Green groups cry foul after team spent just 14 minutes in the air travelling to a game they then proceeded to lose
You have to feel a bit sorry for Arsenal fans. The team hasn't picked up a trophy for over seven years now, while every summer it seems they lose another of their best players – and all for the price of the most expensive season ticket in English football.
But while supporters were clearly disgruntled with Saturday's poor 1-0 defeat at struggling Norwich, at least the team had a decent excuse for this latest capitulation: jet lag.
Yes, the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Arsenal's London Colney training centre to Norwich's Carrow Road ground was clearly deemed far too arduous for such cosseted superstars, so the decision was taken to fly from Luton – a flight that spends a grand total of 14 minutes in the air.
"It is absolutely absurd," raged Norwich Friends of the Earth co-ordinator Jennifer Parkhouse, missing the open goal of a "given the poor performance Arsenal clearly chose flight over fight" gag.
"I cannot see any reason why they would have flown, other than it being a rather ostentatious display of the players' and the club's wealth," she added. "They must have spent more time just getting on and off the plane than in the air."
Weirdly, a quick search reveals you can fly to Norwich for as little as £20, which is a damning indictment of travel in this country right there. Although, you'd imagine that Arsenal's millionaire footballers could have quickly spent any money they saved buying enormous Toblerones at the airport.
The Arsenal press office refused to get back to the Tank yesterday, so we've nicked quotes from elsewhere –specifically a press conference given today by gaffer Arsene Wenger ahead of tonight's Champions' League tie with Schalke.
"Usually we take the train and there was no train available," he said. "So in the end we decided to fly because we had to drive up on Friday afternoon at the moment when you never know how long it lasts."
No, that made little sense to us either. Fortunately, a spokesman for the club elucidated in widely reported comments (again, comments not given to the Tank, despite the fact we specifically asked for them – it's enough to make you think Arsenal's press office doesn't want to answer questions about how flying to Norwich fits with the club's lauded sustainability strategy).
"The club considers all transport options available for the first team when travelling to an away fixture," he said. "Given the severe disruption to rail services at the weekend, the most time-efficient option was to fly, hence the first team made the journey by plane from London to Norwich."
But how this fits in with the club's stated aim of "taking steps where practicable to minimise any adverse impact that we may have on the environment" must be left to the imagination – much like Arsenal's title bid this season.
All this is a bit of a shame, because the Emirates Stadium itself has a number of green features, such as a recyclable pitch, LED lighting, and voltage optimisation equipment that reduces power consumption by up to 20 per cent, while the club says it is investigating installing solar panels or wind turbines at the training ground.
But perhaps it highlights just how far Arsenal have fallen from their 'Invincibles' team in 2003/04. After all, as some wags have pointed out, this would never have happened in Dennis Bergkamp's day.
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