Football ticket price protests: How are clubs responding?

By Dan Heard

Season Tickets for Cardiff City’s 2016/17 campaign will go on sale to fans from the 1st of March, St. David’s Day, with the big news for supporters being the re-introduction of a price freeze for any purchase made before the 4th April.

The price-freeze option proved hugely popular with the Cardiff faithful during the five years it was in place, between the purchase of the club by Vincent Tan in 2010 and last year. During this time, Cardiff reached a Play-Off Final, lost out to Liverpool on penalties at Wembley in the League Cup Final, and experienced both promotion to and relegation from the Premier League.

It was the loss of their top-flight status two years ago that heralded the end of the price freeze- but its return is also joined by news of a £99 season ticket option for students, an offer which many may find hard to turn down.

A ‘Zone 1’ adult ticket, currently the most expensive option available to fans, next season will cost £519, a £20 reduction on the price for the same ticket this year. The cheapest full-priced adult season ticket, meanwhile, will set you back just under £300, or around £13 a game. However, it is the introduction of the aforementioned student season ticket, eligible providing that you are under the age of twenty five and have a valid student ID, that has drawn the most attention from fans.

For a more in-depth look at these announcements, I turned to Tim Hartley, Chairman of the Cardiff City Supporter’s Trust, who told Gair Rhydd Sport: “Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust has welcomed the announcement of a cut in season ticket prices for next season and a price freeze for the following two years.”

Keith Morgan, a City board member and football finance expert, added: “We are pleased with the club’s announcement to reduce season ticket prices for next season and then pledge a price freeze for the following two seasons on all tickets bought before April 4.

“This is a positive move that ensures the cost of watching the Bluebirds will be cheaper for fans next season and does not rise further on.

“At the Trust’s more recent meetings with the Club’s chair, Melmet Dalman, and chief executive, Ken Choo, we raised the issue of reviewing season ticket pricing, including bringing in cheaper child tickets in most areas of the ground and an ‘interim’ ticket price to smooth the move from child price to full adult price.

“The Club listened to the arguments put forward and have announced what, I believe, to be a very generous offer. We hope this will lead to more fans taking up the option of season tickets for next season and beyond.”

The debate that has been ongoing for a number of weeks over season ticket prices, particularly those in the Premier League, nevertheless continues to rumble on. There were well-documented cases, such as sections of Liverpool fans staging a walk-out in the 77th minute of their home match with Sunderland at the beginning of February in protest over the proposed introduction of a £77 top-price ticket for a seat in the new main stand from next season.

The board eventually relented and apologised, with the highest-priced matchday ticket being frozen at £59, before doing the same with their most expensive season ticket. Manchester United fans followed suit, unveiling a banner reading ‘Welcome to Scamdinavia’ in the 71st minute of their Europa League tie away at Danish side FC Midtjylland, again, in protest over the dearest gameday tickets available.

In bowing to fan pressure, Liverpool have followed the trend of numerous other clubs in lowering or freezing season ticket prices for the coming season, which will be the first campaign where clubs will benefit from a new three-year domestic television rights deal, valued at a staggering £5.1 billion. Taking overseas rights contracts into consideration also, this figure should eventually reach around £8 billion.

Liverpool and United join fellow top-flight sides Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Norwich and Swansea (who, coincidently, are one of only two teams in the Premier League, along with Tottenham, who are debt-free). West Ham have also reduced their prices, but this came about in response to their move to the Olympic Stadium next season.

Drawing from BBC Sport’s Price of Football report for 2015, it was Arsenal fans who were paying the most for season tickets, with the cheapest ticket an eye-watering £1,014 and the most expensive at £2,013. A top-price matchday ticket at the Emirates alone costs £97.

They were closely followed by North London rivals Tottenham and current Champions Chelsea, at £765 and £750 respectively. What about the cheapest matchday ticket? Well, it’s current title contenders Leicester City, for whom you can watch at home for just £22.

These figures, however, are put to shame by the likes of European Football heavyweights Bayern Munich, where a season ticket to watch the Bavarian side and reigning Bundesliga Champions is equivalent to £104. So an entire season watching some of the best football in the world costs only a few pound more than watching ONE Arsenal match.

Bayern’s former President, Uli Hoeness (who, admittedly, is currently in prison for tax evasion), explained his club’s reasoning behind the season ticket pricing. He said: “We could charge more than £104. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2 million more in income, but what’s £2 million 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.”

While there are schemes in place in Britain to attempt to regain some parity, such as the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign, which is fighting to agree for an across-the-board price cap on away match tickets of only £20, the struggle is ongoing.

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