We all know that actively supporting your football team is not a cheap business and getting tickets for certain matches is beyond the difficulty of defining the true value of Pi. For some people, watching a football match is a purely sedentary experience from their comfy armchair to the TV or a radio. This is not really what football should be.
Watching football live makes the sport special, but for many reasons, many football supporters may not have been to their club's stadium on match day for a number of years. It is utterly safe to say that the days of turning up a kiosk at with a couple of quid, with a guaranteed chance to get into a leading top flight game, and have the chance of some change from a £20 bank note, are long gone.
Some people will not care. After all, football is not an essential part of daily life, such as sleeping, eating and drinking. They can afford their regular tickets and what of the rest? However, if you come from a family, where football was a key component of family life for generations, and it is a struggle to see your team, you want to see the home of your club, even if it is just for one day.
Many clubs have tapped into this need, as well as realising that their vast cavernous stadiums need to pay their way on a non match day. Arsenal are one such club and their museum and stadium tour experience is heavily trailed in a range of media. If you are an Arsenal fan, who can not afford a match day ticket, but wants to feel part of the club in a personal way rather than through a TV screen, radio speaker or internet search provider, is this 'experience' worthwhile?
The Emirates stadium tour touches all of the places that you would expect on trip around a football ground. You enter near to The Armoury megastore; the high temple of Arsenal shopping, and within a couple of minutes you are greeted by a range of club suited officials offering a genuine welcome to your club. You are presented with a headphoned small box where ex Arsenal goalkeeper, BBC and ITV football presenter Bob Wilson provides your commentary around the stadium.
The box seemed to be fairly structurally flimsy with the back cover falling apart on a number of occasions on the tour. However, the commentary is the most comprehensive that I have ever experienced on a stadium tour. You will learn everything and anything about your club from how a hawk is employed to scare any rogue pigeons who decide to fly into the stadium bowl, to the ground breaking work that Herbert Chapman undertook to make Arsenal Football Club a truly pioneering football outfit. You can watch recent match action too on your grey box. More club officials are positioned around the tour route ready to share anecdotes and share memories. It is a pleasant and personable experience. Unlike on other stadium tours, you are not shunted around like sheep going into various holding pens.
After taking endless pictures in the director box, the ultra executive dining club, press room, the players tunnel, pitch side and the changing rooms (home and away, and it is not often that you are allowed in home team dressing room on one of these tours at any time of a week,) you are spun into The Armoury megastore catching you at that vulnerable moment when you feel that a souvenir is needed for your visit. More shockingly young people seem to be strategically positioned around the store to help you make your purchase. They do make you feel that you are the most privileged and desperately wanted shopper in their store. It is very hard to stop yourself from buying something and if you are that Arsenal fan who is visiting the Emirates Stadium for the first time, you will want a postcard, poster, home shirt, DVD, book, rugs, blankets, cuddly dinosaur, or credit card package.
Your tour includes a trip to the Arsenal museum towards the north side of the stadium. Although not especially large, the museum gives you more information about the club, celebrates some of the club's best players, the 'Invincibles' season, and the best matches from across the years. Coming out of the museum, to take more pictures of the murals on the edge of the stadium, it is potentially natural to rush over to the matchday ticket office with the hope that there is one spare seat for next home game.
You will then discover that it is a sell out, or the ticket office is shut. The whole experience has made you feel so warm and fuzzy about your club. You have tried to climb the hill but can not reach the summit but you still really need to become an 'official' member of your football club. Then you have more of a chance to get a match ticket but there are still no guarantees that you can see a game, particularly a match of your choice.
But you have had a chance to at least see where your heroes play their game.
I would not want to blame Arsenal, or any other team, for this situation. This is not another article blaming the whole money in modern day football issue. The game is now a multi million pound industry with sums of money being quoted beyond most people's wildest imaginations. We have to live with that.
Stadiums are like temples of sport, attracting regular audience levels for a game which local churches, or even West End theatres, would only dream of. Off the pitch activities, such as museum and tour attractions are essential to keep people's beliefs alive. Some are an embarrassing flop; a cynical sponsor fest with about as much atmosphere as a trade show. Arsenal's tour offering makes you feel like you are their very special number one fan.