Culture vs Commercialisation

Recently popular Liverpool FC supporters group ‘The Redmen TV’ uploaded a video and the passionate supporter interviewed discussed some interesting and prominent subjects in modern football.

His side had that night been downed 0-1 by Southampton in the first leg of their League cup semi-final tie, a tie which they would go on to lose 0-2 on aggregate. But despite the result the topic of debate was the atmosphere, ticketing and type of fan that visited a modern day Anfield Stadium.

Anfield has this season opened it’s brand new, expanded grand stand and having visited it myself, it lives up to it’s grand labelling. With modern finishes, a brand new restaurant and prices of £77 a ticket, the newly refurbished grandstand is a lavish affair. Now, the argument made on Redmen TV included a bold statement. ‘Liverpool is like a tourist club’. 

It is a topic that has crept into modern English football over the years at clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and recently Manchester City. But is now affecting one of the most genuine fan bases in the country. All teams have their die hard local support, that is not to be argued, and I am sure fans of any side accused of becoming a ‘tourist club’ would reference that. However there is also no denying the increase of neutral supporters in the modern era of English football. Liverpool, since I was a child, have always been the lifeblood of the city, supported by it’s strong working class backbone. But with the introduction of £77 seating no one can argue that the honest, hardworking support of the Reds are being priced out of attending games at Anfield.

This post isn’t an oppurtunity to argue that loyalty or degree of any clubs support, that debate could rage on for many a article. But the argument being had is between the benefit of the revenue recouped from outlandish ticketing and modern day football prices, and the loss of a life long loyal following that Liverpool no doubtingly has.

Liverpool, like most clubs, will always have it’s incredible support, but the percentage of those who will now be able to attend a game is dwindling. In turn, so is the atmosphere, as argued in the Redmen TV interview. This is no surprise as who in the modern world has £77 (not including the price of petrol, food and parking) to spare for a midweek fixture. I certainly do not, and neither do the majority of passionate supporters that once filled the seats at Anfield.

However, the money Liverpool can now command from match day sales has increased by a large percentage. Any supporter with an understanding of the finances behind football would see that this is a good thing, and with the demand Liverpool have for tickets, why shouldn’t they generate as much money as they can from match day tickets? 

In the eyes of the board, it boils down to a simple question of supply and demand. The suits behind a football club are hired for one simple goal, to earn Liverpool as much as humanly possible. So, if Liverpool have a demand for 150,000 tickets in a stadium of 55,000, why not increase ticket prices? They know for a fact tickets will sell. Why should a team turn down revenue of £3 million for a lesser sum, when they know indefinitely they can go out and generate that for their team.

From a business standpoint it makes perfect sense. This isn’t just the case with ticket prices, but with every aspect of a commercialised football team. I, as an avid football supporter would be more than happy to have an easy as they come steak pie and standard pint at my games, and part with 5-7£ for the two. But I do not represent the entire census of football supporters in England. So if Liverpool feel they can generate increased revenue from introducing a new Michelin star dish into their concourses (admittedly this is an extreme example) and charging £12 instead of £6, why wouldn’t they. 

This is when Football clubs come into their own. In my opinion, a brand such as Liverpool FC is different the Football Club itself. The Football Club is jumping up and down on your toes just before kick off in anticipation, hugging the supporters to the left and right of you in joy even though you’ve never met them before, and for those 90 minutes you forget everything that has happened in your week. That is football. That is a football club. 

But, as much as I believe this, I also look at the way these teams are run in a logical way. We don’t feel an emotional connection to our supermarkets, do we? If one week I shopped at Morrisons, and they had raised the price of every cider on the shelf by £5, I would go and shop at Asda (other supermarkets are available…). But as a result, we do not despise the supermarket hierarchy for trying to make as much money as they can. We wish they would offer Freddo’s for 10p again, but if they can make that extra 15p we won’t start a riot…yet.

My point being why should we turn on the suits behind our clubs for doing their jobs, they are put in place to make Liverpool, for example, as successful off the field, as it has been on it…in the past.

But there has to be a healthy balance.

Football isn’t a one stop shop, a match isn’t something you purchase on the whim and once you leave you forget about it. My fondest memories in life are with my family at the football, throwing our arms about in euphoria, not a care in the world. Seeing my normally reserved Dad chanting at the top of his voice. Football is a community, some of the most genuine and honest friend I have made I have done so on the terraces. Football is a huge part of our lives. It may be just a sport but the communities created around it last forever, and the memories made will stay with us for the rest of our lives. 

This means it deserves respect. It means that supporters who have climbed the stairs of the Kop for over 20 years should be able to do so without worrying about the price they have to pay and if they can afford it, or if their seat may be taken by someone who doesn’t share passion for their team.

I believe there must be a balance. Fine, clubs need to make money. We can all agree Football is a multi-billion-pound business now but should they force the lifeblood of their support out to make room for a few more digits on their quarterly numbers? No.

We respect our football clubs, and I personally believe they should respect us too. I do hope that one day a ticket cap is put in place and the hardworking, honest support will eventually pour back into stadia around the country but that may be a while off. For now we will have to put up with ugg boots emblazoned with our club crest and selfie sticks at football grounds that little while longer. 

But on the bright side, that extra £77 made from a selfie taker is another £77 towards the signing of the next Andriy Voronin.

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