Foolball economics

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I’m confused about what Don Foster wants us to do about the price of football tickets in the UK:

“This just goes to show that rip-off Britain is alive and well.

“If European clubs can keep their prices down, there’s no reason why English clubs can’t follow their lead.

“Despite the recent enormous TV cash windfall and the promise to freeze ticket prices, many clubs are still massively overcharging their fans.

“Last season we saw empty seats at premiership grounds – when will clubs wake up to the fact that ordinary fans are the lifeblood of the game?”

Now, I should preface this by mentioning that football is not my greatest passion, but isn’t all this just a consequence of the business model adopted by football clubs in this country, as opposed to, say, Spain?

UK football, at least at the top level, isn’t a sport, it’s a business. Global brands compete with each other on a world stage, trying to attract the attention of Indians and the Chinese as much as English football fans. Foster is just plain wrong to claim that English fans are the ‘lifeblood’ of English football; if that was how it works, this wouldn’t be an issue. Lowering prices would hurt them in two ways: firstly it would diminish the amount they could extract from TV companies (if people can just turn up to watch a football match locally, complete with all the ambience of a live match, why would they bother watching it on TV?); secondly, it would harm their sales of corporate seating. You can be sure that the price they charge for tickets maximises their profits.

Football fans know all this, and while they like to whinge they are always ultimately happy to cough up, so what’s the problem?

If you do have a problem with it, the answer is very simple: switch your support from a team in the Premiership to a team lower down in the pecking order. People are doing this. On the other hand, if you want soulless corporate football, you have to pay for it.

Don Foster’s intervention implies, although does not state explicitly, that the government ought to do something about it; otherwise what does it have to do with a DCMS spokesperson? His allusion to “rip off Britain” is just plain daft: you can’t simply ‘buy’ a team in mainland Europe in the way that you could buy a car to avoid the over-pricing that was rife in the motor industry a few years ago.

There are lots of things that you could argue the market cannot adequately manage. Football is not one of them. The fact that most fans are chumps is another matter.

2 thoughts on “Foolball economics

  1. Don seems to have fallen in to the trap that early season stats provided last year. About 9 months ago the press were going mad about falling attendances in the Premiership and reporting on its impending doom. The truth was that by the end of the season attendances went up to their highest level ever, thus debunking the theories from earlier in the year.

    Don seems not to know this.

  2. The problem as I see it is that football demands brand loyalty, and competitive markets demand brand disloyalty.

    So maybe this is a market failure. And if the solution is moaning at clubs for overcharging, I can live with that.

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