Friday 28 October 2016

Greedy football should hang its head as Anfield walk-out protest highlights ticket price scandal

Chris Bascombe

Published 08/02/2016 | 02:30

Liverpool supporters make their point at Anfield on Saturday. Photo: PA
Liverpool supporters make their point at Anfield on Saturday. Photo: PA

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 £828m in wages out of the top tier of English football last season, bury their heads.


The Professional Football Association, funded to the tune of £17.3m 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.

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 £1.4m to almost £3.4m-a-year (a 140pc increase).

On that, too, they 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.

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 £5m 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 that a club shows lack of ambition if they refuse to pay it - they'll have to bury their heads.

Managers, whose £7m-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?

And what about 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.

No 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.

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

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