The Action Replay column from the May 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
Liverpool FC fans walked out in protest at increased ticket prices during their home game against Sunderland earlier this season. In the 77th minute with Liverpool leading 2-0, droves of their supporters left the stadium annoyed at the proposed new ticket price of £77.
Nobody at Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the club’s American owners, could have foreseen the reaction of Liverpool fans to the price hike to meet the cost of a new main stand.
Ian Ayres, the Chief Executive, completely misread the supporters mood when calling their actions ‘disappointing’ adding ‘what’s affordable for one person isn’t for another…I’ve no doubt 200 people would be happy to pay £77 for a seat.’ Plainly, it’s not the sort of comment that will endear him to the Scousers.
Jamie Carragher, a former Liverpool player joined the walkout. He stated that Liverpool generate around £35 million in ticket prices, had FSG announced a freeze on prices when the stand was completed the revenue would have risen to £37million – all this for the sake of £2 million for the eighth richest club in the world.
Alan Shearer, former England International, backed the fans commenting: If you are a parent with kids and you want to take them to a game, the cost would be horrendous for a normal working family.
Fenway Sports Group later issued a letter of apology to the fans, signed by senior FSG figures: John W Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon. FSG expressed concern that the supporters may perceive them as greedy, stressing they have not taken a penny out of the club and have invested £1m on a new stand and invested considerable sums of money to improve the squad
However we need to look at the perennial failure of the Premier League to regulate the game. Generally speaking, many of the premier teams, some who have a sole owner, seek maximum revenue from ticket prices whilst the Premier League is awash with £8.3 billion in TV revenues.
Various measures have been mooted to quell some fans’ disenchantment, e.g. imposing caps on away prices; maximum charges and percentage increases; plus funnelling some of the massive TV revenue to reduce ticket prices. Otherwise, it is argued, we may face a situation where increasing numbers of fans are forced to watch football on TV because ticket costs will have priced them out of the football stadiums.