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© Alamy - Liverpool fans protest at Anfield last night

No to price rises: Football has a spending problem, not an income problem

Ticket prices are in the news with a wave of rises throughout the Premier League and supporters groups at Arsenal, Brentford, Chelsea, Fulham, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United have been speaking out. 

(Note to supporters of EFL clubs – while this piece focuses on top-flight clubs and their revenue streams we are monitoring ticket prices in the 72. Watch this space.)

The issue is even catching the attention of the national media – they understand that the game is awash with money and there’s really no need to squeeze supporters for every last penny.

As The Sports Agents’ Mark Chapman points out: “Ticket revenue is a really small percentage of what clubs bring in compared to their overall commercial revenue.”

It’s a good point and football’s finances aren’t always widely understood.

We see a lot of people on social media stating that clubs simply must raise prices in order to generate income to meet the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules, insinuating that any matchgoers who don’t understand this are clearly village idiots.

But how do the numbers stack up? Just how much of a Premier League club’s revenue is generated by matchday sales and how much extra can clubs generate by increasing prices?

We turned to the outstanding Swiss Ramble for some figures from a range of clubs – one of the big six (Manchester City), a European contender (Aston Villa) and an established lower mid-table club (Brentford) – to give a range of finances.

Before we dig into the numbers it’s worth noting that by raising ticket prices 6% in a 62,000 capacity stadium at London prices you can generate an extra £3m per season – handily this is just enough to pay Daniel Levy’s bonus. What luck! 

However, that’s probably at the top end of what can be generated as clubs playing in smaller grounds, with lower starting prices, are looking at £1m-£2m on top of what they already make.

Is that enough to make a difference when it comes to passing the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules? Read on…

2022/23 saw record revenues:

  • Manchester City’s income hit £713m of which £72m came from matchdays (10% of their overall income).
  • Aston Villa’s income rose to £218m of which £19m came from matchdays (9% of their overall income).
  • Brentford’s income increased to £167m of which £11m came from matchdays (7% of their overall income).

So regardless of whether a club is winning the title, pushing for Europe or battling to stay in the league, matchday intake is a relatively small proportion of a club’s income compared to broadcast and commercial deals.

Manchester City generated £299.4m in broadcasting revenue and £341.4m in commercial revenue for a combined £640.8m against £71.9m matchday income – increasing prices by 5-10% raises another million or two but at what cost? City’s supporter groups have hit out and relationships are frayed.

Elsewhere, Spion Kop pulled their famous displays on The Kop at Anfield because of ticket prices. They follow protests at a whole host of other clubs around ticket price rises and the killing of concessions

So back to the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules – the revenue that a club can raise from squeezing normal fans is nowhere near enough to help a club that has really got its sums wrong and is falling foul of the rules. A couple of million simply won’t save you.

As former Bayern Munich club president Uli Hoeness pointed out, clubs are annoying their fan base to raise the type of money that they argue over for “five minutes” in a transfer negotiation. Is it really worth the pain?

Record revenues

Top-flight clubs have record income from broadcast and commercial deals and need to look at managing spending across the league, rather than working out evermore cynical ways to generate revenue – remember football’s crypto goldrush

If every club generates an extra couple of million from ticket sales no-one’s really any better off (and fans are worse off). Football has a spending problem, not an income problem. 

A well managed budget is what gets a Premier League club across the PSR threshold, not an extra million from squeezing loyal matchgoers.

Next steps

We’re very proud of the £30 Premier League away cap which was introduced after pressure from the FSA and fan organisations from around the country. Since its introduction it has saved supporters across the country millions, while many clubs in the EFL also introduced their own cheaper reciprocal deals (and we want to see more of these).

Soaring away ticket prices were a big problem but home ticketing is an even more complex one. However, supporter organisations are doing a fantastic job in highlighting their concerns with clubs on ticket price rises – long may this continue. Join your local supporters’ group!

We’re currently gathering season ticket and general admission data from supporter organisations within our Premier League Network to gauge any common themes, and we are due to meet the Premier League in May for our bi-annual supporter engagement meeting. Ticket prices will be on the agenda. 

The Premier League have always argued that home ticketing is an issue for each club, but we are starting to see common themes emerging – such as the attack on concessionary prices – and they demand a coherent, consistent response from the authorities.

Supporters would rather just get behind their team but there comes a point where many will say enough is enough. Protests are already starting to spread into stadiums and we know this isn’t something the authorities like – the onus is on clubs and the Premier League to listen to supporters and make sure football is affordable.

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