In many of our eyes he is the man that can do no wrong. But Jose criticising the atmosphere at the QPR match was him being a little out of touch with reality.
For many supporters the poor atmospheres, particularly at league games against the so-called smaller clubs, are directly connected to the cost of attending a match at Stamford Bridge. This is not a problem confined to The Bridge, as those who have been to Anfield will know despite the constant media adulation for even the slightest hint at noise from the Kop.
The BBC’s price of football survey has starkly reminded supporters that attending matches is a very expensive pastime. Pundits, experts and supporters groups are identifying the trend of the middle classes making up a large proportion of the attendances.
Firstly, the make-up of the modern day football match attendee should be considered and possibly defined. ‘Attendee’ on the basis that those who attend matches appear to fall into two categories: (1) supporter- those who partake in supporting their team by singing, chanting and creating an atmosphere; and (2) fan- those who attend who provide general encouragement but nothing too intense. Generally ‘supporters’ are either more from the working classes or of the younger generation. ‘Fans’ seem to be the middles classes who attend and are middle aged and/or attend as families.
There is absolutely no problem with those falling into the ‘fans’ category from going to games. Being a London club based in Fulham will mean we should have a bigger catchment area of the middles classes. Many ‘supporters’ have and will become the ‘fans’ of tomorrow. It is about making the game more available to the current and new ‘supporters’ so that they can continue to attend matches and help create the atmospheres that Jose thought was so lacking.
There does appear to be a greater proportion of ‘fans’ at the Bridge than ‘supporters’. At away games this is reversed, possibly as the ‘supporters’ know that they will attend in greater numbers and that the atmosphere will be great and good times will be had (win, lose or draw), which is probably why our away support is superb.
The cynic would question whether football clubs actually want ‘supporters’ at games. The ‘fans’ are perceived to have more money, will buy all the kits (third kits should be banned and we as a club should always have a yellow away kit. Why have anything that will clash? That’s an argument for another day), will buy the programme, drinks and food in the ground. Football tourists are also perceived to be more welcomed on the basis that they will also go in to the Megastore and part with even more money. These two groups may be less likely to be rowdy, swear and sing crude songs.
From a business sense it is difficult to blame a football club for trying to maximise revenue, and players too. The fact that most clubs could have charged nothing for tickets this year and still made as much money as last year due to new TV deals is frustrating. Robbie Savage says he never thought for a moment about those who pay for tickets. When JT called up that fan did he offer to take a pay cut? An ugly truth is that most top clubs make very little profit, except Arsenal, and the majority of the money is ploughed into the players’ pockets. Maybe the players should think about how their wage demands have a knock-on effect with pricing?
More can be done maybe it is not as simple as cutting ticket prices. In fact, perhaps a way forward takes the form of increasing the price of some tickets and then lowering the cost of others.
This was an initial thought when tickets for the Moscow final were purchased and again for Munich. The biggest club match in the world is a good example.
For a Champions League Final UEFA is likely to have little problem charging £750 for their most expensive non-corporate tickets and, for the additional sums received in revenue, lower the costs of their second cheapest band of tickets (the first cheapest band being quite reasonable for the prize at stake). This is on the basis that people with the funds will pay the most money to get their tickets. The black market sales tend to back this up. In fact, UEFA could probably charge more given that allocations to clubs also include the corporates. The knock on effect would be UEFA making just as much money in ticket sales but then enhancing their reputation by lowering prices for those who would benefit the most.
This is an option our club could consider.
Imagine the 1,500 most expensive non-corporate season tickets, which are probably purchased by fairly well-off people. If the club increased the priced for these by, say, £350 each then the club would earn £525k in extra revenue. The East Lower aside (probably fairly priced as it stands), the club could reduce the price of, say, 5000 season tickets, perhaps in the Matthew Harding or Shed lower tiers (which usually house the vocal supporters) or both by £100, thereby reducing ticket prices for supporters but not adversely affecting revenue. The same principle could be applied to tickets sold on a match by match basis.
Could the £350 increase go further? Those few with the very best non-corporate seats at The Bridge perhaps could be charged even more, sold on the basis that they would get first priority on cup final tickets regardless of loyalty points. Yes it would upset many who gain lots of points but this could be offset by cheaper tickets throughout the season. Supporters don’t simply go to matches just so they qualify for final tickets.
This approach would obviously be objected to by those paying more (sound familiar?) but it is an interesting approach to one of the most important issues facing football. A glance at prices for Arsenal and Tottenham does suggest that the most affluent are willing to pay huge sums to go to matches/guarantee their seat.
The cheaper Champions League and Cup prices have been around for quite a while and possibly before Arsenal’s much trumpeted £10 League Cup tickets and the club should be commended for that. However, it is an oddity that someone can go to all the Champions League home group games, save a fortune on prices compared to three very average home games (Juve cheaper than Hull?), yet still gain substantially more ‘loyalty’ points. Many will pick these cheaper games as it is a way of getting to a game and are not really showing additional loyalty. From experience the atmosphere is fairly decent and better than many league games. Perhaps the connection between cheaper tickets and atmosphere is therefore obvious.
It is disrespectful of clubs to rely on supply and demand. For many of us going to The Bridge is like visiting our place of worship. This feeling is replicated across the land by supporters of all clubs. We will attend regardless of form, time or price and it’s about time clubs started treating us as the backbone of our clubs and not simply as a customer number to be fleeced. A few poor seasons and the glory hunters and tourists will go elsewhere but supporters will remain. That loyalty should be cherished, not exploited.
There is a debate to be had and it is unrealistic to simply shout that all tickets should be made cheaper. We need to engage with the club, put forward suggestions and help work towards making going down The Bridge more affordable.
Contribution from Dale Gibbons