Twenty’s Plenty. Or is it ?

The week of the big Premier League “Compromise” has arrived, and they’ve deemed we’re all worthy of paying £30 for the pleasure of sitting in an Away enclosure next season. I say “we”, but the reality is it won’t affect me. You see I stopped paying that kind of money to watch football many years ago. Must be the Yorkshireman in me, I like to get value for my money, or certainly not have the feeling of being ripped-off every week. However, it does affect many thousands of people that loyally follow their team up and down the country from August to May.

Perhaps I was a tad cynical in my opening sentence. After many years of rising ticket prices ( vastly higher than inflation ), we finally have some sort of compromise with regards to them escalating any further. The Premier League have seen fit to cap the price of a ticket for visiting fans to £30 for the next three season’s, starting for the 16/17 season. All well and good I hear you say, a step in the right direction. And on that I would have to agree. However, the fact remains that for many years now supporters’ groups have campaigned that £20 is enough. Who are “they” to come up and tell fan’s how much to pay, when many of them have campaigned and stated that they aren’t prepared to pay much more. “They” are the Premier League cartel, fresh from signing a new TV contract guaranteeing every top-flight side £100 Million per year in revenue, for the next three years.

Now maths was never my strong point ( nor was English, as the wrong use of grammar on this will testify ! ). But let’s say the average Away allocation is 5000 tickets. I realise this is a top end figure, as many clubs offer less than that, the official guideline is 5% of stadium capacity, I’m led to believe. Multiply that by £10 and you get £50,000. Multiply again by 19 games ( a Premier League schedule ) and you get £950,000. That’s less than  1% of the income available to every club via television contract money. So our generous Premier League Chairmen and Chief Executives have actually screwed Away supporters for the sake of less than £1 Million. No wonder people like me call it the Greed League. Imagine the goodwill that could have been generated by capping the price at £20 per ticket, as fans had petitioned for. Would it hurt these multi-million Pound corporations to dip into their £100 Million and give a little bit more back to the fans ?  No, it wouldn’t.

But that would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. It isn’t going to happen. Instead a huge amount of PR spin means fans genuinely think they’ve got the clubs to back down. This compromise figure is certainly better than the £40/£50 some now pay, but it still isn’t the £20 fans asked for. The option for clubs to re-generate the amount lost would be to simply tack it onto the cost the home supporters pay, so the loyal fan travelling Away will still ( potentially ) foot the cost at the Home fixture.

As I touched on in the first paragraph, none of this affects me. I’ve been away from the professional game for several years now. I get my fix in non-league football, paying a fraction of the price of the big leagues. It’s not like the game in the lower echelons doesn’t have similar problems, but then nor does it have the financial windfall of television money. I hand my money over at the turnstile knowing that every penny will help that club, be it to pay match officials, or paint a stand in the Summer. To quote a well known Blur song ” It gives me a sense of enormous well being ” ( Park Life, 1994 ).

And perhaps there lays the answer. How about instead of handing over £30 for a ticket to watch your team play away, how about for one weekend ( maybe more ) fans boycott an Away fixture, and leave the visiting end completely empty. Instead, take that £30 to a local non-league ground, and see exactly what that money gets you. To be honest, you’d be hard-pressed to spend it in one go. Even with a few pints, food and a programme, you’d still take half of your money back home with you ! Imagine the good it would do to the local club too, at the real heart of football.

I’ll finish this on a positive note. We should all be thankful that organisations like Twenty’s Plenty and the Football Supporters Federation exist. Many people are working hard to ensure that football doesn’t lose touch with it’s working class roots. Those same roots that have kept clubs alive for a 100+ years. Some would have you believe that the game is already lost, but constructive protest has shown what can be done. This may be a small victory in the price fight, but the war must continue. Let’s make clubs grateful we attend, and not be grateful that they let us.

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