January 9, 2013
Every time the discussion about game-categorisation comes up, Arsenal are vilified by the football community. Ticket prices at The Emirates are undoubtedly too high, but this isn’t a plot which originated in the Arsenal boardroom, this is a problem throughout any entertainment industry.
The better the product, the more inelastic the demand curve will be for it – and the more a vendor can afford to charge.
Within the football context, this is obviously deeply unfair because it financially punishes those who follow more successful and attractive teams. If, for example, you were a Manchester United fan, you can expect to be stung at every away ground in the country, whereas following a basement-dweller throughout the season will be dramatically cheaper.
Some Manchester City fans are staging a boycott over the £62 they’re being charged to watch their team in North London on Sunday, and while that’s a worthy demonstration, it’s essentially meaningless. The problem with a game like that, or any top tier fixture, is that if one supporter isn’t prepared to pay for their ticket, it won’t be too difficult to find another who is. If anybody is hoping that the Sky cameras will pick up lots of empty seats during that game, then they’re going to be sorely disappointed – it will be a sell-out.
Whether we’re discussing a football club, a brewery, or a tobacconist, an individual organisation can never be trusted to price its product out of the goodness of its heart: profit is king, welcome to a capitalism. From a lemonade stand to a car dealership, why would any company charge less for their product than people are willing to pay for it? Football is a business, and revenue is the only commodity which truly has any value any more.
That’s why media outrage at Arsenal is so futile, because the club have every right to charge what they do – if the stadium is full on Sunday, then that will be a vindication of their pricing strategy. If you’re one of those people who refused on principle to buy a ticket, then the only loser in the situation is you – sure, you’re richer, but your seat went to somebody else rather than remaining as an vacant symbol of your principles.
The way to actually address this is through legislation and intervention. The game as a whole – not just individual clubs – will take as much from the supporters as it can get away with. No matter how high ticket prices get, the stadiums will always be full and the only difference will be the affluence of those sitting in the seats. From football’s perspective, it doesn’t matter who buys the tickets, as long as the gate receipts total what they should. If you’re expecting some kind of socialist utopia moment where the clubs suddenly realist that they’re pricing the average fan out of the game, then you’re going to be waiting a very long time – it’s just not going to happen.