By Tony Attwood
The football pages of the press are full of it. It being the cost of watching Arsenal.
I suggested just how false part of the Guardian reporting of season ticket prices was, in my last article. Now let’s consider the Telegraph, who say…
“Arsenal are charging almost 10 times more for their cheapest season ticket than Barcelona and Bayern Munich, according to a survey highlighting just how expensive watching Premier League football has become.”
OK, that’s awful. So instead of just knocking Arsenal, as all the papers want to do, let’s ask the question. Why can’t Arsenal reduce its prices to the level of Barcelona or Bayern?
And since they abjectly fail to look at this issue, I’ll have go.
Barcelona fans, we are told, can get a season ticket for as little as £103.38, with Bayern not far behind at £109.65.
Barcelona shouldn’t concern us too much. Twice they have been found guilty of child trafficking by Fifa, and have been banned from transferring players. They have appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, and a review of their appeal seems to show that it is based on the assertion that Barcelona would not do such a thing.
The club famously ran out of money a couple of years back and failed to pay their players one month, and were ultimately rescued by the slave labour state Qatar.
Thus Barcelona is a model that teams could follow, but personally my support of Arsenal would be hard pressed if we did.
Bayern is different. They have a turnover of €70 million more than Arsenal. If Arsenal had that turnover and invested the money in reducing season ticket costs then the average cost would come down by €1750 per supporter. In other words some people would be let in for free, and we would be cheaper to watch than Bayern.
So, one simple fact: it is turnover that does it.
Bayern over the last eight years have been on a constant upward curve in terms of turnover. Arsenal had limited growth for a while because of the building of the stadium, but now are racing ahead once again. Some clubs, like Chelsea and Milan have very limited financial growth over the last eight years while Juventus have actually been in income decline.
Bayern are also helped by their domination of German football in terms of turnover – it gives them immense immediate leverage. It doesn’t mean they win the league all the time, but it means they are always striding ahead of their opposition – not least by the domination of their youth system – as we’ll see below.
Arsenal don’t have that luxury of dominance, for Man City, until held back by FFP, were spending anything the liked. That’s not how it goes in Germany. Indeed as Swiss Ramble (the financial web site) put it, with finances like they have “Bayern should really win the German league every season.”
Where the real benefit comes however is the €178 million earned each year from commercial income made up of sponsorship and advertising (€82 million), merchandising (€44 million), other commercial activities (€14 million) and revenue from the Allianz Arena (€38 million). That is 55% of the club’s revenue. With income like that you don’t need to charge high prices to the fans.
This commercial income at Bayern is the highest in Europe – bigger even than Real Mad, who of late have been reliant on dodgy deals with their local authority, and are now under investigation by the EU for these. Even Barcelona (€156 million) and Manchester United (€114 million) can’t keep up – and Man U have always been seen as the kings of worldwide marketing.
Bayern’s shirt deal with Deutsche Telekom, is second only to the money Barce get from Qatar. It is said to be worth €25 million a year.
Then there are their owners. Audi and Adidas not only own some of the club. Audi own over 9% of the club for example, and are investing €200 million in the club up to 2019. Adidas also own over 9% and are pumping money into the club.
Sponsors of German clubs tend to pay more than English clubs because the top German teams are seen on TV in Germany far more often that the top teams in England are seen in England. So the sponsors get much more exposure and pay more money.
But despite all this, and all the media focus on supposedly cheap tickets (and yes they are a lot cheaper than in England) the prices are going up. Don’t think that it is cheap to go in: Bayern earn €3.1 million a match – not that much behind Arsenal.
But whereas Arsenal are part of a small group of top teams who earn good money on match days, Bayern are totally out on their own in this regard.
And now we come to the clincher – the item I commented on in the last article. They are so far ahead of everyone else in attracting kids to the youth system they have been lowering their wage bill in the last couple of seasons. As Swiss Ramble says, “Since 2006, wages have only grown by €51 million, while revenue surged €117 million.”
But saving on players comes through bringing in youth players is exactly what the media and AAA point a finger at when Arsenal does it. Remember the criticism that arose when we played Bellerin in the Champions League? What the media and their allies cried out for was another £20m player ready to slot in. At Bayern it is all the other way round. They have a youth system that dominates the country.
Because of their dominance in Germany, top talent goes to Bayern. In England it is spread around among five or so clubs. Because of that dominance Bayern can offer less, because the player will love to go to Bayern. Contrast this with Arsenal where the statistics on injuries and referee decisions, and the attack on the club by the media and people claiming to be Arsenal supporters, put players off. Go to Arsenal and get slagged off by the media all day every day? No chance.
There is also a different attitude towards loss-making in Germany from that in England where loss-making by clubs is almost glorified. When Bayern were beaten by the utterly indebted and endlessly loss-making Inter in the Champions League final, Hoeness said, “I would not be happy to win like that. If I win a Champions League, I want to be in profit.” You don’t hear that in England.
Rummenigge added to this saying, “Let’s take the example of Manchester City. How does it work when you write about a €200 million loss? The financial doping must come to an end and lead to a virtual ‘equality of arms’ between the clubs.”
But then in Germany, as Swiss Ramble says, “clubs have to provide a balanced budget before each season in order to receive a license, which does not completely prevent clubs falling into financial difficulties but it undoubtedly helps”.
So there it is. Why are Arsenal’s prices so high? Because we have a much smaller marketing income than Bayern, and instead of being lauded for the club’s actions in working in profit, we are endlessly criticised by football journalists who wouldn’t know one end of a financial report from a barge pole.
Want lower prices? Either have a rigorous FFP throughout English football, or have Arsenal grow its marketing dramatically, or have a salary ceiling in the Premier League, or become financially dominant in English football. Or a combination of several of them.
Arsenal’s marketing income is expanding, and FFP is coming in. Two out of four isn’t bad – but it’s not a bad start.
- What Europe knows about Man C but the English press haven’t told you
- Arsenal v Manchester City Women’s Continental League Cup semi-final – match preview
- How Man City’s problems began to arise…. nine years ago
- The media pile into Manchester City, but where have they been all this time?
- Manchester City accused of over 100 breaches of Premier League financial rules