The media in England has finally opened it’s eyes to the ridiculous ticket prices in English football. As if they had woken up in the middle of the night with a sudden realisation, the media have reacted with shock over the £62 ticket price for Man City fans to watch their team at Arsenal this past weekend. This led to Man City fans rejecting the ‘opportunity’ to attend the game, and sending back 912 of their 3000 tickets. The media picked up on this, how had the champions with the billionaire owners not sold out their away allocation? Sky Sports News were particularly surprised at this, and quick to blame the ticket price. The irony was clearly lost on those commentating on the prices, when in fact Sky Sports are one of the main causes behind the increased ticket prices and decreasing football attendances in this country.
But is the ticket price the main problem in English football? I’d like to argue that it’s merely just the tip of the iceberg.
Don’t get me wrong, yes the ticket prices in England are scandalous. For those not familiar with the average cost of attending football in England, have a look at the BBC’s report into the price of football, here. Some clubs in England have already taken measures to try and combat the rising cost, offering incentives such as bringing children for £1. But football clubs, the media and the governing bodies are all missing the point.
Football isn’t just about the game, or the final score. Infact, far from it. This is just a small percentage of why we attend football matches. Yes, we want to see our team win, but as football fans the majority of us have stuck by our teams for years without witnessing them win anything. Home, away, cold Tuesday night defeats in the middle of nowhere, we have all been there and we have all come back again. If we went for the football score and the quality of football, 99 out of every 100 of us would have stopped going by now.
Football is so much more than the 22 players kicking a football. It is about social interaction, meeting up with friends and meeting strangers, having a mutual passion, voicing your opinions, making a vocal support and being allowed to do so. The football and the result is just a good excuse for all of those things. This is where English football has gone wrong.
The biggest offence of the £62 ticket price is not the price itself, it’s this story which says that police and stewards removed a flag from a fan who questioned the price. Why? As it may constitute a “breach of peace”, or because it may block the view of fellow supporters? As many fans will have experienced in England over the year, your human rights go out of the window when you are watching your team. The right to a peaceful protest is clearly one of them.
How many football fans now attend games in this country out of a sense of duty? Not because they enjoy it, but because they feel they ought to. How many enjoy the atmospheres in their football stadiums any more? Even the atmosphere between Man Utd and Liverpool yesterday, one of the biggest games in English football, was subdued and non-existent at times. Soon, atmospheres will be dead, and ticket prices will become even more irrelevant. How many people are going to turn up, to stand quietly, watch their team lose and then go home?
The reason we kept coming back before was that atmosphere. The one that makes you forget how much you have paid, how far you have traveled or how bad the performance is. Some of my best footballing memories have been from games where my team has lost, but the atmosphere inside the stadium has been electric and sharing that with friends has made it worthwhile. I’d rather watch my team lose 3-0 away from home with a good atmosphere, than a 3-0 victory in a silent stadium where people clap once in a while. Likewise, i’d pay more money to sample a better atmosphere inside a stadium.
The media this week talked about “value for money”, and fans demanding it in the “best league in the world”. But what the media and the governing bodies missed is that lower ticket prices doesn’t constitute value for money. To speak their language in the hope that they understand, if the product is rubbish, the cost is irrelevant. Football shouldn’t be about “value for money”, but it also shouldn’t be a crime to stand, sing, drink or protest just because you’re a football fan.
The only way English football can be fixed is if ticket prices are affordable, but more importantly if atmospheres are rekindled and fans are treated like humans.
Yorkshire St. Pauli