Friday, March 2, 2007

Falling ticket prices – 2-1 to the righteous? - Margin

So far in the battle of the season tickets, two clubs have announced price cuts, while one has announced price hikes.

Blackburn today joined Bolton in the moral crusade against high ticket prices led by Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper. Lined up against them are Arsenal, who have set a March deadline for season ticket renewals, price rises included.

The arguments are well rehearsed. The Premiership is beset by falling attendances, boring football, more TV coverage, and new television rights money. So the moral case for helping the poor downtrodden hard working supporter of old is seemingly clear. After all, these are not the scummy, Neanderthal, racist, hooligans that the same Sun exposed ‘The Truth’ about all those years ago.

So what could possibly have possessed the snarling, cup-final wrecking, petulant young Arsenal to rip off their fans following another trophy-less season.

Well part of the answer to that can be found in the deliberately phrased question. This is probably a trophy-less season for Arsenal, just as it is likely to be for anyone other than Chelsea, Manchester United, and maybe Tottenham if they sneak a Uefa Cup home while no one is watching.

And fundamentally, that’s not good enough for Arsenal. It isn’t good enough for their fans. It isn’t good enough for their players. It isn’t good enough for their owners. And it isn’t good enough for their manager.

It is therefore safe to assume a degree of consensus at the Emirates that things need to improve. That consensus will also be found at Stamford Bridge when Manchester United claim the title a few weeks from now. And I expect it will be found at Anfield, White Hart Lane, and Parks Goodison, Villa and St James’.

So if Arsenal feel they need to improve, how will they set about it. The only way, if we rule out gambling on a new manager, will be to buy new players while keeping their best existing players.

That costs money.

Now some might say that boosted funds from the new TV deal should provide enough money and more. But that money does not all go to Arsenal. Indeed more of it will go to Manchester United and Chelsea – the very teams that the Gunners wish to catch.

Arsenal therefore need more cash to make up that difference and overcome it. Sure shrewd buys rather than wasteful spending can make a difference. But Arsenal and Manchester United have broadly similar records on such things. Both have managed some stunning signings for reasonable or sometimes very high fees. And both have wasted fortunes on flops.

So if Arsenal want to make up the difference, more money must be found. And that can only come from the fans. Expect Spurs, Newcastle, Liverpool and Everton to arrive at the same conclusion when their season ticket renewals take place at a more dignified time… such as the end of the season.

So do Blackburn and Bolton simply not want to compete? Well no. But far from a magnanimous gesture their price cutting is about money too.

Unlike the North London or Liverpool based clubs mentioned, both cost cutting clubs are beset by falling crowds and empty seats. Higher prices would probably yield no more money for them. Just more empty seats.

However, a cut in prices should raise attendances and improve shirt, pie and programme sales. These price cuts are about milking fans too. It’s just that both clubs are blessed with grounds far too big for their support, and so look kind hearted in their business.

Pity for fans who pay high prices is misplaced. Save it for those who can’t get a ticket, and those whose clubs don’t want to compete.


andrewm said...

It's (kind of) like taxation - everybody wants the benefits but nobody wants to pay extra to get them.

Of course, I've never had a season ticket anywhere, so I'm clearly talking bollocks.

Margin said...

Hey - Those who understand taxes best don't pay any - maybe the same goes for season tickets.

MotM said...

Margin - a deeply cynical post and a deeply cynical comment... and a deeply correct analysis.

Anonymous said...

What about the north american model? The crappiest team gets the first pick at next year's new players. Better or worse?

Margin said...


The American system is extremely fair, but it is in effect based on a soviet model of planned economics.

Entry to competition is severely restricted, resources centrally controled, and collective good promoted.

Perhaps a good model for free market football would be to ban any player from having two transfers before the age of 24.

That would mean young stars might stay at the club who scouted them instead of jumping ship for cash knowing they might not play another game for five years if it doesn't work out.

And the likes of cesc fabregas moving to arsenal at 16 would probably not want to risk 8 years in a foreign country that he might not adjust to.

That would be fairer for those clubs who found and developed young talent, which every club has a chance to do at relatively little expense.

MotM said...

Margin - I think something should be done to allow the benefit of developing young players to flow to the FANS of the club and not just the accountants. But I fear your idea would result in players being bought at 21 and parked in the stands for three years. Cynical, but ain't that the defining characteristic of big time sport?

Margin said...


I completely agree. Although fewer 21 year olds might sign up to sitting in the stands if they knew there was no way out.

allwell said...

Great piece, Margin. I'm new to the site but enjoying it muchly.

I had been wrestling with the same argument in my entry for next week's Big Blogger, but ultimately gave up because I failed to express it concisely. That might have something to do with my using words like muchly.

Anyway, you nailed it. Well done.

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