I present to you a question: How much do you love Wahoo on a Friday night? Is the answer ‘very much’? I thought so. Would you agree that the £5 entry fee really is a bargain for a night of such fun-filled frivolity? I thought so. Would you give up 12 nights of Wahoo to go to just one football game? Ah, I thought not.
But that is exactly what was asked of Manchester City fans at Arsenal this week. ‘£62!! WHERE WILL IT STOP?’ proclaimed the banner of one City fan at the Emirates Stadium and the unanswerable nature of that question should scare supporters across the land. If anyone else was, like me, neglecting looming deadlines and watching Super Sunday’s late offering instead this weekend, you’d have witnessed a game that was probably worth closer to £6.20 than it was £62. Laurent Koscielny’s early red card effectively ended the possibility of any competitive contest and after two first half goals from Messrs Milner and Dzeko respectively, City cruised to a comfortable win. The question is, even with so many world-class, international footballers on the pitch, is £62 ever a justifiable price to charge hard pressed fans just after the expensive Christmas period?
The commercial and business leaders of the country’s foremost Premier League clubs argue that it is, pointing to the rising cost of tickets across the board, for concerts, theatre performances and other major events across the country. This reasoning shouldn’t be immediately dismissed as preposterous, but it does contain one major flaw: these are all one off occasions. Premier League football clubs play 38 matches in a season, while the figure rises to 46 in the Championship. Almost each and every fan of these clubs would attend every single one of these matches if they had the means to do so, but the outrageous pricing policy of clubs across the country is an attack on passionate and loyal supporters everywhere.
On top of season tickets costing almost £1000, fans of Manchester United will be asked to fork out a minimum of £840 for their 19 away games this season, research by FourFourTwo magazine discovered. It is unjustifiable, untenable and simply unfair to ask football fans, a group traditionally made up of this country’s lower earners, to pay almost £2000 to watch a season of Premier League football. When will this stop? How far can this go? Perhaps, in times of prosperity, with wages rising and the cost of living reducing, ticket hikes would do relatively little damage. But in the current climate of ever dwindling disposable income, Premier League clubs are asking supporters for money which many simply don’t have.
We, the fans, are left asking what really matters to the footballing authorities these days. The banner in question, belonging to Richard Taylor, was removed by a steward at the Emirates under commands from above. Clearly, dissidents will not be tolerated. And the FA and Premier League’s disregard for fans extends beyond ticket prices. The timing of kick-offs has often infuriated fans, with the recent FA Cup tie between Brighton and Newcastle proving a perfect example. A 12:30 kick off when away fans are required to make a 350 mile journey is beyond comprehension: Is football’s governing body actively trying to push football fans away from attending matches?
Football supporters are as faithful and steadfast as it comes, and many wouldn’t blink an eye at putting their hands in their pocket if their club was ever in financial peril. But in fact, Premier League clubs have never been more prosperous. A new £3 billion domestic television broadcast deal comes into force next season, and the Football Supporters’ Federation have estimated that clubs could cut £32 off the cost of every single ticket purely from the increase in the TV pot. I’m not holding my breath. The Premier League have already admitted they will be putting no pressure on Premier League clubs to alter their ticketing policies as long as “attendances remain high.” So, perhaps, there is only one option. If attendances have to plummet before the authorities step in then maybe the time is ripe for a concerted, unified weekend of action. If the authorities actively push fans away from the stadium then let’s be pushed away. I know fans will feel unhappy with the prospect of leaving their clubs out of pocket, but are you willing to continue letting your club do the same to you?
So I ask you, fans of the world, to unite. Those who travel to games and protest are being ignored. Those who spend their hard-earned cash traipsing up and down the country every weekend are being disregarded. It’s time to answer the question “When will it stop?” with a loud and resounding “NOW.”