Following the success of the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’
campaign on Saturday, The Football Lab spoke to a member of the Football Supporters Federation
, Garreth Cummins. He tackles the issue of high ticket pricing and why football clubs should be fairer to match-going fans.
The weekend’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign received widespread coverage and support. We saw a lot of main media outlets discussing the issue, while Arsenal and Manchester United fans campaigned in harmony for a £20 cap on away tickets. How significant was this weekend in your quest for fair ticket prices?
It was the largest co-ordinated national protest on the issue of ticket prices that this country has seen, and the widespread coverage it received was certainly welcome. At every Premier League fixture, as well as at many in the Football League, we saw rival fans coming together and making the point that something has to be done. In terms of the overall campaign it’s another step along the road and helps keep up the visibility of the idea that football should give back more to its fans in terms of reduced or subsidised ticket prices, and hopefully adds to the pressure we’ve been putting on the clubs and the football authorities.
Last season, Manchester City sold the Premier League’s cheapest season tickets, but the most expensive match tickets. Do you think this strategy rewards the loyal fans?
Season tickets almost always offer the best value, and if you’re in a position to go every other week to home matches then taking advantage of that means you get the best deal. The Twenty’s Plenty campaign focusses on away match tickets because by their very nature away fans don’t benefit from the discount offered by season tickets, and match-by-match tickets can be incredibly expensive. If away fans are priced out then attendances, along with atmosphere, will be damaged.
Swansea City have agreed to subsidise tickets for away matches, so that no fan has to pay more than £22. Are you encouraged by this?
Absolutely – we covered the story here.
Only 2 Premier League clubs had an average attendance less than 90% of their ground’s capacity last season – Sunderland (82%) and Aston Villa (88%). Given that attendances remain relatively high, what would you say to those who question the incentive for top tier clubs to reduce ticket prices?
Matchday income is becoming less and less important as a revenue stream due to the huge increases in media deals. Those media deals are sold on the basis of full stadiums and great atmospheres making a great ‘product’ for the TV companies. If clubs continue to increase ticket prices they’ll notice attendances dropping off, which will have the knock-on effect of making the TV product much less attractive, and thus risk harming their biggest source of income. A small subsidy from these TV deals could ensure that football is affordable for all and that away fans in particular are protected, making for a better product.
Many supporters will remember past games where the atmosphere they created spurred their team on to victory, but it is harder for fans to get behind those on the pitch when they feel those off it are exploiting them. If clubs were to look after their fans, would the atmosphere and therefore the team’s performances improve?
The demographic certainly is changing as prices are rising. Fans aren’t getting into the habit of attending matches in their teens and early twenties as they once did, as prices have far outstripped the growth in wages, and so clubs are at risk of losing out on not only the atmosphere and energy that younger fans bring to stadiums, but also potentially on a whole generation of fans. If people don’t catch the matchgoing bug early they may never find themselves becoming regular attenders, and we don’t want football to become something that young fans only watch on TV.
Borussia Dortmund are a club that has actively encouraged their fans to support their team, and en route to the 2013 Champions League final, they won every home game. Could they have done that without the brilliant atmosphere catalysed by cheap ticketing and a large safe standing area?
It’s hard to apportion what percentage of their success is driven by their support, but it obviously doesn’t hurt to have a large, partisan home crowd behind you! As a side note, there is no safe-standing in the Champions League because Uefa regulations don’t allow for it, but I’m sure that doesn’t stop the vast majority of their fans from standing at those matches, just as they do at games in the Bundesliga, which only highlights the flaws in enforcing all-seater rules where there are fans who wish to stand at matches.
Bradford City have sold season tickets this summer at just £149, and they managed to sell around 18,000 despite still being in the third tier. There are calls for other clubs at that level to do the same, but do you think it is hard for them to be as generous without having the same size fanbase?
We’d support any move where clubs make football as affordable as Bradford have – obviously each club has to do their own sums on what they believe is right for them, but there are plenty of clubs in Leagues One and Two who offer season tickets at little more than £10-12 a game which is really encouraging.
Newport County Supporters Trust raised £236k in the space of a month to complete a takeover of their club. Do you think clubs in the lower leagues benefit from fan ownership?
Clubs benefit from sensible ownership, and often at the lower levels of the games clubs can find themselves hostage to chancers and fly-by-night owners who are looking to make a quick buck but who don’t have the best interests of the club, or the fans, at heart. Those people will come and go, and often the only continuity at this level is provided by the fans. Supporters Trusts are often left to pick up the pieces, and many of them are doing a great job.
What are the Football Supporters’ Federation’s future plans to protect fans from exploitative ticket pricing? Any campaigns coming up?
We’ll be continuing to keep up the momentum from the weekend of action, and fans should keep an eye on our website, or come along to one of our Roadshow events to hear about the next steps in the campaign.