AS the rest of the country debated Eden Hazard’s bust-up with a ballboy this week, supporters from rival clubs across the North West came together to discuss a much more significant issue.
A group of fans from Liverpool supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly (SOS) were among those present in Manchester as the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) launched a campaign which aims to reduce away ticket prices and help make football more affordable.
The cost of following a Premier League team was recently brought into focus when Manchester City returned more than 900 tickets for their trip to Arsenal after fans refused to pay £62.
The FSF are campaigning for away ticket prices to be capped at £20 across the top flight and club rivalries are being put aside to ensure fans speak with one voice in the battle for change.
Kopite and SOS spokesman Paul Martin said: “The positive thing about the meeting was the diverse range of people there. Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United and Man City fans all agreed that we need to work together on this.
“The prices of tickets is a big issue for supporters. The initial focus is on away tickets as that’s the most loyal and devoted group.
“Those people get hit with spiralling transport costs as well as being ripped off on tickets. Loyalty should be rewarded not exploited.
“If action isn’t taken the next generation of supporters are going to be priced out of going to matches.
“SOS will work alongside the FSF and clubs around the country to spread the word, inform people and build the campaign. The FA and the Premier League need to listen to fans.”
Liverpool may have already sold out their allocation of 2,900 £62 tickets for Wednesday’s trip to Arsenal but Martin says those who argue it’s simply a case of supply and demand miss the point.
Premier League clubs will benefit from a massive hike in income from the start of next season with revenue from domestic and overseas TV rights topping £5billion over the next three years.
SOS, who celebrated their fifth anniversary last weekend, want to see some of that cash used to benefit supporters.
“We don’t see football as simply a business,” he added.
“It has to be run business-like but a football club is more important than a business.
“It’s part of people’s identity and make-up. It’s part of the community. A startling fact is that based on the Bank of England’s rate of inflation, the cost of a Liverpool season ticket would have risen by 77.1% between 1989/90 & 2012/13, meaning the cheapest adult season ticket at Anfield would have risen from £60 to £106. In fact the LFC inflation rate is 1108%.
“The Premier League is a billion pound industry and clubs are getting more and more money, but it all goes to owners, players and agents.
“Fans never see any of it and it’s time they looked to bring prices down. £62 for Arsenal away is just crazy.
“The campaign is starting with away tickets but we also want to see something done about home tickets as well.
“It will get brought up at the next Liverpool FC Supporters' Committee meeting on February 10 and we will be going directly to the club as well. Supporters want cheaper ticket prices and this isn’t going to go away.
“We can’t sit back and accept it.
“We will be raising awareness at games with leaflets to educate and inform supporters of how fans are being ripped off and how we propose to change things. We hope Liverpool and other clubs will listen.”
For more information about the FSF’s ‘Twenty’s Plenty for Away Tickets’ campaign go to: www.fsf.org.uk