`Football clubs are the lifeblood of the FA and supporters are the life blood of the clubs. Sunday showed that we are reaching breaking point'

THE GREAT TICKET DEBATE
Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE GREAT TICKET DEBATE

The empty seats at the FA Cup semi-finals, and the Football Association's response to subsequent charges that their prices were too high, have attracted an enormous response from Independent readers.

Here we print a selection of your views

Mr T J Kehoe

Sir: Liverpool have an average gate just short of 40,000 and they have always had a loyal support and will keep it as long as people can afford to attend.

The unsold tickets for the FA Cup semi-final are testimony to the fact that supporters can only go so far where large amounts of money are concerned. I attended the match on Sunday but with a family to support the financial strain of supporting a football team is harder to bear.

The football clubs know that their hard core support will go to amazing lengths to watch their beloved team and are therefore not vociferous enough in protesting to the FA about their disgraceful pricing policy. Football clubs are the lifeblood of the FA and supporters are the lifeblood of the clubs.

Sunday showed that we are reaching breaking point. Be warned.

Yours,

T J KEHOE

Ormskirk,

Lancs

From Mr D O Shaughnessy

Sir: Disappointed? Outraged? Tired of the same old rhetoric? I'm afraid that the FA may listen to our concerns and griefs, but will anything change?

They have already stated they will not be reviewing their ticket pricing policy. Before the questions are asked, they produce inappropriate answers. The point was not the prices, even though they were almost twice the price of the majority of top tickets for most premiership grounds. The grievance was the number of low priced tickets made available.

The FA also have a lot to answer for the dreadful programmes that were on sale. This is a comparison between that programme and the Liverpool v Portsmouth semi-final programme in '92: Both had 48 pages; Price: pounds 3 to pounds 1.50; Full page Ads: 16 to 4. There is no excuse for this pathetic effort of a programme at pounds 3.

What will we be offered for the final? Twice the price for twice the advertisements? Need we even start the question of ticket allocations for the final?

It is simply not fair the treatment of the supporters by the FA and clubs alike. But as usual, they may listen, but will anything change?

Yours sincerely

DAVID O SHAUGHNESSY

Mount Merrion

Dublin

From W Foy

Sir: "Tickets are going to cost more for `special games'," a quote from Graham Kelly (Independent, 3 April).

Perhaps it is pertinent to remind Graham Kelly that genuine football supporters pay hundreds of pounds annually in season tickets for the privilege of attending "special" games.

My club (Manchester United) have a ticket allocation system whereby unless supporters are season ticket holders or members with specified numbers of tokens it is impossible to obtain tickets for "special" games.

Inflated prices for "special" games will guarantee those with fat wallets get seats at semi-finals or cup finals and also keeps the scourge of sport - the touts in a thriving business. The genuine football supporter has, by the time semi or final games arrive paid enough through turnstiles to warrant either parity with league games or indeed a reduction.

Graham Kelly is, and always has been, out of touch with the feelings and views of football supporters, his reception at football grounds throughout the country is clear evidence of this.

W Foy

Warrington, Cheshire

From Mr R Lindley

Sir: As a Leeds fan I paid pounds 42 to watch the Coca-Cola Cup final at Wembley. For this I got an unusually uncomfortable seat with a view of one of the goals completely blocked by a column.

I tend to go to more away games in London than I do home games at Elland Road and away fans tend to get put in the most dilapidated areas of grounds. To be fair I have seen a great improvement in the quality of facilities for away supporters following the Taylor Report and often without a major increase in prices.

By comparison Wembley is without a doubt the most squalid, decrepit and inadequate venue I've been to for several seasons. Obviously I would have paid almost anything for a ticket - I was seven last time Leeds were at Wembley - but to have to pay pounds 42 for a crap seat in a crap stadium just because the twin towers are famous is unbelievable. It's no surprise that no one goes to England games any more.

Yours sincerely

RICHARD LINDLEY

London NW1

From Mr N Rose

Sir: I've been feeling very smug for two years. That's how long I've had my mid-price tickets for all six Euro 96 games at Wembley, bought with barely a second thought at a cost of pounds 290, averaging pounds 48.33 per game. After all, I recognised, the FA had me over a barrel if I wanted to go and wanted to be able to see. For the final, Wembley's worst seats (pitch level, behind the fences, terrible view, usually an exorbitant pounds 16 for England games) are pounds 50. Mine cost pounds 95. I can just see the pound signs ringing up in Graham Kelly's eyes.

So, given the amount of interest they must have earned on supporters' money since Euro 96 tickets went on sale over two years ago, I bet it's the FA who are feeling smug now.

Yours,

NEIL ROSE

London NW11

From Mr K Flett

Sir: Like quite a bit else in our sport these days the debate over football ticket prices is to do with social class. Ticket prices are already so high and season ticket arrangements so expensive and complex that football is in danger of becoming a game for middle-class spectators, with the working class watching it on television or reading about it in the paper.

Does this matter? It depends on your view of what the role is of sport in society. One thing is certain. The fact that it has happened is largely due to developments since 1979. One wonders what New Labour thinks about ticket prices.

Yours sincerely

KEITH FLETT

London N17

From Mr I Fail

Sir: The prices for FA Cup semi-final tickets were a disgrace. If every ticket had been pounds 10, that would have meant receipts of pounds 500,000 at Old Trafford - how can the FA justify charging more?

The profits made by the FA do not seem to be put into football at grass roots but to increase the already bloated salaries of executives too weak to do anything positive to improve the game. Graham Kelly's article in the Independent (3 April) only served to confirm this view.

The FA have become the ultimate ticket touts, selling only to the highest bidders. It is unreasonable to expect genuine supporters to fork out vastly inflated prices for tickets.

In addition, as all tickets are printed by computer, surely it would be simple enough to add the buyer's name on the ticket, which would then prohibit touts selling tickets on. If the name on the ticket does not match your proof of ID, you don't get in.

There are too many vested interests within the FA for anything to be changed. As usual, the real supporter loses out.

Yours faithfully

IAN FAIL

London W4

From Mr D Levey

Sir: The Premier League and FA are "milking" the fans. This provides a marvellous opportunity for enterprising Endsleigh League clubs to provide affordable entertainment to those who can no longer pay the "big clubs' " prices each week.

Shrewd marketing and good sales techniques will enable Endsleigh League clubs to benefit from lower ticket prices by increasing sales of other products such as food, programmes and merchandise. It is almost the dream scenario for a marketing and sales executive. The competition is pricing itself out of reach!

Yours faithfully

DAVID LEVEY

Gerrards Cross

Bucks

From Mr J R Lea

Sir: My son and I attended the Liverpool v Aston Villa semi-final at Old Trafford last Sunday. The tickets were pounds 38.

When I was told how much the tickets were I was very angry and said that I wouldn't go, but because it's important to me, I relented in the end and we went.

It's not a question of money. My wife and I are professional people with a good income, my son is also working. We have worked hard for for what we have and while we can afford the tickets, we hate being "ripped off". We respect `value for money'.

Everybody knows the price of the tickets was too high. The FA are the most pompous set of individuals, who would have gained some respect if they could at least have admitted being wrong and greedy.

The FA are arrogant, ignorant and out of touch and will kill the Golden Goose if they are not careful.

Yours,

JOHN R LEA

Rochdale

From Mr M Nixon

Sir: The Football Association cannot justify inflated prices for major matches unless it can also guarantee every seat is used.

Perhaps the FA should issue all unsold tickets (within, say, 48 hours of the kick-off) free to local schools and junior football organisations. This would prove particularly beneficial for England's warm up campaign for Euro 96 and give younger players and supporters the opportunity to share our national sport at the highest level.

Yours,

MICHAEL NIXON

Basildon

From Mr W J Gaskill

Sir: I am a Leeds United supporter. Ticket prices at Elland Road went up by about 250 per cent after the team was promoted from the old Second Division. This was condemned by the majority of the fans, but supported by me. It is received wisdom, particularly among people who do not attend Elland Road regularly, that admission prices are too high. The same philosophy encourages mindless criticism of the board and manager, which I find very tedious.

The average league gate at Leeds home games is just over 33,000. The stadium capacity is 40,000. In other words, for most home games the stadium is 17.5 per cent empty. Hence there would be no financial benefit to the club of slashing prices by the huge amount advocated by many non-numerate critics.

Cup games may be a different matter. A league programme plus a lengthy run in both cups is a test of endurance, and the FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool (attendance: 24,000) demonstrates that the amount of money the fans can spend on tickets is finite. Surely a statistician should be able to work out fairly accurately where the compromise between high prices and a full stadium lies.

Top English clubs must place their finances on a sound business footing if they are to compete in Europe. The only interest that should matter to the staff and supporters of a football club is the good of the club. Therefore the fans should do their sums before complaining about ticket prices, and the board should not regard the club as a means of getting rich.

Football, just like every other human activity, takes place in a changing cultural and historical setting. As the economic structure of the nation changes, the way that football is financed must also change. The days of crackly black and white pictures of 200 000 people crammed into Wembley Stadium are gone forever. Ticket prices may be too high but I doubt by more than 30 per cent at the most. There is no rational way that those elusive qualities, atmosphere and entertainment, can be used a basis for a pricing plan.

Yours faithfully,

WILLIAM J GASKILL

Leeds LS17

From Mr B Slater

Sir: Last year I attended my (and my club's) first major cup final at Wembley for 37 years - the Coca-Cola Cup final. I decided to pay the second- highest prices (pounds 40 I think) to get good seats. We ended up in the higher tier against the barrier where the "end-zone" seats begin about 30 yards behind the nearest goal-line and behind a roof support obscuring the nearer goalmouth. Not even the most creative marketing mind could justify the price bracket of those seats.

We booked the second-highest priced seats for the European Championship games at wembley this summer - I'm dreading where they may be.

Yours,

BERNARD SLATER

London N22

From Mr D Percival

Sir: I would like to comment on the statement by the FA Spokesman, Steve Double, that "all the seats at Old Trafford afford good views". Mine was in the lower tier of the north stand. When the ball went down to the other end of the pitch, particularly by the near touchline, everybody had to stand up.

Gradually people remained on their feet and some people started standing on their seats to be able to see the game at all.

My ticket was pounds 38 so goodness knows where those people who paid pounds 14, pounds 22, and pounds 30 were herded off to.

Yours faithfully

DAVID PERCIVAL

Liverpool L18

From Mr S Van de Borgh

Sir: Glenn Moore rightly says the Football Association sees fans as cash cows. Now is the time for the FA to learn from recent experience, before there is an outbreak of mad cash cow disease.

Yours sincerely

SIMON VAN DE BORGH

Horsham, West Sussex

From Mr S Pryke

Sir: Simple explanations are often the best. Can anyone seriously suggest any other fons why Liverpool and Villa fans stayed away from Old Trafford on Sunday other than the exorbitant ticket prices? Does Graham Kelly think that fans were worried that they would miss the first part of Songs of Praise?

Yours faithfully

SAM PRYKE

Chester

Comments