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“They’ve paid sixty-two quid over there, go and see them”. A sentence uttered by a linesman at the Emirates to Joleon Lescott, and a sentiment felt throughout the football community.
This weekend, fans of Macclesfield Town up to 18 years of age can take a seat at Moss Road to see the mighty Silkmen take on Kidderminster Harriers for the same price as a Cheeseburger at the Emirates (that is, £4). At the other end of the football pyramid, adult Hammers fans can travel to bottom-of-the-league Queens Park Rangers and have to pay an extortionate £39. Fans of Norwich City, alternatively, can take a 9-hour long round-trip across the country to see their team pitted against the likes of Stewart Downing and Jonjo Shelvey for only £5 more than those bargain-hunting West Ham fans.
All this is without consideration of the added cost of travel, food and drink (the West Ham fans are alright, though, they’ve already saved themselves a fiver! That’s a match day programme and a bold punt on the score at the bookies!). £44, however, is still £18 cheaper than the price those who follow Manchester City had to fork out last weekend – that price difference itself is more than Macclesfield Town fans over the age of 18 will be paying this weekend. It has become clear, now, that those making the decisions regarding prices of football tickets have lost all consideration of those that are the backbone to the success of our national sport – the supporters. Fans across the country are getting priced out of the game, and it’s time action was taken.
But why, and indeed how, can clubs afford to excessively over-price tickets at the direct result of lowered attendance figures? Not only will fans refuse to pay such excessive prices to attend, but the vast coverage of Premier League games on television in the present day gives them what is a comfortable, affordable and extremely accessible option from which to watch their team instead. Now I’m a season ticket holder myself, and wouldn’t dream of placing armchair-viewing under the same categorization as the real thing, but as an alternative with a cool £62 saved in the wallet, you can’t really blame them. Add the immediately accessible, albeit unlawful, online streaming of football matches for those without subscriptions to sports channels, and suddenly a visit to Loftus Road on a chilly Saturday afternoon becomes far less appealing.
It can’t help but be presumed that clubs are continuing to focus on income from television, whilst abandoning any sense of respectable ticket prices. Whilst income from television rises and rises, and becomes more and more vital to the finances of football clubs, income from tickets carries on losing significance. So, what is the immediate reaction when match tickets are seen to not be bringing in enough money? Raise the prices. When table-toppers Manchester United visited the DW stadium on New Years day, Wigan charged adults £30 to sit in the home end. The result – one whole fifth of the stadium empty. You can’t help but think that even though Wigan regularly struggle to fill-out their stadium, a bit more consideration on pricing when the current best team in the league roll into town, could have gone a long way to resolving this issue.
Manchester City supporters made use of banners to display their disgust at the extortionate prices they had been charged for their Arsenal away ticket, asking “£62! Where will it stop?” Well, a petition was recently set up in support of the idea of capping the prices clubs can charge away fans for tickets in the Premier League. With a cap of £30 demanded, fans of all clubs are beginning to unite in protest against the exploitation of supporters in the Premier League. With only 2,831 signatures at the time of writing, the petition is a long way from the recognition it both deserves, and requires. So here’s your chance to help make a difference. If you’re a football supporter, at any level, visit www.change.org/awaypricecap and join us in voicing a collective frustration at the disregard for the real fans in the modern game.
Such action is a long way from being taken; but the appearance of petitions, banners and discontent at ticket pricing in football marks the beginning of a unified stance of which could wield significant responses. What next? Boycotting games, perhaps? Whatever comes from this protest ‘movement’, further increases in ticket pricing should not be allowed to continue. Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore responded by pronouncing that a top priority must be retaining levels of away fan attendance – though it remains up to the individual clubs to get that right. There is, however, a serious flaw in this attitude. It is the individual clubs that exploit, and will continue to exploit, away fans. It is with the powers-that-be within the Premier League and the Football Association that real change must come from if we are to see an end to this ludicrous injustice.