Over the past weekend there have been protests up and down England organised by the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) regarding ticket prices for away fans in English football. The campaign, “Twenty’s Plenty”, aims to push clubs to ensure that ticket prices cost no more than £20 for travelling fans. But can the campaign work?
There is no argument that the rise in ticket prices has been incredible. In a 2014 survey the BBC investigated ticket prices and found that prices had increased at almost twice the rate of the cost of living from 2011. For the normal, working supporter, this increase is clearly too much, too fast.
A survey by GoEuro.co.uk, conducted in September 2015, goes some way to highlight the issues suffered by English Premier league fans. The survey showed that the average ticket cost for a Premier League fan was the highest of all 25 countries studied around the world, coming to £53.76. It also calculated that the average cost of travelling to an away game for an English fan was £216.14. In essence, it would cost a fan from England a similar amount to go to Germany to watch a Bundesliga game as it would to stay in England.
It is, therefore, incredibly difficult to argue against the Twenty’s Plenty campaign. A £20 cap on away ticket prices would no doubt see an increase in fans as more would be able to afford the tickets, but it is difficult to see many, if any, of the Premier League clubs or the Premier League in general listen to the campaign.
The stance of the Premier League is that the FSF refuse to look at the offers that several clubs have for tickets, and instead only focus on the highest priced tickets. Speaking to the BBC, a Premier League spokesperson even went so far as to discuss how “12 Premier League clubs offered adult season ticket prices which work out as fans paying £26 or less per match.”
The reality is that not every football fan can afford a season ticket, regardless of the overall saving at the end of the season. There is also the fact that several people will be working at times when games are on, and therefore may not actually benefit from owning a season ticket. For the casual fan, it can be that they can only attend every other game or even less. Is it fair that those fans are therefore penalised because they don’t have a season ticket?
The plan of action for the weekend was to have banners at each of the Premier League games, though the reach of the protests was greater than just that as several Championship clubs also joined in with the protest. The ‘visual protest’ will have ultimately have had the aim of catching the eye of those in charge. The FSF hold the stance that “the club are more inclined to listen to their fans than anyone else” and hope that enough noise will make clubs act.
But will banners actually do anything at all? As powerful as it has been seeing rival fans stand side by side at football grounds with banners stating that “Twenty Is Plenty” it almost feels like it is all in vain. Average attendances have not dropped in any English league over the past four years by any incredible number, so the fans are still going regardless of the cost. If people are still willing to spend an average of £53.76 for a ticket, why would any football club cut that by more than half?
Football is a business, and just as with any other business if they have a product that they know will sell for ‘x’ amount, they will keep it at ‘x’ amount. There may be offers every now and then, but financially they will know they’re safe to keep it as it is. The only difference between buying a football ticket to buying a product from a shop is that a football fan feels a connection to their club that can’t be replicated. There’s a certain romance for many people and that romance is worth the cost, regardless.
There is also a sense of irony in the fact that the banners displayed in and around the grounds are being held up by people that have actually purchased tickets at over £20 and are watching a game. It’s not hard to imagine several Premier League chairmen sharing a bottle of red wine laughing at the banners and saying: “Well, they’re still coming here!”
Ultimately, for the “Twenty’s Plenty” campaign to work, they actually need to heed the words of a banner their supporters have held up around the country. “Without fans football is nothing.”
Perhaps if they stopped going, boycotted the games, then football clubs would listen. Until then, the average price will most likely stay as it is, and fans will continue to be charged the same by clubs that simply do not care.