Sport

How can Premier League clubs reduce ticket prices?

The Premier League’s rising ticket prices have led to football fans planning mass stadium walkouts in protest. However the problem does not seem to be contained to the Premier League, with clubs in England’s second, third and fourth divisions seeing prices rising. There have been many discussions on possible solutions to the issue from reforming the outdated PFA financial model to salary caps.

Complaints have poured in of arrogant multi-millionaire players and executives who approve the increases in ticket prices but have no real grasp of how a £77 fee will affect fans. The walkout over fees at Liverpool, which may have influenced the 2-2 draw with Sunderland, was a great show of force and solidarity by fans. Another example was fans at Dortmund who threw tennis balls onto the pitch in protest at £55 prices. We think of Germany as having cheap tickets, but the reality is that the standing areas are the only reasonably priced option.

Next season, Premier League clubs will benefit from a new three-year £5.1bn domestic television rights deal, which will equal about £8bn when overseas rights contracts are taken into account. So the question is: should the TV money be used to subsidise tickets?

But the problem goes much deeper than that. In fact most top entertainment or sporting events in the UK are far beyond the reach of average families. New generations are not having the same opportunity to see live sport due to inflated prices. It may be a case of supply and demand, but perhaps the compliance of the paying public compounds the problem. If people stopped paying the astronomical prices, then changes would have to be made. Maybe the agents, executives and other stake holders would begin to see the true value of fans if their stadiums were left empty.

An away ticket price cap would have at least been a start; however seven Premier League executives out of 20 clubs blocked a proposal to cap the cost of away tickets to £30. With an £828m wage bill for Premier League players, you can see where their real priorities lie.

Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) chairman Malcolm Clarke, has urged clubs to reduce ticket prices to create a fairer opportunity for fans to attend games. He told BBC Sport that the FSF plans “to meet fan groups to discuss further action, including a potential mass walkout across a weekend of Premier League fixtures”. However, BBC Sport’s Price of Football’study found that “two thirds of Premier League tickets were frozen or reduced in price in 2015”. Liverpool have joined Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Norwich and Swansea in freezing season-ticket prices for 2016-17 and West Ham have reduced their prices for when they relocate from Upton Park to the much larger Olympic Stadium.

Arguments for higher ticket prices have been that if fans want the best players, the club has to raise more money to be able to pay for them. Although price caps seem unlikely at this time, it looks as if there could be an increased funding for the Away Supporters Initiative which would subsidise travel for fans, in a somewhat half-hearted attempt to placate them. The ticket price controversy seems unlikely to disappear any time soon.

23/02/2016

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