I’m not much of a FSG basher, mainly because I’m not naive enough to think they bought the club to further the interests of Liverpudlian football. They are a business and they bought the club as an investment, plain and simple. They’re in it to make money and as most of us live in capitalist societies we can hardly condemn them for that. However, unlike them we are supporters of the club, we’ve invested both emotionally and financially in it, and as such we deserve a degree of respect above that of an ordinary high street shopper. I was therefore somewhat amazed, and disappointed, to see the tag line ‘Transforming fans into customers’ on the FSG website. Once FSG had realised this was causing some unrest amongst LFC supporters it was quickly changed to ‘Transforming consumers into fans’.
Now, we all know FSG will attempt to sell us things, they’re a business, it’s what they do, but it’s another thing to be told to your face that they’re actively planning to change your role at the club, from a fan to a customer. In reality, a football supporter is both – through their endeavour to support their club a football fan will automatically, to varying degrees, contribute financially to the club via its services and merchandise. It’s hard to believe FSG don’t understand this so I can only assume their intention was to alter the bias, by seeing us less as fans and more as customers.
Unfortunately, for FSG, the discovery of this statement coincided with the release of the latest ticketing structure. Ian Ayre trumpeted it as ‘something for everyone’ but on closer inspection it is clear that what is given with one hand is taken away by the other.
For example, we are told ’64 per cent of season ticket prices will decrease or freeze’ but what we are not told is that the remaining season tickets will increase in price, and at a higher rate than the decrease. We are also told ’45 per cent of matchday tickets will see a price decrease’ but we are not told that the other 55 per cent will increase, and at a higher rate than the decrease. We will no doubt, at some point, hear from FSG that they’re selling some tickets for £9 but what they probably won’t say is that it applies to just 3 matches and for 527 seats a game out of a possible 878,693. Further anomalies can be found with the pricing structure but I think you get the picture.
To put this into context, Ian Ayre explicitly stated last year that ticket prices wouldn’t rise to pay for the alterations to the Main Stand. On top of that, the club will take a share of £8.3bn in media rights sales from 16/17 to 18/19. The bottom placed club in the Premier League next season is guaranteed £95m in TV money. The question surely must be whether now is really the right time to squeeze more out of the match-going supporter, especially when you consider the myriad of income streams FSG has already got in place at Liverpool FC.
As I said at the beginning, I’m not naturally one for having a go at FSG but I do question whether they’ve gone too far this time. Liverpool supporters are not ones for taking things lying down when they feel aggrieved and I believe there is a walkout planned for the next match on the 77th minute (I suppose to highlight the new £77 ticket price). Some will say prices must go up to pay for ever increasing player transfer costs but it can hardly be said LFC buy in top price players and those expensive players that have been purchased in the past have usually been overpriced, an error for which the supporters shouldn’t have to pay. In any case, the arms race between player transfer costs and ticket prices has to stop at some point, it is ultimately unsustainable. It’s time FSG asked themselves how much custom can they expect from us before they finally lose our support?