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FSG score own goal and miss huge opportunity with new Anfield ticket prices

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In light of Liverpool’s ticket pricing announcement for 2016/2017, Neil Poole believes that the lack of imagination and an obsession with the bottom line could be the catalyst for Liverpool’s regression into just another run-of-the-mill club.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 3, 2013: Liverpool fans protest against high ticket prices with banners 'A Working Class Sport?', 'Football Without Fans Is Nothing' during the Premiership match against Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“It’s not about jacking up prices to pay for it, it’s about giving our fans fair value within football and within our facilities”

— Ian Ayre, in December 2014, commenting on how the Main Stand development would affect ticket prices.

As a man who has been wilfully employed in a variety of jobs since I was 16, I’m a dab hand at playing bullsh*t bingo in the workplace.

“Fair value within football” – Bingo! I win.

Well, actually, no… we all lose.

The signs were there over 12 months ago.

What is ‘fair’ is entirely subjective. What is of ‘value’ is also entirely subjective. In an act of linguistic mathematics, numbers have been discarded and ‘fair value’ is subjectivity with untraceable steroids pumping manically around its protruding veins.

Throw a bit of context in the mix in the shape of ‘within football’ and it’s less a case of putting a glass ceiling on ticket prices, and more laying down a glass floor to ensure prices will never again drop below.

In essence, it means it will be comparative to what other ‘top’ football clubs charge, which as we know is a not-so-small fortune. You’re paying less that Arsenal and Chelsea. That is fair value within football. Technically, no one has ever lied to you. They win. Which is a shame because I thought ‘they’ was ‘we’.

Ayre, speaking on behalf of the owners in 2014, went on to say:

“We are really trying to create a solution that provides more of the good products that we have and better facilities, a more modern solution.”

Due to the choices FSG have made for next season’s ticket pricing they may well have their wish in creating a ‘modern’ solution.

Here’s just a few of the glorious things which make up the modern Liverpool in 2016; an Anfield atmosphere which is frankly an embarrassment; supporters leaving games early; near-hysteria at the lack of signings during the January transfer window, bemusement at the lack of signings of the requisite quality over several years, mounting distrust of FSG’s long term game-plan, and an increasing lack of solidarity between supporters who, at times, seem hell bent on dividing and conquering themselves.

Kop pre-match (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

[easy-tweet tweet=”LFC’s new ticket prices will only exacerbate a problem when FSG could have begun to reverse it” user=”thisisanfield” usehashtags=”no”]

As a club and as a group of supporters we pride ourselves on being unique, on being special. All of the nonsense above chips away at that proud identity. It seems like we could be just an uninspiring lump of rock like everyone else, and not a magnificent bust, after all.

The disappointment is the new ticket prices will only exacerbate a problem when the reality is that they could have begun to reverse it.

Lowering prices would have given the opportunity for many supporters to return to the game they love but have had to sacrifice due to financial means.

LFC could have rewarded the loyalty of regulars and given opportunities to local fans. Give people an affordable opportunity to watch their team play and you can also watch while the animosity and perceptions of ‘us and them’ between different groups of supporters dissipates.

LFC could have helped out the people who are paying through the nose for flights and hotels on the trip they’ve saved up for, for aeons.

LFC could have helped out the red mum to settle the score with the blue dad who have taken their kids to watch Everton because it’s more affordable and accessible. Multiply that scenario by thousands because it’s happening and Liverpool could have put a halt to the undermining of their own future fan base.

I don’t know how you record all that on a spreadsheet . Maybe create a miscellaneous, less tangible column. Call it ‘Good f*cking vibes’ and try throwing 53,000 under it.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, October 22, 2015: Liverpool's owner John W. Henry and Director Michael Gordon before the UEFA Europa League Group Stage Group B match against Rubin Kazan at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Unfortunately, FSG have missed this opportunity. In a strange abandonment of the bullsh*t management concept of ‘thinking outside the box’ they have purposely nailed down the sides, seemingly in fear that any filthy lucre might blow away.

Money stresses people out. If you’re married or co-habit with your partner, I can guarantee that the source of 9 of your last 10 arguments was money. They say money is the root of all evil. At Anfield, it’s worse: money is the root of bad, bad grumpiness.

As a consequence of raising ticket prices the atmosphere will decline further. The more you pay, the more the dynamic between supporter and footballer changes. We can criticise the supporter who sits there, cross-armed and subconsciously demands more of the player and less of him or herself, but if you treat people like a spectator rather than a participant its human nature they will simply spectate and expect to be entertained.

The number of tourists at Anfield will increase to the detriment of the atmosphere and further enhance divisions between fans. It’s important to define tourist here. By this I mean people who are not Liverpool fans but who visit for the ‘Anfield experience’. So for example, exactly what I would be if I went to watch Barcelona play in La Liga. I do not mean Liverpool supporters from outside Liverpool and from overseas who may only get to one game in their lifetime, or one or two a season.

Frustration at not paying the money for players, whether valid or not, becomes less palatable when viewed in the context that we’re the ninth richest club in the world, we’re about to receive a massive hike in TV money, when we rake it in from partnering with any sponsor who flashes a bit of tit at us and when we’re being asked to pay even more.

As for the signings themselves. You can bandy about “it’s not you’re money” as much as you want. However, if the club think my money is so important that they need more of it when in reality it’s a drop in the ocean of their incomings, then it’s important to me too! It is my money. And I don’t want it in the hands of a group of men who have spent £300 million in three years and against all odds have made us bloody worse! So yeah, you may find people getting even more wound up by transfer committees and such-like too.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 24, 2015: Liverpool supporters' banner on the Spion Kop during the FA Cup 4th Round match against Bolton Wanderers at Anfield. (Pic by Lindsey Parnaby/Propaganda)

But it won’t take long. The anger will subside. We’ll acquiesce because they have us over an emotional barrel. The new prices will become the new norm, and in year people who are pissed off that they’re colluding in having their own pockets picked because they have a LFC habit they can’t kick, will be criticised for sulking a bit as they watch us beaten by someone like Crystal Palace.

In the best epic swindle since 2012, you, a footballer supporter, will be blamed for your actions for not being chuffed about being ripped-off and not clapping your flippers like a performing seal on demand.  The papers will pile in. Fans of other clubs too. Who’d have known, you’re the unreasonable one in all this…

The counter argument is the good that the FSG have done for Liverpool. They have put money back into the club, spending the income on players and they are developing the main stand . However, revelling in this smacks of the Chris Rock routine in which he mocks fathers who brag, “I look after my kids!”

How low have aspirations fallen when it seems that we’re satisfied by our owners doing the bare minimum expected of them?

I’ve said times here before, I don’t believe FSG to be a malignant threat out to kill us, and I’m sure they’d like for us to do well. I just ask for more. Much, much more. Doing something a bit cleverer with ticket prices would have been enough for a lot of people.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 18, 2014: Liverpool's owner John W. Henry and wife Linda Pizzuti before the Premiership match against Aston Villa at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Our manager asks more of us. We always ask for more from the players and the manager. There’s absolutely nothing abhorrent in asking for more of Liverpool’s owners too.

The lack of imagination, originality and over emphasis on the bottom line that permeates the increased ticket prices will simply be mirrored in the Anfield crowd. The proportion of defiantly angry supporters, apathetic fans and people who quite frankly aren’t arsed will continue to grow and continue to make up a greater percentage of the crowd.

It can’t always be on the fans to roll with the punches and perform like monkeys regardless of what is thrown at them.

We are special, we are unique. Our owners ‘sell’ the club on this.

This was their opportunity to do something unique, to do something special. They’ve missed a trick and in in behaving just like any other owner they may well have just acted as the catalyst to Liverpool becoming just another bog standard club, and Anfield just another bog standard ground.

It’s less hope in your heart and more debt on your credit card.

FAN REACTION: “Pure greed” – Liverpool fans react to FSG’s new Anfield ticket prices

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