Tuesday, 22 February 2011

“Unbelievable and disappointing”

To much anger and dismay across football, UEFA announced last week the ticket prices for this year’s Champions League final at Wembley. Prices for “neutral” seats range from £176 to £326 each including the laughable £26 booking fee. So called “Category 4” tickets at £80 will be distributed to the two clubs who get through to the final.

Whilst the FA (who of course own Wembley) rushed to distance themselves from a decision they were party to, Sir Alex Ferguson shrugged off the years to put his Govan shop stewards coat back on. Fergie told the press:

“It’s unbelievable and disappointing. It’s a killer and a corporate deal, that. Managers and players can’t do anything about it. I don’t know what you can do. You have a booking fee also of £26 or whatever it is, so dearie me.”

United legend and MUTV presenter Paddy Crerand was also underwhelmed:

“Is football leaving working class fans behind these days? How can UEFA justify the European Cup ticket prices?”

I agree with Fergie and Paddy, but of course their employers have hardly led the way in keeping football affordable. The graph below shows the cost of a season ticket in Tier 2 of the Stretford End at Old Trafford from when it opened in 2000/01 to now. The graph slopes upwards until this season’s ticket price freeze, but the rate of increase in the first four years (under the plc) is radically different to what happened after the Glazers took control.

The average rate of increase from 2000/01 to 2004/05 is 4.3%, but from 2004/05 to 2010/11 it’s 8.1% (9.9% pa until this season's price freeze). The Glazers are very proud of their price increases, calling them one of the “Key Wins under the Glazer Reign” in their 2006 Investment Memorandum.

United report their second quarter results this Friday and will show another quarter of profits and a large cash balance. So perhaps Paddy and Fergie should take their concerns about supporters to David Gill and suggest using some of that money to reduce prices next year. With the economy so weak and inflation eroding real incomes, United could easily afford a 10% across the board price cut to help supporters. Now that would be "unbelievable".