Liverpool Ticket Price Outrage

Soccer fans in Liverpool, England are outraged by the hike in ticket prices that occurred over the recent weeks. On Saturday, February 6, in a 2-2 draw with relegation-fighting Sunderland, 10,000 Liverpool FC fans walked out in the 77th minute of the match, protesting the new £77 ticket price.

The US based Fenway Sports Group, also owner of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox, raised the ticket prices to the equivalent of $116 for Liverpool fans, stating on their website that they are “transforming fans into customers.” This avaricious policy further angered Liverpool FC fans, and the Liverpool Supporters Committee responded by saying “Unfortunately, the decisions of the ownership are based purely on economics with no compromise.”

This situation comes in the wake a new TV deal for the English Premier League that was signed this summer worth an astonishing $7.25 billion for the clubs, $3 billion more than the prior deal. Increasing viewership not only led to this new deal, but also to more valuable marketing deals and sponsorships for teams. As a result, clubs are getting more money than ever before, and increasing ticket prices is only a drop in the revenue bucket for even the poorest teams in the League.

Recently, Premier League executives met to discuss the issue of ticket prices. While they did agree that having fans (especially non-touristic fans that loudly voice their support for their club) present is important to creating the atmospheres that makes TV revenues so high for the clubs, the proposal to set a cap on ticket prices failed to reach the ⅔ consensus required.

Clubs were hesitant to put a cap on prices because they want to reserve the option to vary prices based on the size of the fixture, just as Arsenal (unsuccessfully due to fan protesting) planned to do with the home fixture versus FC Barcelona in the Champions League. The Football Supporters Federation “expressed bitter disappointment that Premier League clubs failed to back a measure to cap… ticket prices” and could stage a mass walk-out protest or even boycott sponsors of Premier League teams (which are more susceptible to public concerns).

According to Dave Usher, ESPNFC’s Liverpool FC blogger, the increase in ticket sales will make Liverpool a total of $2.9 million this year, which is nothing compared to the amount they will make from the new TV deal or sponsorships. And even if the TV deal was the same and the sponsorships weren’t providing Liverpool with more revenue, $2.9 million is very little for a club that is worth $982 million.

But the higher ticket prices undoubtedly have an effect on Liverpool fans. Jamie Carragher, former Liverpool FC captain and club legend, participated in the walk-out on Saturday and afterwards said, “£77 is too much to watch a game anywhere but that price is particularly over the top in Liverpool.” Dave Usher also made clear that “an extra £100 is a lot to supporters who are already paying far too much anyway, but £2m is nothing to Liverpool.”

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As Carragher and Usher both allude to, Liverpool is known as a working-class city. According to the Liverpool City Council, workers in Liverpool earn an average of $716.8 per week (making the new ticket prices 15.6% of their weekly income, while Great Britain averages $752.7 per week and the US averages $820. For soccer fans in Liverpool, many of whom go to the games every weekend and consider soccer as a huge part of their lives, even the smallest increases in ticket prices have large implications.

Because of the higher prices, fans are being forced out of their lifetime seats to lower-priced seating, and many now can’t afford to go to games. As a result, the best, lifelong, vocal fans can’t support their club during games, and stadiums will soon be filled with quiet, uninterested tourists. But for Liverpool fans, they are losing a reason to keep their fans out of the hands tourists.

Liverpool has been performing very poorly under new manager Jurgen Klopp, much to the discontent of Liverpool fans. Klopp’s side has struggled even against the relegation-embroiled teams in the League and has also been knocked out of the FA Cup during their midweek 2-1 extra time loss to West Ham. Liverpool also struggled to make fruitful signings in the last few years, and fans think that the club is wasting their money. Worse, fans have expressed their boredom with Liverpool’s performances and their dull style of play. Why are fans being made to pay more for tickets when the team is not entertaining, let alone winning?  

And higher ticket prices aren’t even necessary. Take Newcastle United – they have reduced their ticket prices despite being in 17th place, only 1 point above relegation. They have acknowledged that their revenue from tickets isn’t significant enough to make a difference in whether they get relegated, so did what is best for the fans by lowering prices, and because of the atmosphere the fans bring, for their team as well.

For these fans of the game, soccer is a huge part of their lives. They attend most games, making tickets a substantial portion of their income. Liverpool fans paid 136.9% more than fans of other Premier League clubs despite making less than workers in other cities, and their team, their game, was taken away from them by the interfering, unnecessary greed of the owners.

Usually, only one side wins in soccer: one team wins, one team loses; some fans rejoice, others are forced to deal with their heartbreak. But on February 11, Fenway Sports Group issued an apology to Liverpool fans and capped their prices at £59 for next season. A £19 decrease will help some fans, but £59 is still much higher than the average Premier League fan pays to watch their team.

Although prices across the Premier League, and especially for Liverpool, are still too expensive and remain an issue, this is definitely a step in the right direction and shows the importance and power of fans in soccer.

For now, it seems like everybody won.

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