Fans staging mass protest on ticket pricing. But will anyone even listen?

Fans staging mass protest on ticket pricing. But will anyone even listen?
By Eurosport

28/09/2015 at 08:34Updated 28/09/2015 at 10:20

This coming weekend supporters across the country will take part in action against escalating ticket prices, with fans of all 20 Premier League clubs expected to unveil banners supporting the Football Supporters' Federation's (FSF) 'Twenty's Plenty' campaign. Dan Levene looks at the cost of football at one of its priciest venues, and the possibility of respite for cash strapped fans.

When Southampton visited Stamford Bridge 20 years ago, the cheapest ticket was £10.

Come the return of that fixture on Saturday tea time, no unaccompanied adult member will get in for less than £47.

That sort of increase, reflected at pretty much all top flight clubs, is at the heart of the complaint that football is being gentrified – excluding its core working class audience.

Steep ticket prices are not news if you support Chelsea, and in reality Southampton is one of the cheapest category of Premier League games Stamford Bride will host this season.

But it is that 'categorisation' which features prominently in the FSF's call for action this week: particularly hitting some travelling fans; and costing those who support Chelsea more than most.

The Blues' visit to West Ham next month is a case in point. Last weekend's guests at the Boleyn Ground, Norwich, paid the not insignificant ticket price of £45; Chelsea fans, when they go there on 24th October, will have to pay £60.

Nowhere is this type of policy more pronounced than at Arsenal. Fans of some teams, such as Bournemouth, will be charged from £27 a ticket; but fans from clubs including Chelsea and Tottenham must pay up to £71.50. All to watch, and cheer on, their own club.

A view of Arsenal's Emirates Stadium

A view of Arsenal's Emirates StadiumEurosport

Chelsea's own policy is a little clearer, setting out in advance the ticket categories for each set of visitors, and a roughly equal split between each of the three groups.

The gap in prices between opponents is also closer: supports of teams like Manchester United and Liverpool paying £56 and £59, while fans of those including Watford and West Brom are charged £47 and £50.

But one of the important messages here, and one which the Football Supporters Federation is trying to surmount with this unified action, is that this is not a partisan issue.

Discussions about ticket prices in web forums and on social media quickly descent into slanging matches on the basis that 'my club's better than yours'. The FSF wants to unite fans to bring about positive change.

For Chelsea's part, there is an opportunity that lies ahead, with the development of a new ground.

The increasingly likely three-year exile at Wembley will be a marketing challenge for the club. They will wish to lure supporters outside of their usual geographical comfort zone to a ground restricted to just over half full, with a notoriously tepid atmosphere, and poorly catered for in terms internal and external refreshment facilities.

A view of Wembley Stadium

A view of Wembley StadiumReuters

The new Stamford Bridge, once built, will provide different challenges for both club and fans.

When moving to Earls Court, Battersea or elsewhere came up in 2011, a brickbat used against naysayers was that they would be responsible for the continuing increase in prices at the cramped Stamford Bridge.

But the reality is no English club has cut prices after building a new ground, and most have increased them.

The economics are clear: you have to somehow pay for bricks and mortar.

Liverpool fans display a banner complaining about the price of tickets at Hull City (Reuters)

Any club looks to the average yield per seat as a key figure, and by catering for more well-heeled audiences, there is an effective subsidy on the (already pricey) cheaper seats.

Football has worked well in recent years to attract wider audiences to bring in more cash.

As the FSF says: the new TV deal, which turns viewers heads from the USA to Nigeria to Indonesia, could (if clubs were so minded) result in a £40 subsidy for every seat, for every match, in every ground in the country.

That is the message they will seek to get over through this action on 3rd and 4th October.