independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Ticket prices will turn fans away from football, warns supporters group

A FOOTBALL supporters group has said inflated ticket prices are making fans turns their back on the game.

Football Supporters Federation chairman Malcolm Clarke has urged the game's authorities to wake up to the growing resentment at massively inflated ticket prices or risk huge numbers of fans turning their backs on the game.

Manchester City have sent back over 900 tickets for Sunday's game at Arsenal after supporters elected not to pay £62 (€76) to attend.

City's increased status within the English game means they have joined Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham as clubs who - due to their attractiveness - routinely get charged the highest prices for tickets.

So, whilst Stoke fans must shell out £35.50 (€43) for their visit to the Emirates next month, Blues supporters were asked to dig much deeper.

Clarke believes there is no justification for such pricing structures and, with clubs set to pocket their share of the spoils from mega TV deals that, including overseas rights, have crashed through the £4billion (€4.9bn) barrier, has called for action.

"We have not done the final calculations but we estimate clubs could cut £32 (€39) off the cost of every single ticket purely from the increase in the TV pot this time around," he said.

"I know the clubs make the argument of needing the money to attract the biggest stars but I think I know what even Manchester City fans - with their large and enthusiastic following - would go for if they were given the choice of lower ticket prices or slightly worse players than they have now.

"There are many ways of measuring what is the best league. But if you look at the Bundesliga, where fans can attend matches for €15, stand up, have a pint if they wish, and even get a ticket for the metrolink, it seems the Premier League is short changing its own supporters.

"This business of categorising matches is blatantly unfair. Just because Manchester City have a lot of money doesn't mean their supporters have, and the same is true of the other teams who get charged the highest prices every time they play.

"And if they are starting to say enough is enough, and that in turn affects the atmosphere within the stadiums, will it retain its worldwide popularity? I am not so sure it will.

"This is a real test for the Premier League.

"They seem to think football is immune from the economic situation elsewhere. But it isn't. And how it responds - especially next year - will shape the game for years to come."

Clarke believes there is a risk of an entire generation being lost to the game.

For whilst many clubs cater for junior fans with lower ticket prices, those at school leaving age usually have to pay prices which make attending matches on a weekly basis impossible.

"According to the Premier League's own figures, the average age of fans is going up all the time," said Clarke.

"If it is far cheaper to spend the afternoon in the pub, where is the incentive to attend matches? And once people get out of the habit of going to games, it is not easy to get it back."

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