I’m aware there are differing views, on this site and out in the wider world, on whether the walkout at the recent Sunderland match was the right thing to do. Since the event I’ve read at least a dozen blogs and articles written by people who chose to leave and a common thread that runs through all of them is the admission of how hard a decision it was to make, some people not making up their minds until the 77th minute.
I respect that not everyone agreed with the walkout but I think we should all at least understand why people felt so strongly about taking this course of action. Of all the accounts given by walkers the one I found most intriguing was that written by Jamie Carragher. If anyone can appreciate the views of those inside and outside the club it is he and his explanation for walking is both eloquent and informative. I’ve reproduced his Daily Mail article here for everyone to read:
Premier League clubs have a duty to look after supporters… it wasn’t nice walking out at Anfield, but fans need to make a stand
If you hit the jackpot on the lottery this week, what is the first thing you would do? I’d say you would go straight to your mum and dad and make sure they were looked after.
They are the constants in your life, the ones providing support when it is most needed. Could you imagine reaching a point where money was no longer an issue but not looking after those closest to you?
That is the only comparison I can draw in this debate over Premier League ticket prices. The new television deal, which will see £5billion pumped in domestically and another £3bn from overseas, means 20 clubs have won the lottery.
So why are they not taking this chance to look after the fans? Look at Liverpool. The decision to implement the most expensive seats in the club’s history has led to uproar on Merseyside and the backlash during the game against Sunderland has brought this issue sharply into focus.
I was at Anfield on Saturday when Liverpool fans took their stand about the club publishing a price list for tickets next season that will cost as much as £77. I walked out, along with another 10,000 or so, in the 77th minute.
People have said to me since then ‘it’s ok for you on your big wages, that’s why the prices are so high’. I was paid well, yes, but I was there for 17 years and in comparison to some of the other players who were in that squad, it was fair.
That’s what you want ticket prices to be: fair. I know the increase will not impact on me but I also know plenty about my city — £77 is too much to watch a game anywhere but that price is particularly over the top in Liverpool.
Why have they done it? It has been explained that it is only 200 seats for six best games of the season. If they had made the tickets £60, which is still expensive, Liverpool’s profits would fall by £20,400.
Is the negative PR from all this worth it? No, especially when you think — to put things into perspective — the club are still paying a large portion of Mario Balotelli’s wages even though he’s now at AC Milan.
Liverpool generate around £35million from ticket income. Had FSG announced a freeze on prices when the new stand was completed, the income would have risen to £37m. The increase means they could generate £39m.
All this for the sake of £2m for the ninth richest club in the world! That would not make the slightest difference when it comes to negotiating for a player. If Jurgen Klopp wants to sign someone and the asking price is £2m more than Liverpool expected, will they miss out on the player? No. But £2m back in the pockets of fans? That would be huge.
The club say that £77 gets you the best seat in the newest stand in the country but why should that be an elitist thing? Why can’t the normal working man have the chance to sit there? It isn’t fair.
Walking out, though, wasn’t a nice experience. The pictures you will have seen were visually striking — and they struck a chord with Fenway Sports Group, the club’s owners — but it wasn’t a happy atmosphere inside the stadium as fans argued with each other.
For a short time, it took me back to 2010 when the reign of previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett was falling apart. That was an awful time and this situation cannot be allowed to escalate. There can be no denying, however, Liverpool have got this wrong.
You want to be proud of your club. You chose them and stick with them through thick and thin. If Marks and Spencer’s increase their prices, you can shop somewhere else but when your team does it, you are obliged to stick with them.
That’s what people need to understand about the walkout at Anfield. It wasn’t just Liverpool fans sticking up for themselves, it was Liverpool fans saying ‘enough is enough’ for every supporter across the land.
Look how it is for Manchester United season ticket holders. Unless they opt out of what is called the Automatic Cup Scheme, they get money taken out of their banks for League Cup and European games, regardless of whether they want to go. But if they do opt out, it means season ticket holders cannot apply to attend away games or cup finals. Do United need the revenue? Of course not. But that approach must make some fans embarrassed about their club.
This was a massive opportunity for Liverpool, for every club, a chance to make their fans proud and feel valued. Can you imagine how good the exposure for the Premier League would be if the teams came out and said every ticket at every stadium was being frozen?
Not one of those 20 teams next season will be able to claim that they need the money. But the fans? They deserve to be looked after. They deserve to be treated fairly.