Football is getting very dark and is pricing itself out of the reach of many fans



The football news continues to be bright and bouncy, for the current league table with three teams packed closely together is exactly what the media likes.  Page after page is being written about how this….


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 28 20 4 4 70 24 46 64
2 Liverpool 28 19 7 2 65 26 39 64
3 Manchester City 28 19 6 3 63 28 35 63


will look at the end of May.

And yet despite all this excitement, behind the scenes things are getting darker by the day.

For example, in an ongoing case concerning the abuse of a teenager through alleged improper training and an apparent deliberate destruction of health records the police appear to have taken the decision not to act.

The case is interesting in that the accused club has announced that it was allowed to destroy the injury records of a minor after eight years.  If that is actually true it means no young player has any real security against long-term injury, since it is often not clear how injuries caused by football training can become far worse in later life.  If clubs are truly aware of this rule they have every incentive to “lose” medical records and thus delay any enquiry into child abise until it is too late.

As a result it seems neither the police nor the footballing authorities are interested in allegations of child abuse in football.

Against this background, perhaps with a feeling that they are now safe from prosecution for historic abuse, clubs are now putting up their prices for next season.  

It is often said that Arsenal is the most expensive stadium in the country but this is not the case.  For as The Athletic reported at the beginning of the season that Arsenal had the third-highest Premier League ticket price.  Chelsea and Fulham cost more, and it is reported that the new stand at Fulham overlooking the Thames will also have the most expensive seats and food of any club in the country.

Meanwhile the Liverpool Echo says that “Liverpool have expressed their concern about a “worrying increase” in the amount of fake tickets involving Anfield fixtures.”  And one might say, “well what do you expect when tickets reach these prices?”

Elsewhere the Athletic reports multiple issues of discontent at Manchester City after price rises of up to 11% were announced, while imposing what are called “controversial sales criteria for matches”.   A “boycott of the official ticket resale platform” has been organised, particularly in response to an “Increase to a minimum-attendance clause on season tickets”

There is also a lot of argument at Arsenal over similar issues, and it is clear that the Premier League is having a boom at the moment with people from all over the world wanting to see a Premier League match, and with crooks becoming ever more adept at selling fake tickets.

And maybe all these price hikes are necessary to fund player salaries, but what is sad is that in the midst of it all, nothing much seems to be done to make the experience of fans who actually attend matches any better.  Although to be fair it is difficult to see how much improvement there has been to the experience of being at a match at Arsenal’s stadium in the last ten years.

Against this we have situations where on occasions vast swathes of the stadium can be left empty, as for example with the cup match against Liverpool earlier this season.

At the same time as that we have the growing trend of crooks who falsely claim to have a lot of money, wanting to buy a club.   The story of Dozy Mmobuosi, whose Tingo group of companies promised to bring European football to Sheffield United is one such example.   The story on this in the Athletic is titled “Under every rock we found a lie,” – but the point is that some fans believe such stories – at least for a while, and discontent grows – just as it grows each time a club is hauled up before the beak on the accusation of not obeying the financial fair play rules.

In short for multiple reasons, discontent grows, and as we watch the League’s strong control over what is reported about football, starts to slip and we find that there are people who want to transform football into something quite different  from what us older supporters have known throughout our lives.   See for example Exactly what are the Kroenkes plans for Arsenal?

Which is not in any way to say that the Arsenal owners are crooks – far from it.  Just that their vision of what football is for the average supporter is very different from that of the average supporter.

But there is of course a contradiction in all this.  The average supporter wants his/her team to win things.   However, when clubs are being turned into international experiences the cost of winning things goes up.  And the only way a club can compete is by… turning the club into an international experience.

It seems we can’t have a title-winning team and be the supporters we have been all our lives, any more.



3 Replies to “Football is getting very dark and is pricing itself out of the reach of many fans”

  1. “Meanwhile the Liverpool Echo says that “Liverpool have expressed their concern about a “worrying increase” in the amount of fake tickets involving Anfield fixtures.” And one might say, “well what do you expect when tickets reach these prices?”

    To be fair Tony, whatever the price I expect people to pay. If you cannot afford tickets then you cannot go, it’s as simple as that.

    I agree prices are high, possibly too high, but for a few reasons:

    a) Football is a business

    B) Market forces determine the price

    C) Supply and demand determine the ceiling.

    So lets look at all 3.

    a) We have only talked about this recently. Just taking a ‘for example’, the Kroenke’s. They are ‘investing’ in football, or more accurately sports, all over the World. Not for fun but to make money. That is what businessmen do.

    b) As such they are looking to maximise their investment, and to do this they need to ensure that whatever they have, or indeed still are, investing in, can compete. As such they need to spend, or at least ‘the business’ needs to spend whatever it needs, or in football is allowed to under FFP, to maximise it’s chances of success. And lets not forget success (whatever that may be) is something Arsenal fans seem to demand. And success in our case it seems is nothing less than titles, ergo if we don’t do that they hound the manager out, abuse the owners, and players for that matter, and DEMAND we start achieving what they want.

    c) And of course football, as an ‘entertainment’ business is about bums on seats, and just like any entertainment business the the cost of a ticket is almost always the maximum they think they can charge and still fill the theatre, stadium, arena or whatever.

    It’s all as simple as that.

    The problem we have, as again we discussed earlier, is that with the arrival of the oil money, the entire economy of football expanded way way beyond it’s ‘natural’ level. What I mean by that is that football was traditionally a ‘working mans’ past time. The economy of football was supported by ‘working men’ and what THEY could afford. The size of the stadium, the quality of the match day facilities, the standard of training facilities, the cost of players, the players wages, were all based on what working mans wages could afford.

    Thanks to the oil money that has gone. Now, basic working mans wages simply cannot support all that infrastructure, AND make a profit for the ‘investors’.

    Because of that the game has moved to a much more ‘corporate’ model.

    Now whether all that is a good or a bad thing is a mute point, despite the usual outrage the moment a hike in prices is implemented. I mean moaning about prices is nothing new, yet we keep filling the stadium. I for one have been on the waiting list for 10 years and was recently told I am at least 5 years from being offered a season ticket.

    So the obvious answer is, no prices are not too high. They may be too high for the ‘traditional’ working class football fan, but why does that matter to Arsenal, Man Utd Liverpool or any other football ‘business’ when they have people like me queueing up and willing to pay?

    What I don’t think these ‘traditional’ or ‘working class’ fans seem to understand is that they are part of the problem. It is they that embraced and loved it when Abramovic turned up and started buying them trophies. Similarly Man City Fans. But it has come at a cost to those very same people that ‘loved it’ when Arsenal were put in their place.

    But, as far as I could see, Arsenal fans didn’t accept this situation gracefully. They didn’t say, this is unsustainable we cannot get involved. No, as I recall they ‘demanded’ we spend ‘whatever it takes’ to get back where ‘we belong’. They had demos’. Flew planes over the stadium. Waved scarves and banners. Hurled abuse.

    Well that’s what they have done. That’s what they seem to be continuing to do. The problem is, part of ‘whatever it takes’ to compete, is a hike in ticket prices.

    But that’s the rub isn’t it. Yes, the fans want us to compete. The fans want the lovely stadium. They want the World class players. They want the trophies. They just don’t see why they should pay for it.

    The problem is, the floodgates were opened when the likes of Abromovic and the Mansours where allowed to invest the ridiculous amounts of money they did, and they cannot be shut. In fact these same people moaning about prices are often the same ones saying there shouldn’t be any limit on investment. In other words just allow the economy to get bigger and bigger and less and less sustainable. It’s madness.

    Did they not realise that when these ‘business men’ put money in, they will want it back at some time, or at least as much of it as they can get? And where did they think they were going to get it? A money tree?

    They are pretty rare, so the next best place it seems is through you and me. There’s a surprise.

    You conclude with:

    “It seems we can’t have a title-winning team and be the supporters we have been all our lives, any more.”

    Indeed we cannot, and for the reasons stated above it is our own fault. ‘The Supporters’ actually demanded this!!

    I could see this coming. You didn’t need an economics degree to see that.

  2. This winter I happened to be in Milwaukee and was lucky to be able to attend a Milwaukee Bucks game.
    Ok basketball is not football, still….some things are worth noting.

    Entry price for a row 9 seat to the right side of one of the baskets (short side) : past US$ 200.-
    The venue, Finserv stadium, is impressive, easily accessible, concourses have the usual US franchises vying for customers wanting food and drinks
    Security : same as the airport…scanners, everyone is controlled
    The game : a mix of actual playing and ‘show’ at every break – which basketball offers plenty.
    The public : a big majority just look ‘local from Wisconsin’. If you’ve lived there, you know how to recognise them. Lots of youth, parents with kids, all in good humour.That good humour thing is something I’ve experienced a few decades ago going to Freiburg SC games, but not anywhere else. It is a typical american attitude : attending a sports game is like ging to a movie. You very rarely read about fan violence in the NFL, NBA etc.

    I have gone to an NFL game in New York’s Met Stadium a few years ago. Same thing applies – except the ticket price which was pas 350 US$ for a seat not even very close. Yet I did see Odell Beckham’s ‘Holy catch’ oersonnaly at this game, so I’ve got that historical moment I attended to.

    In Europe and many other countries, too often, sports are some alternate form of war as far as supporters are concerned. And it ain’t new. As a 10 year old I was confronted with such for just holding a flag of my team while walking in front of supporters of the other team in the stands 50 years ago.

    Why this difference exists is something I have no answer to.

  3. Chris

    “Why this difference exists is something I have no answer to”

    I agree, it’s not straight forward, but if I had to some up the difference it would be thus.

    I think supporting a football team, especially in Britain, but not unique to Britain, is that it is VISCERAL, not intellectual, instinctive, unreasoning, as opposed to how fans of other sports, who by and large appear to be PASSIVE, accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.

    As to WHY this is ithe case I’m not sure. I’ll have a think on that.

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