Conspiracy theory

I’ve been doing this “writing lark” for about three years or so now. It started about the time Stand fanzine first came to prominence, a vehicle of discontent with the modern game that I was happy to jump aboard. Everyone had a view on football, on and off the pitch, but at that time it was events off the pitch that were making us all sit up and take notice. Stand highlighted many things wrong with the game at the time, and 3 years later here we all are still talking about the same ill’s. Somewhere in the middle, we all lost sight of what exactly we were fighting against, not because the goal posts changed ( pardon the pun ) but because we all got a little weary of banging our head’s against the proverbial brick wall. However, in the last few weeks things have taken a dramatic turn. Cliche’s have been trotted out, “Line in the sand” being one of my favourites, but it wasn’t so much in sand, more concrete that the line was drawn. The concrete in question was that of the steps out of Anfield, home of Liverpool FC.

Arguably one of the clubs with the community most ingrained into it’s fabric, installed years back when a socialist by the name of Bill Shankly forged a link between players and supporters that is still talked about today, Liverpool have for the last few years increasingly moved away from their traditional fan-base with a series of decisions made by their American owner’s the Fenway Sports Group (FSG). The owners are three wealthy Americans, John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon. Henry alone has a fortune estimated at £1 Billion. Last week the group announced plans for a series of price rises on next years admission prices, with a top-priced ticket for a Category A game set at an astronomical £77, an increase of 31% on this season’s price. This at a time when Liverpool, as with all the Premier League clubs, are sat on the verge of next years massive TV deal, worth a combined £8 Billion over the next 3 years.

Protest from Liverpool supporters group’s was quickly formulated, and at the next match against Sunderland, several thousand fans left their seats on the 77th minute to show the ownership that they would not stand and watch the prices continue to rise. Less than a week later, the owners backed down from the plan, and positively apologised to the fans for the “Perception that they didn’t care about supporters, that we are greedy and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense. Quite the opposite is true”. After years of acceptance over change, the supporters had won one of the most important battles against the modern game, namely the cost of attending matches.

That’s the background anyway. Now for me to be just a little bit cynical. See, this is what years of reading fanzines does to you ! What if the Liverpool owners were playing the biggest game of bluff ever ? For years now the Premier League have trotted out the usual propaganda when questioned over prices – 97% of seats are taken up at every Premier League game. They conveniently forget to mention the changing demographic, from the working class game to that of the middle classes. The lack of youngsters now able to attend once no longer classed as Juniors. The number of football “tourists” that take up any spare tickets, and spend the equivalent to a small 3rd world countries debt in the club shop and concourses. All this is irrelevant, It’s all about the here and now to these people,  it’s all about “customers” and “net profit”. Anyway, back to the double-bluff from the owners. It’s easy to charge “X” amount when you’re pretty certain that is what people will pay. That’s the thing with football fan’s, they’ll always find a way to afford to go, it’s what they do. And if they can’t afford it, somebody else further up the food chain can, and will. Until now that is. We’ve reached the affordability ceiling. So Liverpool, as with most clubs, are pretty certain the ticket’s will sell regardless of price ?.But there’s a risk that they won’t, with the bad publicity…. So here’s the twist…..What if the owners realised that the “traditional” fan-base was declining, and that the football tourist would jump all over the next successful or cheaper option, bearing in mind that Liverpool haven’t been prolific on that front just lately, and on the field look a few years away from success. Keep in mind also the money at the disposal of their Manchester rivals just down the road. So the owners cover their backs by announcing the back-down, with only a small increase across the board going almost unnoticed ( even just a couple of pounds per ticket would generate millions in profit ). With one statement they take the fire from the dissenting fan’s belly, and appear to be the club of the people once more. They now have 45,000 happy punters ( more when the new stand is completed ) all re-engaging with the club and believing they’re all in it together. Season ticket renewal forms will soon be in the post for next season, and on the back of a feel good factor, not to mention the fans thinking their ticket’s are now reasonably priced all things considered, they have another years full take up. Double-bluff complete. It’s almost like an RRP sticker on a product in a shop. RRP £150, today just £99. You instantly think you’re getting something cheaper, the added bonus being it’s also less than 100 quid. We all know it’s not worth £150, but are suckered in at the thought of a bargain.

Liverpool tickets for £55 ? bargain them, they should be £77 !

Ok, so it’s not X-files or 9/11. But it makes you wonder………


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