The walkout by over 10,000 Liverpool FC supporters at the game against Sunderland on Saturday 6th February is just the latest indication of the growing anger against how football clubs are trying to fleece fans for every penny. A wider protest is developing against big business’ role in the “beautiful game”.
The walkout by over 10,000 Liverpool FC supporters at the game against Sunderland on Saturday 6th February is just the latest indication of the growing anger against how football clubs are trying to fleece fans for every penny. The fans got up and left at the 77th minute of the match, a reference to Liverpool management’s plans to raise top ticket prices at Anfield to £77 next season.
However, this was not just a protest against the administrators of Liverpool, but is part of a wider protest now developing. Plans are afoot for the Football Supporters Association to organise a similar walkout at all Premier League grounds on a set date.
Supporters at virtually all of the top clubs are facing sharp rises in ticket costs and want to know why. The average ticket price in 2000 was £22; by 2012 it had risen to £59.42. Now, despite (or because of it) falling to £53.80 due to the economic crisis, prices are set to rise again on average. The call to cap away-end tickets at just £30 has been ignored, even though these supporters often already face huge travel costs to get to games which, thanks to TV scheduling, are often played at inconvenient times involving a very late return home trip.
What is infuriating supporters is the fact that, thanks to the TV deals, Premier League clubs are awash with cash. Domestic revenue income from TV rights has trebled since 2008. The new TV deal will increase income by a massive 70%. Yet ticket prices have shot up since the formation of the Premier League, far more than the rate of inflation and certainly far more than people’s wages have risen (or, more recently, not risen).
In the US, sports like baseball and American football have both expensive and cheap seats, with special deals to attract low-income supporters in. Even then it has become noticeable that most attendees are white whereas most players are black.
In Britain, by and large, the owners have gone for getting every penny out of you unless the ticket prices, say for cup games, are forced down by expected low demand. As a result, crowds at top flight football matches are increasingly not only white but old also, reflecting an inability on the part of young fans in particular to raise the cash for these tickets. In effect, football has sold its future for immediate gain. How can a young person on a minimal wage or a student loan afford tickets priced at £97 (Arsenal) or £87 (Chelsea) for a single game? Add the cost of crap food and a £3.50 programme, plus transport costs, and it becomes ridiculous.
The reason for this is all too clear. Football clubs may be seen as part of the community by many people, but they are also privately owned businesses – and big businesses at that. They are designed to make a profit and make a profit they do. The Glazer family, having “bought” Manchester United (along with Barcelona, the ultimate franchise club), have pocketed hundreds of millions at our expense. The laws of capitalist exploitation apply for the big clubs just as much as the FA rules of the game. There is no point looking for support from the football authorities. The Premier League is there to act in the interests of the big clubs alone. The FA is still stocked with old buffers in blazers; and as for FIFA… well, say no more.
Drastic action is needed. Campaigns involving all fans may bring a temporary respite, but the general process of increased exploitation will continue. Big business and the finance houses cannot be trusted with our clubs and our game. The clubs need to be nationalised and run under the shared control of players, staff and supporters, in the interests of all. Prices should be brought down to a fair level and the clubs run on the basis of real financial fair play, so that they all start on an even keel without the mega-bucks of assorted oligarchs and sheiks to distort the competition. Football is a working class game – it is time we took it back.