A week ago, I wrote about the 10,000 Liverpool fans who walked out on 77 minutes as a protest against the plan to increase the price of some tickets to £77. On Wednesday, Liverpool’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, scrapped the plan and wrote an open letter to fans admitting they had got it wrong and promising to freeze the price of general admission tickets for the next two seasons.
Fans have won one battle but not the war. One owner backing down on ticket prices has less effect on other owners than the enormous amount of money coming from TV rights. Games are arranged for the convenience of TV companies and viewers, not for the fans who go to games. And, as Daniel pointed out in his article on Football without fans, this money comes from fans who pay to watch football on TV. He wrote, “I know some people might think that football has been taken away from the average fan but I think the truth is we gave it away. When we paid Sky to watch football on tv, stumped up more as they built up more and more coverage of more and more games we (as a whole) created this monster that the TV rights now are.”
Birmingham City won‘t be playing on the first two Saturdays in March because the games have been moved for TV. We’ll be playing Hull at home on a Thursday evening and Wolves away at 12.45 on a Sunday. The club is offering discounted ticket prices for the Hull match, £10 for adults, in an effort to get people into the stadium. I hope it works but have my doubts. For me, being a football supporter means going to games if you can but that’s probably because I grew up before there was much live football on TV. For those younger than me, supporting a team can mean watching them on TV. For those who like to watch with their friends and with the freedom to have a drink, watching at a pub provides the atmosphere that they want. I would like to think that the Liverpool fans’ protest marks the beginning of a new era in fan power but fear that could be wishful thinking.