James Shield's Sheffield United Column: If clubs continue with these ticket prices, they must do the decent thing
It is exploitative and, given that football basks in its reputation for being the people's game, utterly contemptuous.
Supporters of 10 Premier League clubs, including Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle, will pay less to watch their team in action this weekend than the £36 being demanded of Sheffield United fans who want to cheer on Chris Wilder’s side at Barnsley. The facilities will be better, the standard of opposition will be better and, unless you happen to qualify for a concession at Oakwell, the cost to witness the likes of Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane and Kenedy in action will be significantly less.
An explanation as to why, how Championship clubs can justify charged these prices, would be most welcome. But I won’t, for fear of losing consciousness, be holding my breath. In any case, given that tomorrow’s fixture is not only a derby but also pivotal to both team’s seasons, the answer is obvious. United followers, because the hosts know they are going to turn-up in numbers regardless, are effectively being taxed.
In the interests of fairness and objectivity, it must be noted that an adult ticket in the away end for August’s corresponding fixture at Bramall Lane was only £4 less. When United, who are known for their sensible pricing structures fall into the same trap, the time for change has clearly come. Especially when you consider it will cost nearly 20 times per minute more to watch them face José Morais’ players than folk earn every 60 seconds on a minimum wage.
If the national sport really is a religion, it is more akin to Scientology or some other cult which demands exorbitant sums from devotees.
One of the reasons frequently put forward in response to questions about high ticket prices, indeed exactly the one peddled by the owner of another club in South Yorkshire, is that they create money to be spent on the squad. Lowering them, so the argument goes, would lead to lower quality signings. They call it sound business sense. I prefer to call it emotional blackmail.
Of course, the fans are never asked if this is what they want. No detailed financial breakdowns of how their cash is used are ever offered. Their loyalty and desire to see their respective teams do well are simply exploited; behind a cloak of faux love and self-promotion.
If clubs want to continue with this policy, if they continue to make this correlation, then they should so the decent thing and appoint a supporters’ representative to their respective boards.