Thoughts From The Week: Ticket Prices, Premier League Years and AC Milan
I love my football club and I love my club’s owners. I say without prejudice that they have been the most wonderful owners, even apart from the financial investment. They are astute businessmen who understand what is involved in running any business, and they have engaged with fans more than any previous owners have. It’s easy to invest in the community and beyond with their wealth of course, but that doesn’t mean we should take their actions for granted.
However, in one aspect they have not succeeded, along with most other owners, and unfortunately it’s quite an important one. It is of course ticket prices.
This is not a new issue and I’m not really saying anything that hasn’t been said before. Modern football is too expensive across the board and many fans are slowly being squeezed out from watching the game they love.
City’s owners have done some positive things with prices, especially in cup competitions, and whilst season ticket prices have predictably crept up season by season, they still remain competitive for the product on show, just – unless of course you are sat near the half-way line. There are contributing factors to rising prices – as we all know, City need to become self-sufficient and running a profit each year, or Michel Platini will get very angry and you won’t like him when he gets angry, but the thirst for extra revenue is not a get out of jail card for rising prices.
You can create as many tables as you want showing City have the cheapest season ticket in the Premier League, but that hardly tells the story when so few people get to take advantage of that price.
I’ve been to a fans’ forum where one of City’s staff argued that the arrival of cheap season tickets with the expansion of the Etihad makes up for the expansion of the corporate sections and creeping price rises, but unless every fan can take advantage of those seats too it isn’t the answer to this problem either, only a partial one that still leaves a sizeable majority of fans being gradually priced out of a game many have attended home and away for decades.
The pricing of seats for away fans is something that should concern us all too. You may not think them of great concern but you should. There is a big enough problem with atmospheres at Premier League grounds, and it is made gradually worse by the lack of away fans, who are as important to a match-day experience as the home fans. City treat away fans well, but this should be the norm – too many travelling fans are pushed into the worst parts of a ground, up in the gods or with restricted views, at considerable expense.
The Football Supporters’ Federation are planning another march on the Premier League and FA headquarters on 14th August to protest against ticket prices. I don’t know what this will achieve, but credit to them for doing something, and their “twenty’s plenty” campaign which has had partial breakthroughs in prices for some away games. There is a long way to go though. Cheap prices should never be the exception to the rule – it really is that simple.
I said years ago that ticket price rises would be the inevitable consequence of the new Financial Fair Play rules as clubs try to wring every less penny out of supporters. The new TV deal meant ticket prices could easily be slashed in half without the clubs taking any hit at all, but that was never going to happen. We’ll never know if City’s prices had stayed low without FFP, but it is not an excuse. Ticket revenue is after all but a small portion of total revenue. I’d rather City bought one less player and kept prices lower, but it is hard to complain when our owners have delivered the greatest football I have ever seen and success I could barely dream about. They are not stupid either, knowing that they can keep raising prices as long as the tickets sell and demand meets supply, and despite the pathetic juvenile taunts of United fans who don’t have anything else to cheer about at the moment, City sell out just about every match (Premier League games were attended by 98.37% of capacity last season).
The ones that take the hit the most though are those that attend on a match-by-match basis. Those squeezed out of the central areas of stands by corporate expansion can at least move elsewhere, which isn’t ideal but not the end of the world, but those buying individual tickets are having to pay sky-high prices, as announcements this week for early games next season showed. At a time just prior to a stadium expansion, it seems strange to be pricing people out of attending. Liverpool tickets are available FROM £57, up £10 from last season – and all for a Monday night match, a night when no football should be played, ever.
You begin to wonder if our owners want everyone on season tickets. Whatever the reasoning, you can’t have a stadium full of season ticket holders, you always have to have an allocation for those who can’t go every week. But with capacity down by a thousand over the coming season, it will be even easier to sell out the ground, as champions. Thank god tickets on Viagogo are so reasonably priced, eh?
If season tickets continue to rise at current rates, in two years I will give up my season ticket after almost twenty years. I cannot keep justifying the cost and I know I will be far from the first and certainly not the last. You can’t have a limited section of cheap seats and claim everything is ok – something has to change, but club owners see full houses and an English game awash with money and they just don’t seem to get it….well one day the bubble will burst, and then they will.
One (very) small highlight of a post-title win summer is the debut on Sky Sports 1 of Premier League Years, a chance to re-live a successful season in a nice 90 minute package. I get pointlessly giddy over seeing this for the first time. Of course the reality is a review of 20 teams that doesn’t entertain as much as you had anticipated until you reach the business end of the season. This year though, the producers excelled themselves in ripping all the drama and joy out of a triumphant season for City fans.
The 2014 programme appeared to be produced by a trainee who had just been on a design course and was keen to show what he had learnt – he also appeared to have little knowledge of the story of the season.
People who watch a highlights package want to see the goals and the big moments of the season as they happened at the time. It’s not rocket – science – the season Sky trumpeted as one of the greatest and most competitive ever needs no tampering with, no bells added, it just needs to show the drama unfold. Unfortunately this wasn’t acceptable for Sky, who like to show the world that they are at the cutting edge of technology, and thus goals were shown at jaunty angles, with artistic filtering of pictures, stupid slo-mos and a staggering ability to concentrate on the wrong aspect of particular games.
The choice of action was poorly chosen, City’s 6-3 win against Arsenal, clearly one of the games of the season getting 5 seconds coverage, Sky bizarrely choosing just to show Yaya Toure stroking a penalty in, whilst Swansea’s caretaker manager Garry Monk got a minute’s airtime as he described his philosophy after a match.
Then there was the predictable Liverpool angle to the whole programme. I wouldn’t have minded an emphasis on them in the spring months as they went on a fantastic run of form that appeared to be leading towards title glory. However, there was far too much emphasis on them and their cannibal striker throughout the season, to the detriment of City and also Arsenal who after all led the table for much of the season.
As in previous years I also have an irrational hated of how Sky Sports tamper with time itself to help their narrative. Two years ago games on the same day involving City and United were shown in the wrong order and this year they did it again. More amusing though was the gentle sound of Martin Tyler’s salty tears slowly dripping onto his microphone as each City goal went in against Everton, compared to his multiple-orgasm (“I’ll have what he’s having”) when the opposition scored, be it Everton or Liverpool. Paranoid, me?
I jest, of course. Tyler was impartiality personified throughout, and is a model professional.
Still, it was worth the viewing for the end, especially Crystal Palace v Liverpool, which leaves me giggling like a child every time I watch it.
For the second successive season City went goal-crazy in a first half blitz against a poor AC Milan. For what was nowhere close to the first XI, it was an impressive display, especially from Stevan Jovetic who we must pray retains his fitness this season. Unfortunately the gods decided that a combination of Alan Curbishley and Trevor Francis was too much for any human to endure and the heavens opened, the game suspended for half an hour, which had the unfortunate consequence of subjecting us all to even more of Trevor’s pointless views. Still you had to laugh at the delay causing the start, and only goal, in the Liverpool match to be missed. Bit of a slip-up there.
Needless to say the Louis Van Gaal love-in shows no sign of abating, so City continue to travel under the radar, which suits me just fine. Like last season, let’s just concentrate on the football, let Van Gaal and Mourinho spend the season pretending to hate each other, let Wenger moan about everyone else, and we can get on with trying to win games.
(Insert Holistic hash tag)
Finally, I need your help/opinion. For a while I have been considering releasing a book for charity – a smaller book containing the humorous articles from the last three season review books plus a few new articles, for two charities that I have chosen. Having whored my season review book around all summer, the last thing I want to be doing is pushing another book, though the circumstances would be rather different. At around 90 pages long it would be about £2 on Kindle and about £6 in paperback and each sale would generate £1.50 for charity. I am filled with doubt over whether it is a good idea, so any opinions are greatly appreciated.