By Tony Attwood
Yes, yer actual football revolution has started. I know this because the press are shouting it out.
“Liverpool fans’ successful walkout protest over ticket prices is a “game-changer”, according to the Football Supporters’ Federation.” The Daily Mail.
The FSF chairman, Malcolm Clarke, was among those who ignored the smooth, calm and quiet success of Arsenal Independent Supporters Assn in getting things changed at Arsenal. Instead he said of Liverpool!, “It is something I am sure both owners and other supporters’ groups would have noticed. In some ways it has been a bit of a game-changer but the next big milestone is to see what Premier League clubs do at their meeting next month.”
The reality is like it or not (and much the time I don’t) we live in a rampantly capitalist society of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. (Sorry I don’t normally express my political views here, but it seems relevant this time.) In capitalism, supply and demand hold sway. Thus when Man C supporters didn’t want to buy tickets for a game at the Ems against Arsenal, as they didn’t like the price, Arsenal fans got them and bought them all up. Same when Burnley couldn’t take up their full allocation of tickets for the FA Cup match, Arsenal fans took them.
So when Fenway Sports Group performs what the delighted Liverpool! pro press call “a major U-turn”, I am more inclined to see it as the first half of a totally circular movement which will recover the lost money one way or another.
And some of the victories seem a little phyric to me – the grand celebration of the number of £9 tickets being increased to 10,000 across a Premier League campaign actually means on average 500 a game. One percent of the stadium. The free schoolchildren tickets remain at 50 a game.
(No mention of Arsenal’s £10-a-ticket scheme for the League Cup running year after year after year. Why not?)
And besides, Given his past, what will John W Henry do about people who called him a greedy bastard? I leave that one with you. We’ll know in a year or two.
The reality is that the club we know as Liverpool! really ought to be called Liverpool? given that it went bust and so was taken over first by its bank, and then by the UK state when its bank also went bust. And it is not surprising that it went bust. Since 1992/3 it has spent £850m on transfers, £199m of that in the last two years. Arsenal have spent £546m in that period, £107m in the last two years. And what have they got in terms of final places in the league table since 1992/3?
Liverpool!: 6, 8, 4, 3, 4, 3, 7, 4, 3, 2, 5, 4, 5, 3, 3, 4, 2, 7, 6, 8, 7, 2, 6
Arsenal: 10, 4, 12, 5, 3, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 4, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 4, 3
Of course there is more to football than where you end up in the league: there’s Liverpool’s European Cup, Arsenal’s Unbeaten Season and the doubles, and so on. But I think one or two Liverpool! supporters are a little fed up with the near misses as they fail to get into the Europa League on occasion.
Gate and matchday revenue at Liverpool! stands at £51m. Arsenal’s ticket revenue went through the £100m mark in 2013/4.
So how can Liverpool! keep up? They spend much more on players, they get through managers at a speed that suggests they are going out of style (eight since 1992/3 compared with Arsenal’s three), and still they can’t get even those boring fourth place finishes which we are told are not a trophy.
Henry, Werner and Gordon, the three big cheeses in the Liverpool! sandwich wrote to fans and said, “The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense. Quite the opposite is true.”
And possibly that is the case, simply because there are no profits to extract. In 2013/14 Liverpool! made a profit of £1m and posted a debt of £126m – and that was after their second place finish., their best in five years. And before they have even had to think about repaying the £120m loan taken out by the club to build the stand.
So when the supporters organisations says, “More must be done to make football affordable,” in the case of Liverpool! this has to be done on the basis of answering the question, “where the f*** is the money going to come from for the stand they are now building?
The loan on the new stand is apparently interest free, and the idea was to pay it back by ring fencing the extra money it bought in with those higher ticket prices. Now that is not happening, so… buying fewer players I guess is the best option.
Curiously, as our figures elsewhere have shown, this could, more than likely, actually improve Liverpool’s position in the league, although I doubt very much if many of their supporters will accept that, having got used to the five big player signings a year deal.
But anyway, it is power to the people time, and the press are full of all the other things that the all-powerful supporter is going to do. Charlie Eccleshare, the modern day equivalent of the Apostle Saint Jude Thaddeus (the champion of lost causes), has developed his own list…
1: Compensate fans for late fixture changes.
Fortunately, Ian, James and I hadn’t bought the train tickets for the Leicester game, before the match was changed, but we nearly did – and it was nearly all my fault. I actually said to Ian, “no they won’t change the date this late” just days before they did. Thankfully Ian never listens to me. So a good one, but chances of Sky doing it? 0/10.
5: Prevent clubs from using secondary ticket partners.
At Tottenham, StubHub was announced as “the club’s Official Ticket Resale Marketplace partner” in 2013 which has enraged supporters who feel it is encouraging ticket touts to fleece fans.
Spurs have so far ignored the complaints, while QPR defended itself last year against numerous fan complaints about its relationship with ticket resale website Viagogo.
Arsenal’s ticket exchange programme is the model others should aspire to here, with season ticket holders able to sell their seats at face value to club members when unable to attend a match.
Chance? 0/10. Sorry matey, but no one copies Arsenal, because you and your colleagues have spent the last 20 years denouncing everything that Arsenal ever does.
6: Move the FA Cup final back to 3pm
Chance of FA doing anything reasonable? 0/10
7: Stop kits being changed every season
More control, more banning orders. Maybe Eccles should be the Secretary of State for Health, who has just torn up doctors’ contracts unilaterally. That’s the way you do it. March roughshod over everyone.
But it is interesting. This approach like so much on the list reduces the income of clubs – which could mean fewer transfers. Or… higher ticket prices… Or Liverpool never reaching the top four.
8: Introduce wi-fi in grounds
At last, he gets one that is going to happen. But more than that. In five years time, the ability to run your own replays from your seat will appear.
Chance? 10/10 Finally got one Charlie.
9: Restrict number of loans clubs can make
As Mr E says, “teams like Chelsea, who currently have 34 players out on loan, are abusing the system by stockpiling players on the off chance that one of their loanees eventually comes good.”
Which is also why the “emergency loan” system ends at the end of this season, unless Fifa changes its mind. And you know what? All the clubs are protesting about the change. It should have ended a year ago, but was extended because of rampant protesting. But the move to reduce loans worldwide is happening. Slowly.
Chance? 10/10 – but it is a long slow process of gentle change, so in the next five years not next year.
10: Adjust prices more fairly for restricted view seats
Pillars, like Fifa, agents and Robbie Savage, are a necessary evil of the sport, but supporters should be compensated accordingly if plonked right behind one.
And another really good point. And when clubs do talk about how much cheaper their prices are than Arsenal’s, they should take into account only the seats with views that compare with those at the Ems. But the chances are slim. Maybe 5/10.
But now, while we are at it how about two more?
- Getting all grounds to have close to the required number of seats for disabled supporters
- Stopping Man U from banning the use of walking sticks by visiting supporters who need them to help mobility, unless the supporter previously notifies the club three weeks in advance.
- Stopping ticket touts openly doing business around Arsenal’s ground before every match.
- Ensuring that there is a decent level of publicity for Arsenal’s £10 a ticket scheme for the league cup. Oh sorry. Already done that one.
12 February 1966: Last game for Joe Baker (a friendly). He played 144 games for Arsenal and scored 93 goals – a terrific goal to game record – before going on to Nottm Forest on 26 Feb.
12 February 1977: Man C 1 Arsenal 0. The fourth consecutive game without a win, the start of seven consecutive defeats in the league – the worst ever run of defeats, beating the six recorded under both Chapman and Knighton, and worse than anything in the relegation year.
And one from beyond football, but eternally in the memory…
12 February 1624: “No man is an island, entire of itself… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne, Meditation XVII.
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