Last Saturday, when Arsenal played my beloved Norwich City, my friend Will and I were given tickets to sit in the executive boxes, meaning we would get the best seats in the house, the proper corporate treatment and become everything that ordinary fans like us hate about modern day football. Here is my guide through our day of acting like we were far richer than we actually were until the game started and we turned back into the commoners we really are.
13:48: Will meets me a Wood Green station, he turns up in blazer and smart shoes, really dressed for occasion like Tony Pulis before an FA Cup final (I can confirm Will did not have a tracksuit to change into for kickoff). We start our day at a Weatherspoons, knocking back a couple of cheap drinks before our day of luxury. With rumours of champagne on arrival we feel like we are already out of our depth before even getting to the stadium.
14:45: Weatherspoons trip over, we head to Wood Green tube station to get to Arsenal.
15:00: We arrive at Arsenal and find the streets full already stinking of BBQ. The most striking thing is at the gift shops the most advertised t-shirt is a shirt about a cancelled bus top celebration of Tottenham winning the title. When a team which won the league without losing a game a decade ago biggest bragging rights is now that their rivals have managed to compete for the title when they couldn’t says a lot about how much of a joke the fan merchandise of this club have become. Will is desperate for the toilet and finds an alleyway, getting out the final part of scummyness before we enter the stadium.
15:15: We have no arrived at the Emirates Stadium, and actually, it looks really f****** impressive, like seriously brilliant architecture, no wonder Arsenal have failed to win the league for how many seasons when they had to build this. We walk around the stadium fully twice just to find the Thierry Henry statue.
15:25: We now get to the point of entering the corporate zone. While the security very lazily search our bags it becomes quite clear we don’t have a clue what we are doing, as we struggle to scan our tickets through and stumble our way to our free programs. After asking someone where to go we find our way to the executive lounge, where we get our overpriced bottles of San Miguel. We feel even more out of our depth when we are now surrounded by girls who have honestly only been hired to stand about and look nice, while we are sitting on chairs which must have been worth a couple of grand each, and we see boxes which are owned by famous enough people such as Ian Wright, and a lot of suits.
15:40: We finally find our way to our executive booth where we find a French family already in the booth. They clearly have no clue what they are doing either and we realise we are not the only people who aren’t really the right class for executive boxes. As the other people our box arrive they to appear to be ordinary people, apart from one family who just ignored all of us for the whole duration. Our view of the pitch is staggering, at about a perfect height and viewpoint. Our booth has a private toilet, a conference table and a private TV, while a private waiter was assembling free complimentary sandwiches for us which we would never eat.
16:30: 3 of the people we’re with have decided to find where all the fancy food we thought we would be getting is. After getting slightly lost we find about 20 different corporate bars, a man who’s sole job is to operate the lift, and eventually find a hot dog stand to eat from. Of course, being a corporate hot dog stand, these were particularly tasty and filling hot dogs. Behind us a family puts a bet on that Arsenal are going to hammer 6-0. A hardcore Arsenal fan we are with, Charlie predicts a boring 1-0, while we, conscious with the ludicrous starting line-up Alex Neil had announced, predict a 4-0 pummeling.
17:20: Now is the final rush before kickoff, Will has just brought us 2 pints each to drink in 10 minutes, the corporate lounge is emptying and someone we are with has just put a bet on for Arsenal to win 4-2, and I only think he was that generous to make up for the fact he was with Norwich fans.
17:30: We get back to our booth just in time for kick off and take our seats. Although the Norwich fans were not actually too far from our box, we decided it was probably best to keep the identity of the team we were supporting to ourselves. With the way the executive seats were laid out it was easy to see how those sitting in them could see themselves as better than everyone, as the layout almost was in the way it made us look like we were ruling the rest of the ground like kings.
17:34: Redmond has an early chance which is turned away by the keeper, me and Will immediately give away the identity of the team we support. Unlike when I went to a Huddersfield game where I got abused for the rest of the game for doing the same thing, the Arsenal fans did nothing, showing the lack of passion coming from certain other sections of executive boxes.
18:15: We leave slightly early to halftime as Charlie has told us about complimentary free beer in the corporate bars at halftime. When we got there we found a crazy amount of it, and wine, and cakes for that matter. Some random Arsenal fan took this opportunity to point out how all the corporate fans were “Chelsea or Liverpool fans who don’t care about the football club” while chanting “We’ve got free beer-I don’t think you understand”. As the referee blows for halftime almost all the beers suddenly disappear as the halftime rush begins. Will manages to get 3 free cakes on his way back. After only hearing Charlie next us sing from the corporate section it was good to see that even the part of society who arguably ruin sport by making it too commercial still knew how to get drunk.
18:35: We get back just in time for the second half.
18:40: Danny Welbeck scores past John Ruddy in what even we admitted to be a good goal. This turned me and Will to go from being able to control our emotions to go full YARMY minus the chanting (for those who don’t know-YARMY is Norwich slang for Yellow Army).
19:00: The whole crowd goes very quiet now as the edgy closing stages start, although we are still awfully in comfort with our seats Will and my own agitation with Norwich’s lack of attacking ability was starting to be noticed fully by other fans around us.
19:10: A 70th minute Boycott ensues by the Arsenal fans, although we have no idea what is happening as we are too focused on the game. If I knew it was happening I would feel for them having to pay about £80 per game to watch their team scrape 4th place every year while we were in their executive box for free.
19: 30: The final whistle goes and we contemplate our teams relegation chances while the Arsenal fans around us ponder what was for them a very average performance. We shake the hands of the people we were with as we flock to work to the 2nd nearest tube station hoping to bump into the famous Claude and ask him if it’s time for Alex Neil to go.
Even though we lost, given if I had the money, I would have paid about £350 for the experience which I had got for free, and as me and Will tipsily walked to Finsbury Park we knew despite living like maybe not kings but distant cousins of kings for the day, we were already back to being normal people again.