Priced out: Money-hungry officials pricing a generation out of the beautiful game.

Ruairí Cotter

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Liverpool fans unite to protest against ticket prices.
Liverpool fans unite to protest against ticket prices.
Photo Credit: The Weekly Bull (Flickr)

The recent ticket scandal at Liverpool brought to light something that has been creeping its ugly head into football for many years now. Despite the dramatic increase in TV money, clubs continue to raise the price of their tickets, pricing local fans out of seeing their beloved team every week.

Ticket prices continue to rise despite the increase in money coming in from TV
Ticket prices continue to rise despite the increase in money coming in from TV.
Photo credit: The Weekly Bull (Flickr)

Clubs are being ran as businesses these days, and fans are simply seen as customers. When Liverpool bosses announced an increase in prices for the 2016/17 season fans came together to say enough is enough. American owners Fenway Sports Group released information showing the most expensive match ticket would rise to £77 from an already extortionate £59.

The new pricing structure would see the most expensive season ticket jump to a whopping £1,029 – this for a club that have struggled for the past couple of years having lost key men Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard, sitting 9th in the Premier League and not playing in the Champions League.

Fans may have stomached the price hike if they were still being dazzled by the goals Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge produced that took them to within two points of the title in 2013/14, but paying more to see Benteke and co flop to mid table two years on hardly seems fair.

 

 

Liverpool fans refused to be walked all over, though. When supporter groups came together to organise a walk out on the 77th minute of the Premier League clash with Sunderland in protest, the whole world stood up and took note. Football without fans is nothing and the silence in a half-empty Anfield when Sunderland scored a late equaliser must have been deafening for the American owners.

Credit where it’s due, the owners listened and announced a price freeze on all tickets. Despite this only being a small step towards what football fans want and what football needs, it was a massive win for fans all over the world.

It’s going to take fans of all the top clubs to follow in the footsteps of the Liverpool supporters in order to see any real results. Arsenal’s most expensive season ticket is a staggering £2,013 – just let that sink in.

Clubs like Arsenal are sacrificing an atmosphere for a bigger bank balance. Club owners know that they’ll sell the seats each week. If not to long-time local fans, then to day trippers. I’ve been going to Anfield to watch Liverpool for 18 years and without the hard core local fans the ‘famous’ Anfield atmosphere turns to that of a library.

Some of the world’s biggest clubs abroad are putting the English teams to shame showing they value their fans and see them as supporters rather than customers. A Barcelona season ticket is available from just €95, while Bayern Munich season tickets for the Allianz Arena start at €133.

Munich fans are treated to fair prices at the impressive Allianz Arena.
Munich fans are treated to fair prices at the impressive Allianz Arena.
Photo Credit: Ungry Young Man (Flickr)

Bayern president Uli Hoeness recently said: “’We could charge more than £104. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2m more in income but what’s £2m to us?

“In a transfer discussion you argue about that sum for five minutes. But the difference between £104 and £300 is huge for the fan. We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.”.

Money in football isn’t a new thing. It was alive and well over 20 years ago when Blackburn splashed the cash to win the Premier League in 1995, but what we’re seeing now is often hard to believe.

The Chinese revolution is breath-taking. This year has seen Brazilian stars Ramires and Alex Texeira join Chinese teams, as well as former PSG ace Ezequiel Lavezzi, one-time Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko and Everton frontman Nikica Jelavic.

You’re not talking washed up big names that have moved to Asia for one more big payday before they retire, these are players in their peaks, some of whom would get into many of the top teams in European football.

Lavezzi’s move sees him rise to the fifth best player in world football earning €13m every year. Only Christiano Ronaldo (€21m), Lionel Messi (€20m), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (€16m) and Thomas Muller (€13.5) earn more than him.

 

Almost every footballer now has his price, it seems, and while this side of the game is more than likely broken beyond repair, it’s more important now than ever that fans stand united and refuse to be part of the modern money game. Otherwise, I fear a day where entire generations miss out on the spine-tingling experience of being part of a live screaming crowd, and football becomes nothing more than a TV show.

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Ruairí Cotter