Football maybe coming home but it is not what it used to be – Iain Taker

May 14, 2013

Its coming home, its coming home, football’s coming home but it is not quite the same game as it used to be.


Football is a passionate game that exists because fans across the world love the game. The emotion shown over the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and Wigan’s victory in the FA Cup Final has made me reminisce about the days gone by.

With the Champions League and Playoff Finals also at Wembley this season football is coming home but is it still the same game I grew up with? The game has turned into an industry and the football club which used to be central to a community have now become global businesses. Many of the changes are for the better but with the financial side of the game becoming increasingly influential are we about to forget about the fan totally? A reversal to the pre-Premier League status would benefit few but it is vital that going forward the clubs and governing bodies take greater care to consider the match going fan.

This two part article will use this chance to see whether football still considers the fans when making decisions or are they merely now customers? The first part looks briefly at the issue of ticket prices and availability and offer some possible solutions to ensure that fans are not forgotten.

Ticket prices and availability

It is well known that ticket prices in the Premier League are at their highest ever level. However when you see that the cheapest season ticket at Arsenal is £985 (includes seven cup matches) and the cheapest (albeit standing) at Bayern Munich is £104 the difference appears even more shocking (the most expensive season ticket in Germany is £823 also at Bayern Munich). This is even less than half the cheapest available at any team in the Premier League (Wigan £255).  As Uli Hoeness (Bayern’s Club President) said “We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody.” The figures together with Germany’s recent football success and financial governance show that it is possible to offer a high standard of football without pricing the average fan out of the game.


(The Allianz Arena, home of German champions Bayern Munich, is cheaper than any Premier League ground)

In addition to the high cost of (some) season tickets is an increasing use of requiring fans to sign up to an all home games ticket.  The effect of this is the fan has to sign up for a season ticket despite not knowing the number of games that they will need to pay for. Manchester United for example require all adult season ticket holders to agree to pay for all FA Cup and Champions League games (a potential additional 10 games or over £500 for top price season tickets).  It is a breach of the terms and conditions to sell on, even for face value or less, tickets for games that you are unable to attend unless you have consent from the club. While some clubs have agreements with secondary ticket sites such as StubHub and Viagogo the booking fees alone on many sites simply make a family day out unaffordable for many.

Even where fans can afford tickets they are not always able to purchase one. Chelsea’s success in this year’s Europa League has seen them reach the final but they have only been given 9,800 tickets or a 1/5th of the attendance (the Amsterdam ArenA has a reduced capacity of 48,000 for the final).  The decision to play the game in a ‘small’ stadium is based on the fact that it is chosen well in advance of knowing the participants and a fear of a half empty stadium. However, few teams would not sell 15-20,000 tickets for a European final in any event and in any event there is also a public ballot.  The result of this decision is that the majority of Chelsea’s 24,000 season ticket holders (some who have travelled to Japan to watch their team this year) will have to watch the game from their television.

Not forgetting that the increased ticket prices have in part been reinvested in safer and improved facilities at stadia I believe the Premier League clubs should consider adopting some or all of the following policies:

Reciprocated away ticket prices – Each team would agree mutual ticket prices for away fans. Therefore the cost of watching your team at the Emirates would be the same as the cost of Arsenal fans to watch their team at yours.

Transferable tickets – Season tickets would be able to be transferable within a pre-defined list of family and friends (in order that in the event of trouble the culprit can be identified easily). The named season ticket holder would be responsible for ensuring that away fans do not sit in the home end. This would help to spread the cost and ensure that attendances for games were higher as those unable to make midweek games would be able to pass it legally to someone who could make it.

Opt out of automatic cup tickets – The season ticket holder should be offered options of having a Premier League only or an all home game ticket.

Official resale channels – Each club would be required to provide an official resale channel (at face value) and only charge (or deduct from the price paid to the seller) a small admin fee.  The clubs would benefit as new or other fans would attend and buy merchandise etc. and keep the attendance and atmosphere up.

Part two of my article will examine the new television deal and whether, in part at least, some opportunities afforded to other jurisdictions should have been included.

Iain Taker is an associate lawyer at Kemp Little LLP (, specialising in commercial contracts, social media and sports law, and is a registered lawyer under the FA Football Agency Regulations.

You can follow him on twitter @iaintaker or on LinkedIn

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