Saturday, 13 February 2016

The cost of football: £77 for a ticket: "Enough is Enough"

I was pleased to see a small victory for football fans this week, following the protest by Liverpool fans against the club's proposal to increase some tickets to £77.

For years Premier League football has amazed me in that it seems immune from the wider world and economy where people continue to pay eye watering prices despite the fact that many people in the country are struggling financially and the country is slowly recovering from an economic downturn.

If I was a Liverpool fan at last weekend's Sunderland game I to would have walked out on 77 minutes to make the point that enough is enough. With so much money in football and with a new tv deal coming into effect next season there really is no justification for clubs to continue increasing prices.

We can all talk about market forces and the fact that there will always be people who will pay £50 plus prices but that doesn't mean it's right to charge such prices and keep increasing them.

I've heard other people say and I've noticed myself at games that you see fewer children and teenagers attending matches. If you see games from the 70s and 80s it's striking the number of teenagers you see in the stands. Now you have to be middle aged to afford to go to games regularly but how do clubs think they can build the next generation of fans to support clubs and attend matches?

As much as I think that the Premier League is a great product and is entertaining and exciting, I've come to the conclusion that on average I want to pay £25 to watch a football match.

The success of the Premier League is that it's a great marketing exercise. As good as football is, how great can watching 22 players on a football pitch get?

In November last year, I paid £40 to see Roger Federer play Novak Djokovic at the ATP Tennis Masters. Not only was I watching two of the best players in the world, I was watching two of the greatest tennis players of all time. That was value for money. Why should I pay more to watch a mid table Premier League match?

I would happily pay £77 to watch a Test match in cricket, a day at Wimbledon including Centre Court seats. A 6 Nations match at Twickenham. I'm happy to do this because these are more one off events, you may attend these events a couple of times a year at most.

Watching football on the other hand is what I consider your bread and butter sport. You watch football week in week out. Why would I want to pay £70 plus to watch say Arsenal v Norwich? That is not a special or unique event unless you're a tourist. I'd only consider paying £77 to watch a Champions League Quarter/Semi Final or the Final itself.

When you watch football on television part of the appeal of the product is seeing stadiums full of fans providing the atmosphere to the game. When I occasionally see Italian football, Serie A doesn't have the excitement or appeal it used to when you see half empty stadiums. It feels dull in comparison to the Premier League. Football needs the fans and nobody is going to be interested in watching Man Utd v Chelsea in a half empty stadium, the fans are part of the product.

I would like to see and I think it could easily be affordable for clubs to charge away fans no more than £30 for a ticket, in fact they could allow many away fans in for free. Average prices should be no more than £30 which is more than reasonable. In 2014 I saw Lionel Messi and Argentina play Croatia at Upton Park. The cost £25!

As much as money has revolutionised football in England fans have been squeezed for too long and to some extent we as fans have allowed this to happen by continuing to attend games and pay increasing prices. This is why the time has now come to say enough is enough.