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© Alamy - Jack Grealish and Nicolas Jackson discuss the problems price rises cause supporters (possibly)

PL price rises: Supporter groups hit out

The noise around home ticket prices continues to increase as Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) and groups at Manchester City have hit out at their own clubs for bumping up prices and squeezing concessions. 

CST published a letter to the club after seeing a rise in the price of tickets, coach travel, replica shirts, programmes, food and drink in general admission areas, youth fixtures and women’s game ticket prices. 

“We were informed that only once all commercial revenue streams were exhausted would the club hit the pockets of the supporters. Supporters are frustrated and angry that this pledge has been broken,” said CST. 

They also warned that the current lack of engagement by the club could lead to “irreversible toxicity, almost irrespective of results on the pitch”. 

Chelsea Supporters’ Trust: “You should be under no illusions of how concerned many supporters are about the potential of significant ticket price increases.”

Chelsea chief executive Chris Jurasek offered a response of sorts which recognised that “there is a concern about rising costs on a matchday and the impact ticket prices can have on our supporters” – but the lack of commitment to actually making football more affordable at Stamford Bridge was noticeable by its absence.

“Rest assured, we are taking ­frequent advice and ­engaging in ­regular consultation with the Fan Advisory Board to ensure that we take a holistic approach in this vitally important issue,” said Jurasek.

So any supporters in danger of being priced out can take solace in the fact the club is taking a “holistic approach”. Excellent!

Citizens revolt

A number of supporter organisations at Manchester City have also spoken out on price increases for season ticket holders (5% average and some closer to 10%) with FSA associates atmosphere group 1894 and MCFC Fans’ Foodbank Support making their views clear. Their voices were joined by Blue Moon Podcast (FSA Podcast of the Year in 2022) and the City Matters fan network. 

Significantly, Manchester City Official Supporters Club general secretary Kevin Parker backed their campaign and said he was “very disappointed” at the rises.

“After the most successful season in the club’s history on-the-pitch what a great opportunity it would have been to reward out loyal, long-standing season ticket holders with no increase so we could all feel part of the success,” said Parker.

“Instead City has decided to ignore that – almost certainly knowing that the exact same fan base are so loyal they will renew despite the increase. However, this one will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many.”

Whenever supporter groups speak out about ticket prices you can guarantee there’ll be under-the-line social media comments saying things like “matchgoers need to pay high ticket prices to cover player wages and transfer fees”.

Looking at their profiles those commentators often seem to have a couple of things in common: 1. They don’t go to games themselves but enjoy games on the TV and 2. They don’t seem to have looked into football finances a great deal.

As the ever excellent Swiss Ramble explained in November 2023 that Manchester City’s matchday income is dwarfed by the money it receives from broadcast and commercial partners.

In 2022-23 the club generated £299.4m in broadcasting revenue and £341.4m in commercial revenue for a combined £640.8m. Matchday revenue brought in £71.9m by comparison.

Bumping up tickets by 5%-10% could bring in another couple of million pounds but is that really a gamechanger on an overall turnover of £712.8m with pre-tax profits of £80.4m? We would argue not.

A pattern emerges? 

It’s only a couple of weeks since we wrote about similar price hikes and protests at Arsenal and Spurs as both clubs have increased prices and reduced concessions.

Spurs announced that, unless you’re already eligible for a “senior concession” by 2025-26 they’ll no longer offer OAP season ticket discounts at all. They’re gone forever, even if you live to 100.

Earlier in the year Fulham fans also skipped the club’s FA Cup tie against Newcastle United because of the club’s ticket policy which itself followed an organised protest in November 2023.

Fulham Supporters’ Trust said: “The problem is a completely misguided ticket pricing policy that fundamentally misunderstands what it means to be a fan. It’s a policy which is alienating a large part of our core fan base to the extent that increasing numbers just can’t afford to come to a game or bring their friends and family to help create that next generation.”

Last summer we reported that supporters were facing a pre-season of record-breaking price hikes across the Premier League. And sadly, it looks like we’re heading for more of the same once again.

What next? 

The FSA has had significant success around away pricing in the Premier League in past seasons – and clubs in the EFL have also followed the away cap idea – while home pricing campaigns have been driven by our affiliates at a club-by-club level. 

The rationale behind that is that every club is different and flexibility is needed – what might work as a price demand at a lower league club may not resonate with supporters at, say, a top-flight Premier League outfit.

However, that isn’t to say we don’t do work in this area and ticket prices have been a constant source of debate in meetings with the Premier League and EFL (both of whom prefer what we’d call a light touch approach when it comes to home pricing).

While this piece has largely focused on Premier League pricing we also know it can be an issue in the EFL, especially in the Championship, and we’ll continue to work with supporters’ groups to highlight ticketing problems at that level too.

But this rising tide of ticket prices is a real concern which we are actively monitoring with our members and it’s something which will be high on the agenda in our next meeting with the football authorities. 

Matchgoers aren’t just there to be squeezed dry – they are a crucial part of the “product” as we saw with empty stands during the COVID-19 pandemic – and clubs aren’t just any other business.

Clubs are often named after the area from which they were born and they owe a debt to those communities to ensure football remains affordable to supporters – whether they are new or have followed a club for decades.

BREAKING NEWS: Since writing this feature news has broken that Brentford also plan to increase their season ticket prices by 10%. Brentford Independent Association of Supporters (BIAS) said they “strongly opposed any season ticket price increases to protect the affordability of football matches for all Bees fans” – read more on that here.

However, not all groups at the club agreed with this take as supporters’ trust Bees United said they “understand” the club’s decision, cited steps by the club to mitigate the increases and acknowledged that it was the first increase since the club’s promotion.

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