Thursday, 11 December 2014

How Much?

Christmas time, a period of giving, caring and goodwill to everybody. Well, not to certain 'people' of course - and some of those 'people' seem to be football supporters. Having already being pressured into spending on 'the best Christmas ever' by many a maker of a product, our local football clubs are joining in with the annual leeching of our money, by telling us 'we can't afford to miss the big match'. Sadly, the game which exploded in popularity on the backs of the Working Classes, a game which gave many people a break from the rigours of life, seems to have gone forever, as football, at most levels it seems, are chasing profit over giving everyone an opportunity to see their team play.

Wigan Athletic supporters are being charged £36 (in advance - £41 on the day!) for ONE ticket at Leeds Untied for a league game on Boxing Day. In comparison – ten years ago - they charged £19 for a ticket at Elland Road. It’s ridiculous, especially with it being the time of year it is, to expect people to pay that. Some Leeds supporters are pointing out that ‘they have to pay that every week’ (and season tickets cost £600!) so that’s okay then? Why should Leeds supporters be paying that every week? Why should paying £600 for a season of 2nd tier football, be okay? Nobody should be paying what equates to around a fifth of someone’s weekly wage just for a ticket for a football match. And it isn’t just Leeds of course – plenty of clubs in the league like to fleece away supporters. 

After the announcement of the prices of the Leeds tickets by Latics on their website, they revealed that four days later, at home against Sheffield Wednesday, they have used one of their Football League ‘Promotional Days’ to give home supporters the chance to see the team for a tenner. A great gesture from the club (if possibly a little mischievous!) but with the results on the pitch not being great, supporters not happy and the time of year, it’s fantastic that the club have understood and want as many people as possible to come to the game. Our last match in the Premier League saw us play Aston Villa and a group of their supporters praised the club for it's stance on charging sensible ticket prices. We've learnt the hard way - the second season in the Premier League cost us an average attendance of 20,000, due to it being £35 a ticket. The club learnt from their mistake and have sensibly kept prices as low as possible to try and build up our supporter base. That's how you run a business.

Traditionally, Boxing Day is one, if not THE, biggest away day for Latics supporters. The infamous fancy dress tradition in Wigan on that day, plays a big part in that. For some though this year – that won’t happen. Some Latics supporters are calling for a boycott of the Leeds game in protest of the ticket prices and have instead, set up a charity page for people to give to the local homeless charity, The Brick, rather than give Leeds their £36. The news has been met positively by most football supporters it seems, but after a quick look on Twitter, you’ll find those who’ll say ‘it’s only Wigan – they’ll only bring 200 fans anyway. What's the point?’ They must have dipped deep into the cliché bag for that one. Totally missing the point as usual - if most supporter groups in The Championship boycotted fixtures with high ticket prices, then clubs will have to look into it. It makes no difference if one club brings 500 and the other 5,000 - the point is that everyone does it. If nobody does anything about it, if nobody raises awareness, you just carry on paying your £40, then nothing will ever change. This is £40 by the way, that would feed a few people on Christmas Day.

I’m proud that my club sets realistic prices, but even an average £15/£20 ticket is sometimes too much for some local people to afford and this is why attendances aren’t as high as they probably should be (that and the state of the recent team performances anyway!) Because we’re a local club, firmly entrenched in the local community, a local community like so many others around the country that is struggling and without a high-earning middle-class fanbase ready to take the seats of those who can’t go to games, we get ridiculed for it. It’s something these supporters of big city clubs don’t seem to understand and some of them think paying £40 for a ticket is fine – because that is what they do. I pay £20 a game for a ticket for Wigan Athletic – and I think that’s enough.

Let’s look at the business way - Leeds currently attract an average of 23,000 in a stadium that holds 40,000 – if they halved the ticket prices, I’d imagine the ground will be full more often than not. Where is the business sense in not filling your seats to as nearer as capacity as possible? You get as twice as many as people in – you make the same on the gate as you would have done if you’d charged double PLUS you’ll be in profit once you do sell all those programmes, food, bets etc. But we're talking about football business here - it doesn't make any sense. Leeds have had a number of investors over the last ten years and are still millions upon millions in debt. The only thing that has changed is the ticket prices, which have more than doubled for a side that for the last decade, has been a mid-table Championship side at best. I think those Leeds (and other clubs') supporters ridiculing us, should be looking at their own club and the monetary vampires that exist there and join us in a boycott. It's the only way clubs will learn, by hitting them in the pocket. I could go on - the FA should be doing more (personally I think a rule should be introduced to make it compulsory that football supporter groups should own a percentage of their clubs in order to protect their club) but as we've evidenced with various incidents over the years, the FA don't seem to care about supporters. We need to do it ourselves.

It’s sad to say this, but it’s over. Football being a ‘working man’s game’ is just a fallacy nowadays. The big sharks will eat the little fish – the big clubs will eat the little clubs, the big high-earning supporters will eat the low-earning supporters and business and profits will eat football. Until all football supporters STAND TOGETHER, don’t turn up for games, then nothing will change. As long as we are sniping at one another and letting our clubs get away with it, football will be lost to us all.

Just have a think about it.

Useful links:

This Northern Soul - Just Say No
The Football Supporters Federation 'Twenty Is Plenty' campaign
Stand Fanzine 

UPDATE: As I was writing this, Wigan Athletic announced that the squad have chipped in to make the first 500 tickets sold half-price for anyone who purchases. A fantastic gesture from the club - one which they didn't have to (and really shouldn't) be making. Thank-you.