Sunday 19 February 2017

Comment: Enough is enough, English football should hang its head in shame

Chris Bascombe

Published 07/02/2016 | 11:24

Liverpool fans' ticket price protest did not have any bearing on the result, according to coach Pepijn Ljinders.
Liverpool fans' ticket price protest did not have any bearing on the result, according to coach Pepijn Ljinders.

Liverpool fans announce a walk-out in protest against ticket prices and football’s head-burying exercise begins.

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The executives who sanction the increases, with no concept of how a fee of £77 will detach them from their own fanbase, bury their heads.

The Premier League executives of whom the top seven from 20 clubs blocked a proposal to cap the cost of away tickets to £30 bury their heads.

The Premier League footballers - who took £828 million in wages out of the top tier of English football last season - bury their heads.

The Professional Football Association, funded to the tune of £17.3 million from broadcast revenue, who think it’s fair for a £250,000-a-week player to pay the same £150-a-year subscription as a £250-a-week player, bury their heads.

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Liverpool fans protested at the new ticket prices imposed by the club Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble
Liverpool fans protested at the new ticket prices imposed by the club Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble

Some ex-players don’t. Of course they don’t. A bit of populism on Twitter or on TV won’t go amiss if a bandwagon is on the move – but they’re less vocal on the PFA chairman Gordon Taylor handing himself a pay increase from £1.4 million to almost £3.4 million-a-year (a 140 per cent increase). On that, they too will bury their heads.

The agents who took £129.9m in fees from the Premier League last season, without a single club identifying who they are or which Cayman Islands account they might be relocating it. They bury their heads, too.

We can’t shine the light too much on the agents, can we?

It might stop them dealing with your club again, and we can't ignore the fact they feed the transfer rumour mill that so obsesses us on deadline day. So we’ll all bury our heads at some point when demanding an extra £5 million is added to the bid for the star player we've set our heart on - as if it is loose change and unrelated to revenue streams.

Those who say a £50,000-a-week salary increase to a star player is about ‘market forces’ and a club shows lack of ambition if they refuse to pay it. They’ll have to bury their heads,

Managers, whose £7 million-a-year salaries are funded by the inflation-busting price increases that so alienate the supporters are told to bury their heads, prevented from addressing the issue in public. And what would they say? Would English football really be attracting Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola if it wasn’t the most appealing and profitable whore house in Europe?

Liverpool fans walked out after 77 minutes of their match with Sunderland at Anfield in protest over ticket prices
Liverpool fans walked out after 77 minutes of their match with Sunderland at Anfield in protest over ticket prices

The TV broadcasters, stealthily increasing subscription charges since they bought English football in 1992, using this to subsidise their monstrous bids each time the hammer falls on the next Premier League auction. They bury their heads, sending their cameras to interview fan groups about how they’re being fleeced without a trace of irony. That next satellite TV increase is in the post, boys and girls.

On the wheel spins - a cycle of cynical complicity - as the premonitions of English football’s bubble bursting are annually dismissed as little more than misguided prophecies of doom because we pay. We all pay, and if we don’t someone else in the Far East or emerging football market will.

And then Liverpool fans unfurl a banner saying ‘Enough is Enough’ and walk out of the game. With their recent experience of orchestrated protest and a social media savvy that must make every Premier League PR team blush, they enact stage one of their mobilisation process and it works. My does it work, as 10,000 vacated their seats in the 77th minute of the home fixture with Sunderland.

Another 30,000 stayed but don’t presume they were supporting the new ticket prices. They just wanted to watch the game they’d paid for, although given what they witnessed from their side in the last 13 minutes they must wish they didn’t.

Those departing are decent fans rather than revolutionaries, many of whom know their ticket will be the same price next season, but are considering future ramifications and generations. Now matter how much they’re told the number of cheaper seats in one area might outnumber the most expensive, their trust in Premier League accountancy extinguished 20 years ago.

The board members at other clubs were probably watching the images and praying this was a one off, a regional eccentricity in a city where football and meaningful political expressions have often walked side by side.

They will find they're wrong. When they’ve stopped burying their heads they will have to compromise. Otherwise, they’ll be left to do little more than hang them. In shame.

Liverpool fans exit the stadium on 77 minutes during the Barclays Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool
Liverpool fans exit the stadium on 77 minutes during the Barclays Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool

Liverpool drew 2-2 with Sunderland on Saturday. Two-nil up they conceded two stupid goals.

You might think this match report is not about the game. Read it again. Every word of it is.

Telegraph.co.uk

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