Brentford fans recently paid £35 for tickets to the side’s game against Norwich City at Carrow Road – pricing which Brentford CEO Mark Devlin says will lead to “half-empty stadiums”.
Many Brentford fans had expressed their discontent at the high price for the Norwich City match, particularly after it followed a fixture at Leeds United, where Bees fans were charged £34.
Speaking to the popular Beesotted Podcast, run by Brentford fan and Football Supporters’ Federation National Council member Billy Grant, Devlin said: “Personally, I think more than 30 quid for Championship football is too much.
“Pricing is a sensitive one across football but if we aren’t careful we’ll over-price people and we’ll end up playing to half-empty stadiums.
“Some clubs already suffer from that. Leeds and Norwich obviously have their business models, their revenue models, got their budgets, but on a personal basis it’s too much money for Championship football.”
Devlin argues that away fans are vital to the atmosphere at grounds, and that he would be speaking to the Football League about the possiblility of revising their pricing rules.
“The rules at the moment are that we have to charge the same for equal facilities offered to home fans,” Devlin said. [Editor’s note – there’s actually nothing in the rules that says you can’t charge away fans less, see FL rules 34.2.8]
“I’ve no doubt at Norwich and Leeds that they’ve got comparable facilities where they charge £35, along the side and behind the goal, and they’ll say they’re complying with the rules. I’m sure they are – but I would say the rules are probably wrong.”
Asked if Brentford would be charging visiting fans more in future, Devlin said: “We could charge away fans more, but that means we would have to put our prices up. We don’t want to penalise our own fans.
“What really frustrates me, and I feel the frustration from fans, is some of our own fans say: ‘If we’re charged that, why can’t we then charge them that when they’re our visitors.’ Two wrongs probably don’t make a right.
“I come back to the rules and regs, they cover themselves, and comply with the Football League pricing regulation, which are there to protect against the fleecing of away fans.
“That’s not to say we can’t speak to the Football League and that there are these anomalies. We ought to have another look at the whole pricing rules, see if they could be a littler bit fairer, or at least make clubs understand they need to do something about them – anything north of £30 is far too much.”
Devlin highlighted the good work done elsewhere in the football pyramid too provide away fans with a better experience, such as at Brighton & Hove Albion and Cardiff City, and pointed to a shift in attitudes towards away fans.
“We can as football clubs, show our appreciation to visiting fans,” Devlin told the podcast. “Depending on the club, visiting fans can be the most difficult to manage, whether it’s getting them into the ground, or whether it’s behaviour towards kiosk staff.
“But there’s a new culture among some clubs, and we’re the same, that if you’re a bit more welcoming, trying to value visiting fans’ support in the same way you value home fans’ that it changes the behaviours and so forth.
“My focus is trying to build the home fanbase, but that doesn’t mean we have to exclude visitors. Visiting fans are all there together, singing, creating noise. It challenges the home support to up their game aswell.”
You can listen to Devlin’s comments in full below: