by Noel Draper
In the summer of 2006, Arsenal Football Club, following the advice of a lone voice in the head of a late 80’s Kevin Costner, opened a state of the art 60,000 all seater stadium. Obviously, with such a magnificent stadium to pay for, ticket prices went up for both the home and away supporters and yet Mr Postman was absolutely correct as they did indeed “come”. All was rosy in the North London field of dreams until just over 900 Manchester City fans baulked at the £62 cost and the world of the internet went ballistic.
Twitter, forums and the like exploded with outrage. “How much?” they cried as nearly one voice. “That’s disgusting”, some of them continued. A Manchester United fan joined in by saying that Manchester City fans aren’t rich just because their owner is. One Arsenal blogger completely missed the point and put forward the idea that Manchester City fans weren’t used to being a top club and therefore didn’t have the support to fill the 3000 seats that were originally offered.
It was at this stage in the argument that the fans suddenly remembered that it wasn’t just Arsenal that charged ridiculous prices for the privilege of a uncomfortable seat and a lack of atmosphere. When Manchester City rolled into Norwich a few weeks ago their fans had to stump up £50 quid for the pleasure and this didn’t include a Delia half time team talk. This is the same Manchester City who made Arsenal fans pay £52 each to sample the late September sun north of the Watford Gap and yet will charge Fulham fans £32 for the same experience in a couple of weeks albeit without the promise of some winter rays.
Every club in the Premier League operates a category system meaning a huge discrepancy between ticket prices. This was originally done due to the old adage of supply and demand, a bigger club meant more travelling fans, but now this just won’t wash in a modern age where football fans have an increasing array of options open to them for viewing matches without leaving their armchairs.
Football clubs in this country need to take heed to what the German football clubs offer. A match ticket for 15 euros with a bus ticket to get home after is not uncommon. They can drink beer and stand safely as well, the lucky gits, and each ground is jammed to the rafters and the atmosphere is fantastic. If a German club put their prices up to anything like the Premier League standard there would be justifiable outrage followed by a boycott and protests.
The Football Supporters Federation estimates that clubs could cut £32 from every ticket sold purely from the increase in television money offered to them but we all know this will never happen. What will also not happen is a combined protest from all football fans. We like to talk a good game in this country but actually doing something about it? Not likely. Which is a pity because I think I might have an idea and it’s this…
A weekend is picked in the near future and, instead of forking out huge sums to sit and watch a team play another loathsome eleven, everyone actually goes and watches their local non league side batter another local-ish non league side. My local side charge a whole £5 entry fee. For this miserly sum I can stand behind whatever badly painted white barrier I like, I can drink from my hip flask or from a container made from glass and I can wander off and eat chips whilst standing in a puddle. I can do all of these things and still not miss a ball being hoofed or a tackle from behind completely ignored.
Hopefully, if enough people do this, the clubs will realise that they can’t just charge whatever they like whilst getting away with it and your local club will receive a much needed financial boost.
Everyone will be a winner but especially you, the fans, because you will have witnessed football at it’s brilliant best. A football without histrionics. A football without the theatrics. A football stripped back to base. A football that got you interested in the game in the first place.
A football for the people.