Two weeks ago, Spirit Of Shankly and The Blue Union marched with fellow football supporters from across the UK to deliver a clear message to the Premier League & Football League: “Affordable Football for All”. A similar demonstration last summer resulted in a fund of £200,000 being set aside at each club for away supporters’ initiatives. This year we were able to get Richard Scudamore and the Premier League to commit to working with supporters to develop proposals for more affordable ticket prices.
Earlier in the week both groups followed this up by contacting our respective clubs with a proposal for a reciprocal ticket price reduction deal for the Anfield and Goodison derbies. Disappointingly, but not unexpectedly, the responses from both clubs were dismissive and negative. It is clear that they feel enough is already being done. That, in spite of further ticket price increases, £200,000 a season out of tens of millions is enough?
These responses are symptomatic of the failings of governance in football and charade of accountability that exists. When we approach clubs with such proposals, they either hide behind existing plans or say that it requires a national response. When we approach the Premier League, they tell us they have no power over the clubs and we need to approach them. They are batting us back & forth in the direction of each other, trying to play ping pong with us. But we won’t be drawn into this game.
We will continue working together and continue to lobby our individual clubs to take action. We will work with the Premier League to develop proposals for a reduction in ticket prices. And we will pursue the political route, calling for greater regulation and improved governance of football that puts supporters at its heart, giving us a powerful and permanent voice.
We are fully aware that change will not occur overnight, but we will not sit back and wait for something to happen. We will take this opportunity to effect change by going after the wealth in the game. Sponsors and broadcasters, part of the football cartel, pump in £millions in sponsorship and media deals. They do not do this to help clubs pay inflated transfer fees or telephone number salaries, but to try to turn us supporters into their customers. They pay football’s going rate to sell us their goods and services through piggy-backing onto our club loyalties. So it’s time for supporters to take our share of that. It’s time for the sponsors to tell the clubs that they can no longer take supporter “affinity” for granted, that for club sponsorship to be an effective “route to market”, the people who make up that market can no longer be exploited and taken for granted.
Sponsors and broadcasters must demand that a percentage of their huge financial input into football is set aside to assist supporters. Just a couple of percent of these huge deals can make the world of difference.
So our next step will be to go directly the sponsors direct. As ‘touching’ and heartfelt as the Barclays #Thankyou campaign was, how effective would that money have been if, instead of images of people going to away matches, it was instead spent on the loyal supporters who travel to these matches.
As Everton and Liverpool supporters, we will be asking Warrior, Standard Chartered, Kitbag/Umbro and Chang to give something back to those supporters whose passion and colour is framed by their advertisements – images that we create but they exploit globally.
As a national football supporters’ movement, we say to Barclays, Sky, BT and the many others – now is the time for you to put your money where your mouth is. To side with the billionaire football club owners and millionaire players or with the everyday supporters, like us, the people your sponsorship is intended to turn into your customers.
Response from Ian Ayre Chief Executive at LFC:
Whilst we appreciate you sharing the idea and welcome collaboration between both sets of fans this is not an initiative we will support.The clubs of the Premier League have debated ticket pricing and away ticket pricing many times and agreed collectively to support an initiative which provides discounting at clubs discretion from a £200,000 allocation by each club as you indicated.Like any business, we set budgets ahead of our year/season and provide for all income and expenditure. As part of this we invest in player transfers and salaries for the season as well as continuing to invest in making improvements to our stadium and other general expenditure you would expect of a large football club.Having set our budgets and expectations for the 2014/15 season, we don’t envisage any other discounting for any fixtures other than our planned discounts in the domestic cup competitions and our allocation of the £200,000 away match discounts all designed to support fans.Thanks for taking the time to share this with me.Kind regardsIan
Response from Richard Kenyon Director of Marketing and Communications at EFC:
Thank you for the email you sent over to Robert Elstone and Denise Barrett-Baxendale yesterday.While we have no plans for any reciprocal arrangement for the matches against Liverpool, we clearly understand the importance of making football as affordable as possible. We have a number long term, sustainable strategies in place to make sure that we continue to make watching Everton accessible. Our benchmarking against other Premier League Clubs and feedback from our fans indicate that our strategies are both reasonable and effective.On the subject of the Away Fan Initiative, our commitment to affordability and ‘the fan experience’ already goes way beyond any statutory requirements. I believe we are due to meet in the next few weeks so perhaps I could share some of our work in this area with you in more detail then?Best wishesRich