Rich tea at half-time

One of the things that all genuine fans - which means fans who pay their own money for their own humble seats - dislike these days is the hospitality industry. In the west stand at Spurs, I go mad when these red-faced, braying oafs with hospitality suite badges hanging round their stupid necks push past to take their seats late, stinking of booze and food, with no idea where they are.

At Arsenal, I look across to the executive-box level, and ten minutes after half-time they are all empty, as the guests are still inside, getting pissed. It's the same at Wembley - acres of empty seats, waiting for corporate guests who wouldn't recognise Jamie Carragher if they met him in their porridge.

But last Saturday, I was in a private box at Arsenal and, naturally, I have changed my mind. What a fab way to watch a game - what fun, what comfort.

Before that, my first and only time in a private box was over 20 years ago. The new west stand at Spurs had opened and a friend took a box, which cost £13,000 a season and seated eight people. Obscene prices, I thought: it won't catch on.

I enjoyed the waitress service, as it is so boring having to pour one's drink and open one's own mouth, but we were stuck behind a glass panel. Good view of the pitch - but no noise. There was a knob you could turn to let in the sound of the vulgar fans outside. I thanked my friend but said the atmosphere was rubbish. I never got invited again.

At the Emirates, the boxes have seats outside on their own balcony, so you get the best of all worlds. According to the internet, prices range from £65,000 to £150,000 a season (gulp). The one I was in, owned by an Arab, seats 15. He wasn't there but I was invited by a close friend of his. Half the guests were his upper-class friends and contacts; the others - though I didn't get all their names - seemed to be chauffeurs, waiters, people on his staff he appeared to be treating.

A splendid meal was served an hour before the game, the drink flowed and, very soon, I was forgetting where I was and what I had come to see - especially when, five minutes before kick-off, all the blinds came down. One of the waiters explained that they do this in the boxes when the live TV cameras start panning round the ground. The sight of people stuffing their faces would obviously offend some poor people.

I managed to stagger outside just a few minutes after kick-off and the view was brilliant - yet it did feel like a private box, cut off from the hordes. I couldn't, however, see the top of the big screen, which I never seem able to see when I sit elsewhere: the only design fault in an otherwise brilliant stadium.

At half-time, my fellow guests went back inside to the booze and one asked: "I say, how long does half-time last?" In the second half, the rather aristocratic person beside me asked why the West Ham fans were singing "Bubbles" and shouting: "Come on, you Irons." Oh, God, I thought, if I start explaining, I'll be here till next week, but of course I did. At length. One likes to help the ignorant rich . . .