Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughStanding up to rising ticket prices - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Standing up to rising ticket prices - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Standing up to rising ticket prices

To what extent Wolves v Sunderland at Molineux can be considered to be a ‘Super Sunday’ is a debate in itself, but nonetheless, this is where Sky’s live Sunday afternoon Premier League will be broadcast from this weekend.

Perhaps fortunately, there are a number of subplots that could prove it to be an interesting program. Quite aside from Sunderland being Mick McCarthy’s former team (and how many times does a manager have to face a former team before it no longer becomes an issue?), Wolves actually have a manager at the time of writing. Sunderland, of course, disposed of Steve Bruce earlier in the week, and has yet has not replaced him. The bookmakers have Martin O’Neill as favourite, while Bruce’s former Manchester United teammate Mark Hughes remains a strong candidate.

And talking of dismissals, last January Andy Gray finally backed up his claim that he wanted to finish his career at Molineux. I’m sure he never thought it would be in a blaze of shame, and taking his hairy knuckled colleague with him. But, it is neither of these subplots that I’m talking about.

Newly formed fans’ protest group ‘Take Back The Game’ are preparing a ten minute protest at the start of the match (perhaps rather fortuitously this does not conflict with another fans group planning for all stadia at the weekend to be united in an 11th minute tribute to the late Gary Speed). Is this protest against the afore-mentioned McCarthy, who has presided over eight losses in Wolves’ last ten league matches? No, it is a protest at the ever growing prices of match tickets across the country.

It is the brainchild of Wolves fan Joe Sharples who, fed up with forking out for match tickets, looked abroad to Sweden for inspiration.

I’m sure that everyone reading this has at some point had a grumble about the cost of going to the match – factor in travel, a pie, a pint and a program and you’re often talking of well over £50 per person. This adds up, and in a period of economic turbulence, where austerity measures are being applied everywhere else, many fans cannot afford it.

In 2009/10 season, Premier League club’s revenue from ticket sales fell 5% from the previous season. This figure included falls in revenue for Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, the three most successful clubs of the Premier League era. Indeed, it is only just over a year ago that it was announced that Arsenal were set to have the first non-corporate ticket costing over £100. My season ticket at Wolves costs less than it would to take my family for one match in these seats. Heck, I could almost buy a season ticket at my local club, giant killers Stourbridge Town, for the cost of one Emirates ticket.

It is of no surprise that this season’s average match attendance is about 5% lower than four years ago. Or maybe it is a surprise, perhaps with everything taken into account, we’d expect the fall off to be far greater? And this is the problem; football clubs know that their fans are emotionally tied into the club.

If Asda started increasing their prices, everyone would head to Tesco. But if your club priced you out the market, where would you find yourself on a Saturday afternoon? At the local rivals whose prices are £10 cheaper? I don’t think so. Perhaps the local pub, showing the match on a foreign feed? Potentially , but even this avenue could soon be taken away from the average fan. I guess the options are to fork out the extra money for your ticket, or sit yourself down in front of Sky Saturday with Jeff and the boys and a couple of beers.

The protest on Sunday is not going to be violent, it’s not even going to be noisy. In fact, it’s going to be anything but. It will be a gentle reminder to the clubs of just what it would be like to have a stadium without atmosphere (an alternative option would be to send them a recording of any match at the Emirates). The clubs will not want this; while a club like Wolves, may only rely on match tickets for 17% of their income, what would it do to commercial revenue? Will sponsors really want to pay to advertise in a stadium without customers?

And if fans start staying away properly, the money from TV revenue will fall. I’m not just talking about the Sky deal, but the overseas TV rights which currently earn the Premier League £479m a season. Half of the attraction of the Premier League to foreign audiences is the atmosphere at grounds, partly due to the geography of the country – it’s a lot easier travelling to away matches in England than it is Italy or Spain.

This is not a call to arms for fans everywhere, more food for thought. It’s perfectly possible that you are happy with the prices that you pay at your club, in which case feel free to forget you ever read this. If not, send Joe a message through his website ( and tell him your tales of woe. Then pass his message onto all the other fans of your club. If no one makes a stand, then nothing will ever change. It’s time to take back the game.

Tom Bason @toomb306



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