Skip to content

Big time soccer involves big time prices

Jan 9, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

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. Thursday transfer rumor roundup: Kljestan to Galaxy, USMNT’er to Crew?

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:42 AM EDT

    kljestan Getty Images

    Jermaine Jones is not the only US midfielder rumored to come home, while two Red Devils are tipped for Madrid.

  2. Testimony in death of Michigan referee provides disturbing glimpse into incident

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    www.hometownlife.com (Bill Bressler) www.hometownlife.com (Bill Bressler)

    An altercation between a player and referee in a men’s league game left the official dead. What followed has been anything but pretty.

  3. Simeone praises Klinsmann’s US program that “seduces us as coaches”

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    Portugal Champions League Soccer AP

    The World Cup praise has been flowing for Klinsmann in international circles, though American analysts like Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda and others have condemned the manager’s approach as too cautious.

  4. Neymar’s recovery from World Cup back injury “almost 100 percent”

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:03 AM EDT

    Neymar AP

    Neymar’s health could be the key to whether Barcelona can weather the Luis Suarez suspension in pursuit of La Liga’s title.

  5. Glazer family to make $150 million in Manchester United stock sale

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    The Red Devils’ owners are making more of the club public following the death of patriarch Malcolm, and the club could lose adidas money if on-field success doesn’t return.

  6. Reports: Jermaine Jones coming to Chicago, move welcomed by Fire

    Jul 31, 2014, 7:51 AM EDT

    Jermaine Jones Instagram Jermaine Jones Instagram

    Since putting in a good effort for the USMNT at the World Cup, Jones had been sorting out his next career move and partying with celebrities like Paris Hilton and Mike Tyson.

  7. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 1-1 New York Red Bulls

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:23 AM EDT

    Chicago Fire v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

    Thierry Henry’s second half equalizer takes earns a point at Rio Tinto.

  8. MLS Snapshot: New England Revolution 3-0 Colorado Rapids

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:43 PM EDT

    New York Red Bulls v New England Revolution Getty Images

    The Revs’ eight-game losing streak ends thanks to another strong night from Lee Nguyen.

  9. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 3-0 Toronto FC

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT

    D.C. United's Eddie Johnson scored for the first time since being traded to the club this winter. His 84th minute goal left his team's game with Montréal tied, 1-1. (Photo: AP Photos) AP

    The Red fall nine points back of second place United in the Eastern Conference.

  10. Southampton’s replacement for Luke Shaw: Ryan Bertrand, on loan

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:27 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 3.46.35 PM

    24-year-old defender loaned out for the seventh time.

  11. Ugly scenes in Northern Ireland as Mexican U-19 player attempts to kick opponent’s head during Milk Cup brawl

    Jul 30, 2014, 7:29 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 4.26.41 PM

    Game is eventually cut short after a yet unnamed player aimed at the head of a fallen opponent.

  12. Atlético Madrid latest club linked with Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT

    Chicharito Getty Images

    Atlético’s interest could develop into Chicharito’s best option.

  13. Nick De Santis no longer sporting director in Montréal

    Jul 30, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT

    500px-Montreal_Impact_(MLS)_logo

    Nick De Santis will stay with the Impact, albeit in an administrative role.

  14. Romelu Lukaku completes permanent, $47 million move to Everton

    Jul 30, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT

    MartinezLukaku Getty Images

    Everton’s leading scorer returns to Goodison on a permanent basis.

  15. NWSL implements cooling break procedure

    Jul 30, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT

    NWSL logo

    With immediate effect, U.S.’s women’s league will pause mid-half if when it’s too hot.

  16. VIDEO: Liverpool fan from New Jersey cries, loses the plot, after meeting Gerrard

    Jul 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    Liverpool fan

    Liverpool roll into town and people freak out! Watch this incredible reaction to Stevie G signing autographs.

  17. Report: US to play friendly vs. Colombia in San Antonio

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Belgium US AP

    Reports from Texas state Jurgen Klinsmann’s side are playing Colombia in September.

  18. Philadelphia Union sign Algerian World Cup star Rais Mbolhi

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    Germany v Algeria: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Union grab Algerian goalkeeper Mbolhi, throw MacMath’s future in doubt.

  19. FIFA’s senior vice-president Julio Grondona dies, Argentina mourns

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    FBL-WC2014-QUALIFIERS-ARG-VEN Getty Images

    One of the most influential men in world soccer passed away on Wednesday at the age of 82.

  20. Premier League will use vanishing spray for 2014-15 season

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

    Morocco Soccer Club World Cup AP

    After success at the 2014 World Cup, vanishing spray is coming to the PL.