Posted on 7th February 2013
The FSA exists to represent the interests of football supporters across England and Wales, and we’ll continue to do that during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the lack of football.
Posted on 7th February 2013
This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.
Q1. “Your campaign just seems to be about the Premier League – what about fans of clubs outside the top-flight?”
The Football Supporters’ Federation’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign does apply to fans at all clubs – high ticket prices are a blight on our game throughout the leagues. The weekend after Twenty’s Plenty was launched (Saturday 26th January 2013) we looked at on-the-gate prices for League Two. At five out of eight away ends you wouldn’t have got change from £20. Twenty’s Plenty would benefit travelling fans in League Two.
The perception that Twenty’s Plenty “isn’t about” lower league (or even non-league) clubs probably stems from the fact that the campaign is reported through the prism of top-flight football. More people “consume” news about Premier League football than lower league football and the media reflects that.
The “average” fan (if such a thing even exists) is more likely to be a fan of a Premier League club than a League Two club. But that doesn’t mean we believe his or her views are any less valid. To pick an alphabetically appropriate example an Accrington Stanley fan loves their club every bit as much as an Arsenal fan.
When we appear in the media it is easy to slip into discussing top-flight football rather than lower league football as that’s what we inevitably get asked about. It’s a bit of an echo chamber like that and examples of “worst practice” become self-selecting.
However, we understand that fans outside the top-flight often pay unacceptable prices too and we want to talk about them too when given the opportunity in the national media. If we don’t know about high prices that you’ve paid, we can’t highlight them.
Help us do so by emailing your examples to email@example.com.
We appreciate that for many fans away ticket prices do cost less than £20 and this campaign might not apply to you. That’s great and we’re pleased that football is affordable for you! We’d love to get to a stage where everyone is paying £20 or less and we certainly aren’t saying that all away tickets should be £20. That’s just the maximum cap we’d like to see.
We also understand that there are many other elements of the away fan “experience” which as important to many fans as ticket prices. Transport costs, travel logistics, policing and stewarding, matchday facilities and other factors all come into play.
Twenty’s Plenty is simply one tenet of an umbrella campaign that we will be launching that celebrates and supports the away fan. We’re sure you’ll here more on that in the coming months and in the meantime please support this work by completing the Away Fans Feedback Project 2012-13 – click here.
Q2. “Why does your campaign only focus on away fans? Do home fans not deserve cheaper tickets too?”
We’re unequivocal on this – too many clubs charge too much money for tickets. That applies to home ticket prices as well. We would love to run a campaign which successfully brought the average ticket price down to a more affordable level for home and away fans.
However, at present we do not believe a campaign targeted at home ticket prices would have any chance of success at this moment in time. The Premier League claims that occupancy rates are currently at 95% which means 19 out of every 20 seats has a bum on it.
Home fans are paying to watch their side in large numbers and as far as most club Chief Executives are probably concerned the supply/demand free market model is working. (That’s not to say we see football in those terms – you can’t swap your club like you can your energy supplier? But that’s a different argument, for a different day.)
Away ticket sales are a different kettle of fish though and there is a feeling among fans that away numbers are in decline. If that decline became terminal the atmosphere at games would undoubtedly suffer – home fans bounce off the noise generated by away fans.
Travelling supporters improve the “matchday experience” for everyone, as anyone who’s ever been to a game with no away fans can tell you. Stadiums are better, more vibrant places for having travelling supporters. Away fans make stadiums look a lot fuller, especially when they’re behind the goal in full view of the TV cameras going wild as their team grabs a late winner.
Like it or not Premier League football is now Hollywood – an exciting, familiar, brilliantly produced “product” beamed to paying viewers across the globe. Being home to world class players alone isn’t enough as Serie A found to its cost in the 90s.
On-field action is central but it can’t be viewed alone – if stands look empty and atmospheres suffer you can bet the money raked in from media rights will fall too. It’s not just match-going supporters who understand how crucial away fans are in this picture – the Premier League does too. Think that’s just speculation? Think again.
Chief Executive Richard Scudamore said it was a clear cause for concern in light of Manchester City returning 900 unsold tickets for their trip to the Emirates in January 2013. “Absolutely top of our aims and objectives is to put on a show and keep attendances full,” said Scudamore. “The clubs absolutely know where the Premier League stands on this. We want full stadia.”
The amount of money that football brings in through TV dwarfs the revenue generated from away ticket sales. In fact “dwarfs” doesn’t quite do it justice – the figures are jaw-dropping. Domestic TV rights are worth £3.2bn while foreign TV rights, domestic and foreign radio rights, sponsorship increases and new associate sponsors are set to take revenues above £5bn over the course of a deal covering 2013-16.
The increase in revenue from the domestic TV deal is £1.2bn (from £2bn during 2010-13 to £3.2bn during 2013-16). With Premier League total season attendances hovering at around 13m it means that every single ticket at every single game could be subsidised by £32 from the increase in the domestic TV deal alone. That’s £600 off every season ticket!
With all those considerations in mind we’ve chosen to focus on away tickets. And who knows? In the future the momentum from a successful campaign on away tickets could kick-start a campaign on home ticket prices or educate owners to the benefits of more affordable football.
We shouldn’t let the “best” be the enemy of the very good. And we do believe Twenty’s Plenty has very good, achievable aims. If Twenty’s Plenty was successful not a single fan would pay a penny more to watch football. But every fan would benefit from the availability of cheaper away ticket prices given on a reciprocal basis.
Q3. “Is a £20 cap on away ticket prices not an unrealistic target?”
Sometimes you have to aim high (or low, when it comes to prices!) and in any campaign or negotiation process you have to be ambitious in your initial plans. What’s the point in calling for a £35 cap if most fans feel that’s too expensive anyway?
The post-Hillsborough Taylor Report said, “Clubs may well wish to charge somewhat more for seats than for standing but it should be possible to plan a price structure which suits the cheapest seats to the pockets of those presently paying to stand. At Ibrox, for example, seating is £6, standing £4 – not a prohibitive price or differential.” Taking into account inflation that comes out at around £13 now, so £20 from fans feels more than generous!
In addition (as explained in Q2) away ticket revenue is a tiny proportion of a top-flight club’s income. So yes, if tickets dropped from £50/£60 to £20 clubs would see a very minor fall in revenue. But the pay off is that they’d be safeguarding the massively more important media-rights revenue streams against very real risks. Long term there is no “product” without away fans.
Lower down the leagues clubs might take a far smaller hit on ticket prices, from say £25 down to £20. Again, this is a relatively small proportion of a club’s revenue. We also believe more away fans through the gate would make up the difference (plus all those extra pies, pints and programmes sold).
Both top-flight and lower league clubs must recognise that watching football is becoming a more expensive business than ever before with spiralling transport and travel costs. Potential lifelong fans are exposed to so much televised football at such a young age that it’s easy for them to grow up thinking football is something you watch on TV or down the pub.
Football should act now to make sure it doesn’t lose the next generation of match-going fans. Lower prices would help make football more affordable to those on low wages, children students and OAPs. We’d like to see football clubs’ support fairly representing the communities from which they were born and cheaper ticket prices would do more to support that than almost any other single action we can think of.
Q4. “Why didn’t you do this years ago?!”
The simple answer is, we did. In 2007 we ran a similar campaign which argued that constantly increasing, rip-off ticket prices, along with decreased competitive balance had driven many supporters out of the game who were either unable or unwilling to pay out the sums asked. Sadly it didn’t happen but we always promised to come back to the issue when the time was right – and we think that time is now.
Q5. “What happens if my (smaller) club loses fans to the Premier League giant down the road because they now offer £20 tickets?”
This question was originally asked by a Yeovil Town fan at the Twenty’s Plenty event in London. He said he didn’t want to see young Yeovil Town fans lured away by the prospect of cheap tickets at Southampton. It’s an understandable concern but Twenty’s Plenty is aimed at away fans only so young Yeovil Town fans who chose to go to Southampton would receive tickets within the club’s current pricing structure.
Of course a club could decide to drop home ticket prices too and there’s no way on Earth we would oppose it. It would be unimaginable for a fans’ organisation to support very high prices at the top of the game in order to maintain a differential with clubs lower down the pyramid. We do however continue to lobby the FA and Premier League with regards the distribution of income which should be spread far more evenly throughout the game.