (scalpers are called touts in England) is illegal but my plan was to talk to the concierge at the hotel. Now, mind you this was the last season at Highbury but this was also a Charlton match. So, I was in luck. I think I paid three times the face value for that ticket and then spent two days wandering around London with some guy’s season tickets in my pocket. I can’t recommend this method: you could end up watching the match from a pub, or worse, spending the weekend in prison (it’s illegal to buy match tickets above face value.)
The second time I went, I got my tickets through Craigslist and at some level I think I have the most bald-faced luck of any man alive. I got two tickets (for me and my lady), paid face value, and the guy was very generous about meeting me at Emirates to hand over his season ticket card. Granted, this was a match against Reading, the title race was over, and the tickets were lower level and staring directly into the sunset. But still, what a great deal! I paid less for those two seats than for half of my one seat at Highbury.
This last time, I just bought my tickets online at Arsenal.com. It’s pretty simple, you have to be a paid member of Arsenal and you wait until a match becomes available to red members and you buy the tickets — that’s it, the tickets are on your membership card, which you put into a reader and the green light goes green and you walk through the turnstile. Sure, I had to get the most expensive seats but they were pretty awesome as I blogged about previously.
I had wanted to use my connection to Arsenal America to get match tickets but their system is retardedly complicated, the people involved are fucking rude, and the whole thing seemed more like a way for them to get OUT of helping Americans get match tickets rather than facilitating supporters.
Let me take just a second to illustrate the stupidity. First, you must be a member in good standing with the club (which already gets you match tickets). Second, you must be a member in good standing with Arsenal America (which is an extra $5 a year), ok this is already stupid. You have to be a member of both organizations, why? Third, you have to ask for tickets 10 weeks in advance. 10 weeks? Yep, and go ahead and ask for an exception — they are extremely rude up front about how rude they will be if you even ask. Fourth, you have to sign up with some message board (not Arsenal America) in order to email the rude person (who never even answered my emails) so you can be treated like dog-shit and put through all kinds of hoops so that you might be able to get match tickets. Fifth, you have to meet the guy, fellate him, and then he gives you tickets oh yeah, and there’s all kinds of surcharges. WHEEEEEE! Maybe back when Arsenal were at Highbury and tickets were difficult to obtain all of this was necessary, but now, this just seems like someone who is begrudgingly getting you tickets.
Fuck that. Get your own tickets by following this simple formula: pick a mid-table or relegation team (this “relegation team” formula works exceptionally well except for Spurs which inexplicably sells out), be a member in good standing with Arsenal FC, wait until those tickets go on sale online (usually a month before the match), buy the tickets, book your flight, have fun. When people back home ask you if went to a big match just tell them “any match that I get to see live is a big match to me!”
So there you have it; timmy_the_tooth’s guide to having fun at an Arsenal match. There’s so much more that I could talk about, hotels versus bed and breakfasts, using the tube, looking left at crosswalks, etc, but I’ll spare you for today. In fact, I’m going to save the team news and my idea for Scudmore for my lunch time break, as I am now late for work and this blog is already insanely long.
Until this afternoon, cheers!