Skip to content

Big time soccer involves big time prices

Jan 9, 2013, 8:45 AM EST

Emirates Stadium

There was a lot of talk on social media this morning about this weekend’s English Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City. While the pure talent the two sides will bring to the Emirates make the meeting compelling, the issue at hand had nothing to do with the particulars of the matchup. Instead, the point was one-third of Manchester City’s away allocation being returned to Arsenal unused. Many Citizens supporters who would normally make the trip to London elected not to fork over the £62 (just under $100) price.

High ticket prices at Arsenal aren’t news. Seats at the Emirates are notoriously pricey and a constant source of fan frustration. An index created by The Guardian earlier this year showed Arsenal’s season passes to be the most expensive in the Premier League, with Tottenham’s entry-level package (the second-most expensive in the league) over $400 cheaper than Arsenal’s lowest offering ($1,581).

Of course, the reason Arsenal can charge those rates is because people are willing to pay. Through nine home games this league season, Arsenal is averaging 60,094 attendees per match. Their stadium’s capacity is 60,361. If prices are prohibitive, they’re still not high enough to make an impact at the turnstile.

That’s why it makes it difficult to take Arsenal to task for their pricing. You may feel their prices are excessive and I may feel their prices are excessive, but if they’re able to consistently play before near-sellout crowds, we seem to be wrong. The club has tickets to sell. They sell. And that’s the point.

Not that such policies do Arsenal any favors with their fan base. With each price hike, a few more Gooners are pushed away from their team, financially unable to attend games (note: season ticket prices did not go up at the Emirates this season). While in the United States we’ve come to begrudgingly accept franchises as businesses, in England the most-diehard of fans still consider the club as an extension of the community. That may be a bit too naive for modern times, but it’s a view that resonates through clubs’ core support. It is — in terms of community relations — a fact, not a misconception. Arsenal should not only recognize this but also recognize it’s rarely good business to alienate your more ardent supporters.

That Arsenal is in focus on this issue also underscores the concerns fans have with the club’s spending policies. Though Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world, their record transfer fee of £15 million (matched this summer in purchasing Santi Cazorla) is relatively low by elite team standards. The club’s also seen the likes of Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, and Samir Nasri leave over the last two years. Other talents like Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Adebayor left before. If the fans’ money isn’t going to buying or retaining players, then where’s it going?

These are all symptoms of England coming to terms with the Premier League’s unbridled capitalism, symptoms we have come to live with in the States. We’re used to our sports leagues not only raising prices but seeking more exorbitant sponsorships and kickbacks from governments. We don’t like it, we complain about it on Twitter and Facebook, but we aren’t surprised when ticket prices also go up despite most North American sports leagues capping spending on player wages.

Could we have the same discussions that are taking place in England? Yes, but to what end? This is the gambit we’ve bought into, literally. Unless you stop buying tickets, you’re contributing to the problem (to the extent you see it as a problem at all).

It’s easy for me to say these things because my job provides me access to Major League Soccer games (though my game day experience is much different from yours). Still, I can’t remember the last time I went to a professional sports event where I paid the full ticket price. I just don’t think it’s worth it. The last time I paid for a sports ticket was to a Portland Rain WPSL game in late summer (I believe it cost me $5 to see both the Rain and the Timbers’ U-23 team).

Of course, I’m not really a fan, either. I don’t have favorite teams. Even when I paid that $5 price this summer, I was there to work, not cheer. I don’t know what it’s like to feel an attachment to a club that’s so deep I’m compelled to buy season tickets, even if that means taking out a credit card just to do so. I’m not speaking from a point of empathy.

But at some point — if this is a real problem and not just an inconvenience — fans need to bite the bullet and (as they do in Germany and other countries) and stay away.

If Arsenal was only drawing 50,000 per match, their pricing policies would change.

Latest Posts
  1. Real Madrid release statement criticizing Platini’s comments

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:10 PM EST

    FBL-EURO-2016-POR-ARM Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo’s club was upset after the UEFA president said he believed a world champion should win the Ballon d’Or.

  2. Can Thibaut Courtois surpass Manuel Neuer as the world’s best?

    Nov 28, 2014, 7:04 PM EST

    Chelsea v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    According to Gary Neville, there may soon be a changing of the guards for best goalkeeper in the world.

  3. Arsene Wenger: Gunners to buy during transfer window

    Nov 28, 2014, 6:13 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-MAN UTD Getty Images

    No team has been hit harder by injuries than Arsenal, who will look to bolster their squad during the January transfer window.

  4. UEFA schedules disciplinary hearing after pitch invasions at Spurs match

    Nov 28, 2014, 5:20 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-PARTIZAN Getty Images

    Tottenham’s Europa League match against Partizan Belgrade was briefly suspended after multiple fans stormed the pitch.

  5. Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Chelsea

    Nov 28, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    FC Schalke 04 v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Sunderland face a daunting task as they host a Chelsea side that hasn’t lost since a friendly on August 3rd.

  6. Geoff Cameron talks Thanksgiving, Stoke City vs. Liverpool and more

    Nov 28, 2014, 3:50 PM EST

    USA Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Getty Images

    Cameron talks turkey, playing at one of his favorite stadiums, sickness bugs and more in his first piece for PST.

  7. Liverpool’s Rodgers calls himself the bettor’s choice to get fired

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:13 PM EST

    Bulgaria Soccer Champions League AP

    It’s no surprise that the Liverpool manager is feeling the heat after the Reds 12th place start.

  8. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Manchester United, Chelsea, QPR

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Rooney bagged what turned out to be the game-winner as United go fourth. Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s lead writer and editor sees things panning out this weekend.

  9. VIDEO: Seattle Sounders supporters, culture getting just recognition

    Nov 28, 2014, 1:20 PM EST

    MLS Galaxy Sounders Soccer AP

    It’s a vibrant and informative take on the big following in Seattle, one that even Sounders haters can respect for its size, dedication and creativity.

  10. Top Five storylines for Week 13 of the Premier League

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:35 PM EST

    Manchester City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Top Four and Bottom Three match-ups take the battle for Premier League places to a different level this weekend.

  11. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 13

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch all the PL games during Week 13.

  12. Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Hull City

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:52 AM EST

    Manchester United v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    Hull City is looking for a historic win when they visit surging Manchester United on Saturday.

  13. Sure there’s “interest throughout Europe”, but where is the best spot for Jozy Altidore?

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:01 AM EST

    Altidore Getty Images

    We pick three clubs in three countries that could be a landing spot for the out-of-favor Sunderland striker in the January transfer window.

  14. Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:10 AM EST

    West Bromwich Albion's Reid shouts at Arsenal's Cazorla during their English Premier League soccer match in London Reuters

    The Baggies are coming off losses to Chelsea and Newcastle, and are four points back of eighth place Arsenal. The NBCSN match kicks at 745am ET.

  15. Pick just three?!? FIFPro World XI midfielder shortlist is Juve-heavy, really good

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:37 AM EST

    FC Internazionale Milano v Juventus - Serie A Getty Images

    Spain (4) and Germany (3) are the only nations with multiple members.

  16. Roy Keane’s time with Aston Villa has come to an end

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:35 AM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Manchester United’s legendary midfielder will stay in his assistant coach role for Ireland, spend more time with his family.

  17. Feature on Kevin Alston details Revolution defender’s battle with leukemia

    Nov 28, 2014, 7:58 AM EST

    New England Revolution v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    Vice Sports writer Kevin Koczwara has the story of Alston’s fight with chronic myelogenous leukemia.

  18. New England Revolution, 90 minutes from MLS Cup, must simply avoid second-leg disaster vs. Red Bulls

    Nov 27, 2014, 11:15 PM EST

    Steve Clark, Lee Nguyen, Charlie Davies Steve Clark, Lee Nguyen, Charlie Davies

    It’s been a long time since the New England Revolution lost by mulitple goals, which the New York Red Bulls must achieve to reach MLS Cup 2014.

  19. Europa League roundup: Spurs, Celtic advance; Inter Milan, Fiorentina clinch top spots

    Nov 27, 2014, 9:26 PM EST

    The big Europa League sides have begun to advance to the knockout round, with a few more very close to joining them.

Featured video

PST Extra: Top 4 showdowns on Sunday