The Liverpool Supporters Committee held an open forum on Friday night ahead of their meeting with managing director Ian Ayre and chairman Tom Werner this weekend. Neil Poole went along to let us know the talking points.
One hundred and twenty two years ago Liverpool Football Club was formed in The Sandon pub as a result of a dispute about the high price of playing at Anfield. Last night in the same venue, grievances about spiralling costs at Anfield were aired again.
Except this time it wasn’t the Directors of Everton FC venting their spleen, but fans attending the Liverpool FC Supporters’ Committee’s open forum. The hotly debated topic in 2014 is not the cost of rent, but the increasingly unaffordable and prohibitive ticket prices at Liverpool FC.
The Liverpool Supporters’ Committee will meet with representatives of the club, including Ian Ayre and Tom Werner, on Sunday to act on behalf of Liverpool Supporters, relaying questions and raising concerns about ticket prices.
In addition to responses received via an online form, last night was a further opportunity for the Committee to listen to supporters’ views on the main agenda item, ‘Pricing Structures – The Cost of Being a Football Supporter’.
The forum audience, although relatively small in number, was vocal and provided plenty of questions and food for thought for the Committee to take into Sunday’s meeting. As Committee Chair, Bob Humphries stated early on, and later reiterated, every single question asked at the forum will definitely be put directly to the Club this weekend.
A large proportion of the gathering was made up of Liverpool supporters’ union, Spirit of Shankly, whose own supporter survey will provide a valuable contribution to ticket price discussions. It was confirmed at the forum that the results of the survey which you can find here will be utilised at the meeting.
Questions and points put forward by Spirit of Shankly, representatives of the Spion Kop 1906 (the group who organise the flags and banner displays on the Kop) and individuals fans at the forum included:
- If there are going to be price increases for tickets, will these be based on rates of inflation or will they be based on the average percentage wage rise, which is a lot less?
- The club says we must have ticket price rises to be competitive. Nobody has ever told us what competitive means. Competing against whom, for what and how? What is the club’s measure for being competitive?
- How do they categorise football matches at Anfield? How do they decide what is a category A, B or C game? We suspect that it is based on what games will sell out and on supply and demand. It will be interesting to hear if the club will admit to this.
- Ticket price rises last year equated to approximately 1% of the player wage bill. Will the players be contributing to a pot to support ticket price initiatives to lower the cost of going to the game?
- Will there be a dialogue between the club, players and fans about the impact player wage rises are having on ticket prices?
- Why have LFC never developed their own model for ticket pricing, but instead follow everyone else’s example?
- Boston Red Sox fans seem satisfied with their pricing structure and the team remains competitive. (A speaker from the floor mentioned that tickets cost between $11 and $50). Can Ian Ayre speak with Tom Werner and find out exactly how they do this?
- LFC ‘s cheapest season ticket is the second most expensive in the league. The club say they are trying to compete financially. However, they need to focus on competing with other clubs in regards to what they provide to supporters. Everton, for example provide a £95 season ticket for under 11s and provide an interest free payment plan for season tickets.
One of the main themes raised numerous times and clearly a pressing concern was the inability for younger reds between the ages of 16 and 25 to afford tickets and sit together. The very real fear voiced by those attending was that Liverpool will lose a generation of supporters if things continue as they are.
In addition, there was a recognition that these fans can most impact on the atmosphere at the ground. As one person succinctly stated, “Their absence speaks volumes.” One solution suggested was the return of something like the old ‘Boys Pen’ where younger fans can congregate together for an affordable cost.
There was some concern about the extent to which officials and the club will truly listen to the Committee on Sunday and act on what they say. Again, this was dealt with constructively when it was suggested that the photos of the numerous banners protesting about ticket prices could be forwarded to the Committee to present at the meeting. The hope is that seeing the protest of the fans, as well as being told about them, will help to demonstrate the strength of feeling about ticket prices.
Over a hundred years ago the directors of Everton FC, picked up their club and moved to the other side of Stanley Park because they weren’t happy about high prices at Anfield. Liverpool supporters, as proven time and time again, are a different breed though. We have questions we want answering and constructive suggestions to make.
The hope is that the owners of Liverpool won’t walk away from the problem but instead be willing negotiate with the very people who have made Anfield one of the most famous in world football. Deep down they must know that the fans is where the real value of the club lies.