News reaches us that Premiership chairmen are going to be forced into cutting ‘obscene’ ticket prices because fans have just about had enough of being the victims of daylight robbery every weekend, and as a result, football has reached a tipping point.
Two top-flight chairmen have expressed the same view, both of whom predict price cuts all round next season.
‘It is a serious issue that has reached saturation point across the country,’ said Phil Gartside, chairman of Bolton. ‘We feel duty bound to make a stance by reducing the cost for our season ticket holders, and I’m sure other clubs will follow suit next season and listen to public opinion.’ But surely the tickets are inflated at the chairs’ behest?
This weekend saw ManYoo fans protesting about the amount being charged to let their fans watch their side at Fulham. They were asked for a whopping Â£45 to watch their team, and that doesn’t include travel and grub… although they hadn’t got far to travel from Essex eh? Ho Ho Ho… I’ll get me coat. A senior executive from another of the Premiership’s ‘big four’ clubs told Observer Sport that prices could not go any higher. ‘Officially we are monitoring the situation,’ he said. ‘But privately we have realised that ticket prices have reached their maximum, at least in the immediate future.’
These warnings come slap bang in the middle of an attendance slump. Despite an increased capacity at Arsenal and Manchester United, the average attendance is down from last year, and whilst the big four continue to sell out their games, the overall Premiership average is down by more than 1,000 year on year and now stands at 32,775, not including this weekend. What is causing fans to stay away? Well, once, you could watch the footy and not dent the wallet too much, and know exactly when you’d be going out. Basically, high prices and amended kick-off times to enable saturated TV coverage aren’t encouraging fans to get down the ground.
Of course, a lot of money is generated by the TV rights, which obviously help clubs to bring in new players and the like. That said, the Premier League negotiated a new Â£600million, three-year deal for overseas TV rights to the Premiership. Add the Â£1.7 billion Sky and Setanta will pay to screen matches in Britain, and the Â£400m for internet and mobile phone rights, and it seems scandalous that ticket prices continually increase. Each club will be getting around Â£900m per season (starting in August).
Apart from drops in season ticket prices, a group are also want away matches addressed. The Football Supporters’ Federation want a fixed price for all travelling supporters. ‘Away fans in England are unique. You would not get 5,000 Milan supporters travelling to Juventus. If prices were to stay in line with the Taylor Report’s recommendation, then Â£15 would be a fair price for those who travel to watch their team.’
The report, published in January 1990 in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, stated that ‘it should be possible for seating to be Â£6’. With inflation, that would mean fans paying just Â£9.60 now, rather than the average of about Â£30.
So what’s the answer? Well, looking at Germany’s Bundesliga, the average attendance was approximately 40,000, which is superior to our league matches. In fact, it’s about a quarter more fans in through the turnstiles, shouting for their team. German fans can buy tickets for as little as Â£10 or Â£15 for all games, and in some cases, terracing is being used, which gives a fan a feeling of real unity, as opposed to the sterile stadia over here. What is interesting is that the Bundesliga is renowned for its competitiveness, with many teams standing a chance of winning it. Should we look at the German model to fix our game? [Mof Gimmers]