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FSF chief exec: Clubs must drop prices

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kevin milesThe Premier League has signed a new TV mega-deal worth £5.14bn, and that’s just for UK rights. The increase alone over the last domestic deal equates to around £46 for every fan, at every game; top-flight clubs have to bring down ticket prices and support lower-league and grassroots football. In an open letter to all top-flight clubs, FSF Chief Executive Kevin Miles (left) explains why…

Dear Premier League football club,

Congratulations on the new domestic media deal that the Premier League has just negotiated on your behalf, and for your benefit. A share of £5.14bn billion pounds has just fallen into your lap, please do spend it wisely…

The Premier League has on many levels – and in particular financially – been a phenomenal success story. It is one of the world’s most competitive and best quality competitions, with some of the greatest footballing talent in the world taking part. As fans, we appreciate that, and clearly so do the broadcasters, and their audiences of millions domestically and around the world.

Over the past couple of decades as money has flowed into football, many different sets of people have benefitted: players, owners, executives, and agents.  The conspicuous exception to that list is the fans; while more and more money has been gained from broadcasting, not only have fans not benefitted from that wealth, we have instead been faced with dramatically rising prices. Isn’t it now only fair that fans should also share in the benefits of this increased income?

Large numbers of supporters – many of them long-standing and loyal fans of your clubs over decades – are being priced out of the game, as ticket costs have spiralled over the last 25 years. Take, for example, Manchester United: as David Conn highlighted in The Guardian (28th July 2014), their cheapest ticket has increased by 785% since 1990. They aren’t alone. Liverpool’s cheapest match-day ticket has gone up by 1,150% in the same period. Tickets at London clubs can be even more expensive: look at Category A games at Arsenal (£65.50) or West Ham United (£55), for example. We could go on.

Supporters are much more to clubs than just a source of revenue. The passion, enthusiasm and loyalty demonstrated by fans getting behind their team is vital to the atmosphere at games – a crucial component of the spectacle for which the broadcasters have once again paid so handsomely. The commitment and contribution of fans to the professional game needs to be valued and rewarded, not just exploited.

The huge increase in TV revenues that you have just secured – an uplift of some 70% over the current deal, which itself ensured unprecedented levels of income – has given you more than enough room to manoeuvre. The increase in the domestic TV deal alone equates to over £40 for every single ticket for every single game played in the Premier League during the three seasons it covers. You can afford therefore to drop ticket prices significantly for every game, and increase financial support for lower leagues and grassroots football, and still be guaranteed dramatically more income than you have enjoyed to date.

The Football Supporters’ Federation has been, and remains, particularly concerned about away fans. Away fans are vital to the atmosphere at grounds, out of all proportion to their numbers, with even the most vocal home support more likely to be sparked into action by a lively away contingent. Away fans are also even more impacted upon than most by all the other factors involved in attending games, whether they be re-arranged kick-off times, travel costs, or policing and stewarding issues. Significantly, at a time when match attendances generally have been rising, the last five years have seen an overall fall in away attendances of around 10%.

A key factor in underpinning and boosting away attendances would be a reduction in ticket prices, and we want to see co-ordinated action to achieve this. The Away Fans Initiative of the last two seasons has successfully established the principle that measures can be implemented across the whole Premier League, and we would call upon your club to support and vote for proposals to establish an across-the-board reduction in away ticket prices.

The FSF’s Twenty’s Plenty proposal, to cap all adult away ticket prices at £20, would cost the Premier League clubs around £20 million per season between you, an average of £1million per season each. That equates to just 3% of the increase in the income from the domestic TV deal.   

Reducing away ticket prices is fair, it’s morally the right thing to do, and you can well afford it. But it’s also an investment in your interests and your own future, maintaining the attractiveness of the ‘product’ that the Premier League has done so well to sell on your behalf. Away fans matter.

The FSF and our affiliates are very keen to work with the Premier League and its member clubs to find ways to make football more affordable for all. We want to bring down both home and away ticket prices, and make sure those aged 18-22 aren’t priced out at a time when they’re in education, minimum wage jobs, or apprenticeships. Crowds are getting older, and if young fans are priced out during those formative years, they may never get the bug for attending football matches.

Football is a unique business. Clubs are named after the community from which they were born and owe that same community a debt; there is a deep bond between fan and club that can transcend generations. That loyalty is a precious thing; it should be cherished and valued, not taken for granted or exploited.

The success of the Premier League means that its clubs enjoy a privileged position at the top of the football pyramid. That brings with it a responsibility to nurture the whole of the game, from the grassroots upwards; it also brings with it unprecedented revenues, and the capacity to do enormous good for the game. This latest broadcasting rights deal puts you in a better position than ever to do the right thing, and share the wealth.  

On behalf of football fans throughout England and Wales, we call on you to ensure that all levels of the game benefit from the bounty that you now enjoy, and that at long last fans get to share the benefits in the form of reduced ticket prices.  

At the next Premier League shareholders’ meeting in London on Thursday, 26th March we will be organising a peaceful protest to emphasise that message directly to club executives, chairmen and owners. We hope that we can count on your support for our proposals.

Yours faithfully,

Kevin Miles

Chief Executive – The Football Supporters Federation.

The FSF has a petition on these issues which automatically emails your club to demand cheaper tickets and more money for grassroots. Sign it!

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