Don’t Let Club’s Get Away With Tesco Tactics

This week a BBC study revealed that football ticket prices among 164 clubs in the top 10 divisions have fallen by 2.4% over the past year. The sports minister Hugh Robertson welcomed the study as ‘good news’.

So is this finding something to celebrate? No, let’s get real – even a price reduction of 20% would be nowhere near satisfactory bringing back football as a game affordable for everyone and offering value for money. Malcolm X once said “If you get stabbed with a nine inch knife, and you pull that knife out by six inches, you should be wary of celebrating your progress.”

A 2.4% reduction in football ticket doesn’t even pull the knife out by an inch.

I’m an Arsenal supporter who stopped going after twenty years of being regular, because prices rose to a point that I couldn’t justify paying. It’s not just home games where fans of a club like Arsenal are hit hard. For every away game they’ll be charged grade A prices and expected to fork out somewhere in the region of £50; normally for games against teams who are categorised grade B or C when they travel to Arsenal. For away fans like these there has certainly been no 2.4% decrease in price, quite the opposite. But even if there was, big deal – you wouldn’t even be able to buy a pie in the stadium with the ‘saving’.

It’s vital to have a sense of history when discussing the issue of ticket pricing, in order to be aware of just how hard fans have been hit in the past twenty years. I’m not picking on Arsenal here because most clubs are guilty, but as they’re my team I’m 100% familiar with the rise in pricing so will use us as an example. In 1986 a seat in the East Stand Lower at Highbury for any game was £4.50 along with the option of standing in the terraces for around £3. In the space of just twenty years, that same seat went up to £39, which was way above the average growth in wages during that time, which did not even triple. In 1995 you could still get in to any game at Highbury for £10. From £3 to stand at any game in 1986, to £63 for the cheapest ticket at a grade A game is a breathtaking change and one that comes with massive consequences to maintaining a traditional fan base and atmosphere.

Reduction in football ticket pricing will typically be in line with the supermarket tactic of perceived cost reduction. In other words, hike up prices – then put them back down by a fraction and pretend the customer is making a saving. A perceived or flimsy price reduction is something we should be very wary of, and the FSF’s ‘Twenty is Plenty’ campaign should be used as a benchmark for fairness in ticket pricing. Twenty is most certainly plenty, especially when you consider the millions that Premier League clubs generate from television, advertising and merchandise. The team in the Premier League who finishes bottom will still be £60 million better off than they would have been a year earlier in the same position. Spin and false perception are simply not satisfactory and fans need to demand significant pricing reductions in order to see a return to the ‘People’s Game’.

Fan power is a weapon that is underestimated. This summer I attended a meeting with four other football fans in the offices of the Premier League, where we discussed ticket pricing with Richard Scudamore. Outside the building 300 angry fans from clubs all over the country were protesting and making their voices heard inside the building. From what I could see, the officials inside were a bit shaken up by what was going on outside in the street. They do not want any bad publicity to harm their corporate friendly product. Can you imagine if the percentage of protesting fans outside rose by the same figure as ticket pricing has in the last 20 years? If that were the case then the thousands of fans would really give the chaps in the Premier League offices something to worry about.

Matthew Bazell

Matthew Bazell is the author of Theatre of Silence: The Lost Soul of Football

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8 thoughts on “Don’t Let Club’s Get Away With Tesco Tactics

  1. tommyt29

    It’s up to them how much they want to charge. They sell a product and like every good business they try to make maximum profits. If you don’t want to pay for the product then nobody is making you.

    Reply
    1. Purcell

      Tommy 29, you clearly have no understanding or appreciation of the people and communities who founded virtually every single professional club. Now the same people are told by the likes of you that if they can;t afford to pay then like it or lump it. That fact that you refer to football as a product outs you as a soulless pleb who should follow the Dow Jones instead of a sport.

      Reply
      1. tommyt29

        The likes of me? amazing that you just presume to know exactly the type of person I am just from reading one comment. You don’t know the mood I was in when writing it, if it was made in jest even. I take from that that it’s you who is the pleb. Someone who is so snobby that they try to lower people on comment pages just for voicing an opinion.

        Just so you know; I’m a single dad, born and bred in Islington. I scrimp and save and go without so much just so I can be a season ticket holder at the club that I have loved my whole life. I don’t drink, smoke, even socialize outside matches. My 7yo daughter and Arsenal are the only things I care about in my life so please don’t tell me I have no understanding of the club that I spend all my money and free time on.

    2. Nipper'71.2004

      And people like you Tommy are part of the problem… To the majority of fans who have been priced out, football was never a product. I didnt travel the country and europe to watch a product, i went to watch The Arsenal, as my father, my grandfather and great grandfather did… If i want to take my kids to watch the Arsenal and continue nearly one hundred years of family tradition and devotion then it costs me over 200 quid to get there and get in. The current owners of football clubs are just custodians of something that belongs to the fans, they have no right to exclude the people who made the clubs what they are, filling the grounds with ‘customers’, who have little concept of what being proper fans means.

      Reply
  2. Chris

    I have two great loves that I have followed for over 30 years … Arsenal and Depeche Mode … now … if you want a comparison in terms of tickets, when I first went to see DM in 1982 and 1983 my tickets cost me £4.50. This year their gig at the O2 it cost me £62.50 … funny,that, almost the same as the change in Arsenal prices …
    Now OK, I don’t see DM 25 times a year so the overall cost to me is always going to be less than my season ticket, but it shows that ticket price inflation is not just a football thing …
    And Purcell, I’ve been all over Europe following Arsenal, (and DM for that matter), and even I think football has been reduced to a “product” ….

    Reply
  3. Lionel

    to be honest its not going to help comparing prices 20yrs ago to what we have today. I agree nonetheless that what arsenal fans a paying for a ticket is ridiculously overpriced but there isn’t going to be a change anytime soon. I think the only solution has to be to reintroduce the safe standing terraces where they can charge us four times less and get four times as many people in. I don’t see that happening anytime soon as well. so the knife still remains 4 inches deep.

    Reply
  4. goonersx

    100 years ago a football club moved to Islington and begged the locals to turn up and make it a club that Islington would be proud of. The locals adopted them and faithfully followed for 17 years before the team won anything. Lots of us are descendants of the early fans who supported the club from the very start and now see us and our children priced out of going as its now a fashionable thing to do. when the hipsters and corporates stop following this club our great grandparents adopted all that will be left is us and yet again we will be begged to turn up and follow what is our club. The current custodians of our club need to bare this in mind, we are the club not them.

    Reply
  5. Sam

    I don’t think any PL football teams want a return to “the people’s game”. Football is in an industry. They want to extract as much money as possible from people who want to enjoy the “fan experience”.

    Reply

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