As Arsenal prepare for the visit of the Premier League champions, Manchester City, at the weekend, the game has been overshadowed by a row over ticket prices.
City fans are incensed at the figures demanded by the Gunners in exchange for entry to Sunday’s match – an eye-watering, flat rate fee of £62.
On the face of it, many supporters may conclude that the attitude of City’s supporters is somewhat hypocritical. On the one hand, they are quite willing to see their club spend millions of pounds on wages for international superstars, distorting football’s economic climate.
UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations were formed in order to curb this trend but the likes of City, and foreign-owned oil-rich clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain, actively flout these rules by announcing multi-million pound ‘sponsorship’ deals which act as a smokescreen. As a result, these clubs should only expect others to bleed them dry when it comes to exploiting their fan base.
But the truth is that the fans do not make the decisions at board level at their club. Like Gunners fans who are powerless against the financial decisions made inside the opacity of their club’s boardroom, City supporters should not be punished for factors outside their influence.
Arsenal’s ticket prices are amongst the highest in the Premier League, though by no means are they the only offenders of this exploitation of supporters. True, home fans at the Emirates Stadium have been forced to pay over the odds to watch their club play for a number of years too – steep ticket prices do not only affect visiting crowds.
Nobody living in the real world can defend a flat rate of £62 to watch a football match. Yes, sell some tickets at that price. But people must have an option. If that’s not possible, as it seems in this case, the price should be lowered to make the game affordable for all – not just those with more money than sense.
Where does this exploitation of supporters end? Surely it won’t be long before we see Premier League teams charging well over £100 for a ticket. If the game has not already lost its working class roots, such a disgraceful financial liberty would be a watershed moment in the history of the sport in this England.
Fans must take a stand – whether they be red or blue, rich or poor, or Manchester City or Arsenal. The refusal of some City fans to hand money over to Arsenal is the first stage of that but there needs to be mutiny on a wider scale.
By keeping their wallets closed, football supporters will make the footballing elites listen. After all, money is the only language they truly understand.
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