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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Lycett

How Arsenal's fan culture helped build record-breaking crowds

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

This past week, Arsenal was officially recognised for being massive - well, Tim Stillman tweeted about it, so that's as official as it gets, I'd say. All four of our away games in the WSL so far this season, have seen record attendances at our opponent’s stadiums.

It's no coincidence that an article landed this past week too, asking why other teams can't seem to replicate this achievement. Chelsea have success but they've yet to sell out, and have generally low attendance figures. 

Suzy Wrack writing for the Guardian suggested that it could be due to their success. They rely on the silverware they win to attract crowds, and there’s little jeopardy in games - yet Chelsea played Barcelona at Stamford Bridge, and still couldn’t sell out. 

She highlights that they have one of the higher price points of the league, with some tickets at £50. They also don’t make ticket sales seem like a race against time on their social media channels like Arsenal, with announcements for each milestone reached.

Marketing plays a part, but it's not everything.

Yes, the fact that tickets are available needs to be shared to push people to buy them. But it’s engagement that drives the numbers for our team. 

As discussed by Chloe Morgan and Rachel O'Sullivan in this week’s Upfront podcast, club’s can’t simply rely on the badge to attract the crowds. A lot comes down to culture. 

The fact that our away attendance is growing reflects the passion in the fanbase. It takes time and effort and money to travel the country - and yet we do it in our thousands. 

That isn’t simply something that the Club could foster on its own. It needed buy-in from the Supporters Club to help build it - and for that to then filter down into fan engagement.

Flo Lloyd-Hughes has it right. It's not easy to do.

The Arsenal Women Supporters Club over the past couple of seasons has done wonders in being the official link between the fans and the Club. 

Buying away tickets has never been easier, and the Club’s atmosphere block at Emirates is a step in the right direction in helping us share our passion in that bigger stadium.

The Club has recognised that growing the fanbase - and ticket sales - is much easier to do when it’s done hand in hand.  And we're lucky that we have dedicated and hardworking people behind the scenes in the Supporters Club to make this possible.

That collaboration between supporters and Club is around logistics - how can we make it easier for fans to come together? The next layer is all about connections.

The Club helps create connections with the players through social media.

Their posts show the players as people. We as supporters can buy into them, individually - and that's important.

Anyone remember the alphabet video before the Wolfsburg game? That one video sparked the mass purchasing of toy zebras to take to the game.

But a lot of the culture has filtered through from the Red and White, as an offshoot of the Supporters Club. The group aimed to bring together people that wanted to sing at games, and has ended up building so much more than that. 

The individual player chants in particular are a big part of creating connections with the team.

We have group chats where songs are long debated. Which songs? For which players? Does one player have too many songs? Do those lyrics fit the rhythm precisely? Is it simple enough to catch on?

The players acknowledge us and share how we help them deliver results. They appreciate what we do to help them over the line - especially with our away numbers that make any game feel like a home game.

We make a difference, as the twelfth player, and they tell us that. It makes everything we do worthwhile. 

I'd argue too that the hardships of last season created a tight bond between the players and the fans.

We were all in it when times were tough, the injury crisis of the 22/23 season. Yet the players showed grit and determination, and made us want to back them.

But a lot of what drives the fan culture takes place outside the grounds.

It’s about what we do around the game as well. For that, the Club dictates the date and time in scheduling matches. The rest is up to the Supporters club and the Red and White to organise - and on us as fans to make it fun. 

The meets up before games - whether home or away - have created friendships that I’ve written about before. We all know each other, and at every game, more people join in.

Community is too simple a word.  Tribalism perhaps comes closer when we’re in the midst of celebrating a goal, with limbs everywhere, and hugs aplenty. 

We genuinely care about each other, as well as the result and the team. And we show that by being there in person to support the team, at every possible opportunity.

The culture has been created through our efforts to bring people together. Now, we can credit it with bringing people back.

Last season was the catalyst. A joint effort from the fans and the Club, with recognition from the team. Collaboration to foster what we were growing organically and help it blossom.

So, today we talk about our impressive away attendances, and our massive home crowds. Tomorrow, we'll simply accept this as the norm - and look to new ways that Arsenal can lead the way.

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