Taking Action Against Away-Day Prices...

One way to protest against ticket prices is to boycott games, but another is to demand a limit on prices. What if all away tickets were capped at £30? It could happen...

Last Updated: 16/01/13 at 13:08 Post Comment

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Given the reaction to the Manchester City supporters' boycott/failure to sell all their tickets (delete according to allegiance) for the trip to Arsenal, you'd think that the rising cost of attending football games was a new problem. As if one moment everyone was happy paying their 2d to wee through a newspaper on the Kippax and the next you were suddenly chucking £62 on 90 minutes of what can very loosely be described as 'entertainment'.

Of course, this has been the trend for some time. In years past football was an affordable pleasure, but now it has become something you need to save up for.

Perhaps more alarming than the price difference between now and 30 years ago is the gap between now and one year ago. The BBC's recent 'Price of football' study found that the average price of the cheapest available Premier League ticket had risen from £24.87 in 2011 to £28.30 in 2012. That's a rise of 14% in just 12 months. We at Football365 are far from economists, but we think that's a shade above the rate of inflation.

It's hardly a mind-bending conclusion to say that football tickets are too expensive, and the current high prices will almost certainly be detrimental to the game in the long term. What is slightly trickier is to figure out what to do about it.

One approach is, as many City fans did, to simply refuse to pay the prices demanded. If enough people do that then those prices will drop in a hurry, but the obvious problem is organising enough people to make a difference.

Another way to go is try and change things right from the top, which is what the chaps at Away Price Cap have done, starting a concerted campaign - and launching a petition - to introduce a cap on the amount that can be charged for visiting supporters.

"The campaign is simply an attempt to encourage the FA and the Premier League to intervene and bring in regulations that prevent Premier League clubs from charging more than £30 a ticket for travelling supporters," says Rick Hincks from APC.

The figure of £30 was settled upon simply because it seemed about right. A fair price to charge for what we're frequently informed is the best league in the world, particularly when The Football Supporters' Federation estimates that, when the £5billion from the new foreign and domestic TV deals next season are factored in, clubs could afford to knock £32 off the price of each ticket and still make money.

So why now? Hincks is a supporter, like the rest of the campaigners, and the final straw for him came this season through sheer unfairness.

"Being charged £65 for Ajax away despite Real Madrid only being charged £35 re-ignited the issue," he says. "Then being charged £62 for Arsenal despite Sunderland and West Brom being charged less than £30 sent me over the edge and I felt something had to be done. It's preventing me supporting my team."

There are of course problems with the campaign, firstly that there could be legal issues with forcing clubs to charge away fans a certain price while they are free to ask home fans to pay whatever.

"This is something we are looking in to," says Hincks. "We know that there are currently League regulations that prevent clubs from charging away fans more than the cheapest home ticket. But to be honest if there is a legal issue then this can only help the bigger issue of ticket pricing as a whole as it will force clubs to re-assess their high pricing to accommodate the cap."

A more practical concern is that the clubs will simply try to recoup their lost money in other ways. While it might be tricky to imagine Arsenal charging any more than £13.90 for fish and chips, clubs could add a few quid onto refreshment costs, a pound to the price of a programme, maybe chuck in a higher booking fee and suddenly they're making their money back, and the fans lose out again.

APC will address those concerns when they hand over the petition (if it reaches the required 100,000 signatures), but how far can they go? Perhaps more relevantly, should they? As we are constantly told, football is a business, and in business those that provide the 'product' can charge what they like, as long as people are willing to pay, right? The Premier League is a valuable product, so clubs should be able to charge the equivalent of a ticket to the theatre or a Bruce Springsteen show. These are market forces in action.

The problem with that argument is that football is not comparable to other forms of public entertainment. In most cases a fan goes to watch a game because he or she is emotionally involved, rather than to appreciate the fine players on display. It is the one form of public entertainment that someone can pay a great deal of money to see and half-expect to have a thoroughly miserable afternoon.

"Wave goodbye to your beloved sport," says Hincks in response to the market forces point. "It is however a valid argument. Under current regulations, clubs are able to charge what they want, but what we're saying is that this is not acceptable any more because they are taking advantage of their position."

And for those clubs who claim they need to keep prices high to remain competitive, despite the enormous amounts of money from TV, Hincks has a simple response: "Reassess your business plan because it appears to be flawed. No club of those sizes should be relying so heavily on ticket pricing in this day and age."

APC needs 100,000 signatures on their petition, meaning if 5,000 fans from each Premier League club put their names to it, they will be able to present it to those in power. It might not work, but imagine if it did...

Click here to sign the petition, or here for more information on the campaign. Follow Away Price Cap on Twitter here.

Nick Miller

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