Writer: Gavin Kelley-Day
Date:Thursday January 10 2013
Fans of Liverpool FC are amongst those set to make a stand against high ticket prices for away games...
It appears the modern football fan may finally have had enough of being bled dry by the game they love.
Indeed, how clubs, and the companies associated with them, can get away with charging such astronomical prices for almost anything relating to the game, in a time of increased austerity, has become impossible to stomach.
Everything from the cost of replica shirts to the actual match day outlay on items such as programs and food and drink are finally being questioned.
The latest recipient of the disgruntled supporter's wrath is the price of away match tickets and the fact that club's can get away with charging sometimes double to one set of fans when compared to those of another.
Manchester City's travelling support have recently made a physical stand against the issue by returning almost a thousand unsold tickets for the league fixture at Arsenal this weekend. A match for which the Gunners were asking an incredible £62 each.
The figure represents a third of City's total allocation for the Emirates Stadium and the cost per ticket is almost double that of matches attended by fans of some other Premier League clubs at the venue.
It is perhaps understandable to a degree that Premier League sides categorise away teams into separate bands based on their differing requirements and demand for tickets.
However, to then associate these groups with different prices for essentially the same experience seems grossly unfair especially on those in the higher price brackets.
It surely cannot be correct that fans of Stoke City, for example, will only have to pay £32.50 for their trip to Arsenal at the beginning of next month?
Along with City, the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are also routinely afforded the highest prices around. The same applies to Arsenal themselves when they are on their travels.
Current rules state that away fans be charged the same amount as home supporters but with the vast sums of revenue generated from other sources such as TV rights this could easily be amended without a massive impact of the finances of Premier League clubs.
A point acknowledged by Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) president Malcolm Clarke when announcing a campaign to tackle the issue yesterday.
"We're going to be launching a campaign within a few weeks, we will be calling for a maximum ticket price in the Premier League for away fans," explained Clarke.
"Next season they could knock off £32 from every single ticket, for every single game, for every single supporter in the Premier League and still have the same amount of money that they have this season because of the TV income."
This current pricing rule also needs better clarification as most clubs have a range of ticket prices for home supporters based on where they sit within the ground and this is presumably part of the reason away costs can currently be allowed to vary so much.
Additionally, given the extra costs often associated with the away fan, such as travel, and the fact that they contribute massively to the atmosphere it could be argued that away fans need to be treated completely separately on the matter.
As a result, rival fans from Liverpool and Manchester United are amongst those who plan to work together with various trusts and the FSF to campaign for a maximum away ticket price in the Premier League.
The Reds play at the Emirates in two weeks time and although the club expect to sell their allocation, also priced at £62, the feeling from fans is that they are being routinely exploited by other clubs.
Liverpool supporters union the Spirit of Shankly (SOS) have backed the idea of a campaign against the matter and highlighted the need for opposing supporters to unite if away ticket prices are to be capped.
"We are trying to get supporters of all clubs around the table," said a SOS spokesman.
"Liverpool fans aren't going to change it on their own. At the moment we're a mid-table club still paying category A prices."
Paul Martin, a committee member for the group, elaborated further by telling The Guardian: "We're looking at working with the arch enemy Manchester United and others to put a bit of pressure on the clubs to introduce a cap for prices on away tickets.
"Everybody jokes about Manchester United fans being from outside of Manchester but the core of them are from the Manchester area. The rivalry will start to dwindle when the prices are driving local people away from the game."
This is a campaign that is long overdue and supporters of all clubs will be hopeful it is a success. Personally I have the opportunity of going to the upcoming Arsenal game but I cannot afford it and even if I could I would have massive reservations about paying such an amount. Indeed had my partner not paid for them as a Christmas present I would have thought twice about going to the fixture against Queens Park Ranges last month for which the Loftus Road tickets were priced at £50 each. Ticket prices are in many ways the biggest issue facing the future of the game because the cost for a family to go is now unattainable to the vast majority. The need to take children to matches to safeguard the future of clubs has always been an important part of the match day experience. This point is maybe less pertinent than in the past due to the booming overseas market but it remains key that all clubs can relate to the working class people and communities which helped establish them.
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Date:Thursday January 10 2013
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