Even at Arsenal and Chelsea, is twenty really plenty?
As Graziano Pellè put Southampton into a unassailable two-goal lead over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, over 1,500 Saints fans were sent into delirium: it was 1-3. Over the Champions.
Ronald Koeman became just the third Premier League manager to beat Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge over his two spells in West London, so it was a pretty memorable night for anybody associated with Southampton.
Yet behind the media coverage of the latest instalment of ‘what Mourinho said’ was far less coverage of a far more meaningful campaign. Not a campaign about referees or penalties that were not awarded to strikers who go over rather easily… but ticket prices.
It was interesting on a weekend that the Football Supporters Federations dedicated as their National Weekend Of Action against an issue that affects supporters up and down the country how little it was covered.
A match like the one at Stamford Bridge was a perfect place for the campaign; a banner saying “SAINTS FANS SAY TWENTY IS PLENTY” was beamed onto screens across the world, from a stadium that cost an adult Southampton fan at least £47 to enter.
Supporters joined forces across the country in a campaign that hopes to make tickets a maximum of £20 for away supporters in an age where it can often cost far more than that.
The day after Southampton were victorious in London, Arsenal fans watched as their team tore Manchester United to pieces. Yet those fortunate to witness it with their own eyes need deep pockets; the cheapest adult season ticket is an eye-watering £1,014.
The Emirates hierarchy do deserve credit for their Arsenal ticket prices elsewhere however, with cup ticket prices often as low as £15 and league away tickets at the Emirates for adults around £26, but that should be seen as an pricier day out, not applauded.
The average age of football supporters is on the rise, with it being over 40 since 2004-05; if prices stay as they are, a whole generation of football supporter could be lost.
The counter argument would suggest that the simple answer would be to stay away, to not pay that price and simply watch it at home or in the pub. But why should that be the case?
The fact is that there are plenty who have to out of necessity. People desperate to support clubs who they have followed over the country, sometimes continent, yet cannot because of finance.
Football clubs started as a representation of their local community, yet since the advent of the Premier League, it seems that clubs are forever hunting to attract the support of those of far flung lands.
Think about it: the amount of Premier League pre-season tours that once were about getting match fitness and tactics right before the new campaign, now involve flying to the Far East or the States.
Yet for the incredible amount of money that washes around the league, it doesn’t seem to come to the benefit of those who have been there from the start, those who don’t get paid for their work.
With prices at an all time high and belts being tightened, it’s at the detriment of younger football fans. It’s just a terrifying thought that a young Arsenal fan may now only see the immense talent of Alexis Sanchez either through a camera, or on FIFA.
The rebranding of football with the Premier League era has undoubtedly brought brilliance from abroad; it’s difficult to imagine that Sanchez being an Arsenal player if he had played twenty years ago.
But the whole rebrand was based on making football more family friendly, yet the biggest obstacle to families being able to enjoy football is setting prices that stop them going.
Tickets for a family of four now easily breach £100; add in transport, food and things like programmes or merchandise that young fans often really want, it becomes a costly weekend.
The fact that empty seats now are seen as fanbases being disloyal is scary; it sets a precedent that correlates spending with love for your team and is very dangerous.
German football is often held up as a haven for football fans who are disillusioned with the way football in England has become, yet it would be so easy to change that.
A tweet from Aston Villa blogger My Old Man Said, who actively back the Twenty is Plenty campaign, summed it up on Twitter when it was pointed out that whilst Aston Villa are paying their exiled misfit Charles N’Zogbia £13m a year, it would cost just £1m to make all away tickets £20.
Swansea have done just that, using the Premier League away fans fund to subsidise tickets to £22, but it’s not enough. It’s time the Premier League gave something back to those who were there in the dark period of the 1980’s.
It’s that, or empty non-atmospheric stadiums and a lost generation. Think wisely.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Zoulmysoul.
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