By Matthew Bazell
Saturday 22 Jun 2013 10:31:00
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On Wednesday this week, Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly fan union scheduled a march on the Premier League’s headquarters in protest at high ticket pricing. They invited other club unions to join them and the Black Scarf Movement keenly obliged, to fly the flag for Arsenal. The night before the march, SOS asked me to represent the BSM in a meeting with the Premier League and their chairman Richard Scudamore. In total 5 of us were invited to the table representing pressure groups from Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Spurs and the Football Supporters Federation.

As you would expect, Scudamore is impressive at what he does and he greets you in a charismatic friendly manner like a Tony Blair type politician would do. He will look you in the eye when you speak to him and is tactful and considered in his responses. As a sucker for politeness and hospitality I was weary of being charmed and one question I felt Scudamore needed to be asked was how he personally felt about the fact that so many fans had been priced out of football. In other words - did it bother or in any way or upset him that the ‘gentrification’ of football comes with a price. Thousands of fans have been priced out of their passion and ‘how does that make you feel?’ He looked a bit put off by the question and at this point stopped looking me in the eye. He promised to come back and answer it once other questions had been raised. When he did answer, he sidestepped the main point which was does it bother him that fans over the years have been priced out? I repeated the question and the gist of his answer, I felt, was – no – not as long as stadiums were full.

Overall I believe that the meeting will lead to very little, but that was expected. We’re realists and did not go in there with any false hopes that we could change the game. Here is the conclusion that I draw from the one hour talk: Home ticket pricing is unlikely to change because currently most clubs are well attended. Away ticket pricing however is becoming a worrying issue for the Premier League. Scudamore is more than aware that away attendances are down by around 9% and this does slightly concern him. Therefore he would be happy to see clubs’ address this issue because he wants to sell a TV package to the world which boasts of full stadiums. The five reps were fans of clubs who get charged grade A prices for virtually all away games. Following a rich club does not mean you are rich yourself. Why should we pay grade A prices to watch teams who are categorised as grade C when they come to our home grounds?

Scudamore told us that the clubs we support represent the top end of ticket pricing and implied that generally things were okay elsewhere. I challenged him on that perception because I get to talk to fans from all over the country, from the top of the table to the bottom. Most of them tell of how overcharged they feel. Before we entered the Premier League offices we were confronted by a Brighton fan, a club in the Championship, who told us that he had enough of the cost and was on the brink of giving the game up. The level of dissatisfaction regarding ticket pricing goes way beyond the Premier League. For example on the protest march itself there were far more Leicester City fans than for example Chelsea or West Ham.

The rep from Manchester United made a very good point in that high ticket pricing has a detrimental effect on the atmosphere. Firstly a lot of the vocal fans are priced out. Secondly, the fans in the stadium feel resentful at what they have had to fork out - so instead of singing, they fold their arms and expect to get value for money. This point may have touched a nerve with Scudamore because he sells his ‘product’ to the world partly on the basis of atmosphere; or at least the perception of good atmosphere, because in reality the typical English football ground now lacks noise, passion and energy.

Scudamore tried to be positive and brought up the fact that most clubs have frozen their prices for this coming season. That simply does not wash and I made the point that it’s simply a freeze on something which is already obscenely overpriced. Even if clubs were to knock £20 off some tickets it would still be unaffordable for so many people. Some supermarkets put their prices up, only to put them down a week later and boast of a saving. Overall, Scudamore’s main message was that he had no say on the issue and for us to go and talk to our clubs.

The success of the day was in the protest march and the fans from rival clubs who all came together. When the five of us came back out of the Premier League offices we were applauded like returning heroes. But all we achieved was a bit of sympathy from those who we addressed and nothing really in the way of genuine substance. The applause should be directed only to the fans outside, who quite literally made their voices heard inside the Premier League headquarters. During the meeting I made a quick toilet break and could hear chants coming from the street in anger. One or two Premier League officials looked a bit flustered and I suppose they were not used to supporters expressing such visible discontent.

The protesting fans have come together around 20 years later than we should have, but we are here now. Whether or not we achieve our goals remains to be seen. Those of us on the inner circles of fan movements are just regular people who do regular jobs. We can only do so much and we can only be as strong as the people who decide to join with us.


Written by

 Matthew Bazell is the author of 'Theatre of Silence'  

Book - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Theatre-Silence-Lost-Soul-Football/dp/190349057X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361374035&sr=1-1

Kindle -  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Theatre-Silence-Lost-Football-ebook/dp/B008TSMWOC/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361374035&sr=1-3






Jump to comment form

07 Jul 2013 6:59
Oh...I could I forget the 9 years without trophies!
07 Jul 2013 6:58
For the most expensive tickets in football, you get talk of Higuain, Jovetic and Fellaini but you end up with Sanogo. Wow!
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