Why it is high time we ‘stubbed out’ secondary ticketing in football
Football has always been known as the ‘peoples game’, a sport that is readily accessible to the masses and whose overarching appeal fails to distinguish between social class and income level. It is for these reasons and many more that the game has undoubtedly been cemented as our national sport, and arguably the definitive sport the world over.
But in modern times there has been a worrying trend away from these footballing ideals, towards a game that is fast becoming dominated by corporate consumerism. It is a world now where fans are treated as client reference numbers, and where clubs continue to price their own supporters out of watching the teams they love.
In a recent BBC survey it was found that ticket prices across the Football League had risen on average 13% since 2011, representing 3 times the rate of inflation. Fans of Arsenal are perhaps the worst affected of all, paying as much as £97 for a matchday ticket and over £2000 for an annual season ticket. This is reflective of the situation across the countries top league, and one that has simply meant many fans cannot afford to attend games.
Like so many issues in the game it is easy to jump on the ‘against modern football’ bandwagon, arguing that prices should be restored to their pre Premier League levels. Arguably price increases are simply a reflection of the successes of our League, the way it has become so highly regarded and where fans across the world will pay staggering prices just to gain a glimpse of it. Really it is a balancing act between letting free market forces dictate prices, and controlling ticketing so that it remains accessible for all.
Primary ticketing is an issue on its own, but one which can be managed within our game. What should be of more concern at the moment is the way that fans are now being actively encouraged by their clubs to extort vast sums of money out of each other on sites such as Viagogo and StubHub.
Both Everton and more recently Tottenham Hotspur have taken it open themselves to agree lucrative deals with StubHub in order to provide a platform for ticket trading away from the traditional primary market. The argument being that sites like these allow fans the flexibility to sell tickets for games that they are no longer able to attend, ensuring that empty seats aren’t left in games where there is a demand to fill them. It seems simple enough in principle.
The reality though is far darker. By encouraging the use of these sites fans are effectively extorting vast sums of money out of fellow supporters that under previous schemes simply wouldn’t have been a possibility. Derby games and high profile encounters are perhaps the most symptomatic of this issue, with fans paying well over face value for the opportunity to see the biggest games of all.
What is even worse is the fact that many of these sales aren’t even being made by fans in the first place. The findings of ‘Operation Podium’ nearly two years ago pointed towards organised groups capitalising on pent up demand from fans to attend games, in effect bypassing the primary ticketing route and re-releasing tickets on sites without the intention of ever attending the games.
It seems like blatant hypocrisy from clubs, and indeed a league that so actively backed campaigns like ‘Out The Tout’. Rather than seedy looking gentlemen outside a station on matchdays, we now have organised groups being actively supported in their efforts to extract the maximum amount of money out of fans desperate to see their teams play.
Staunch defenders of the schemes may point towards the free market, if there is the demand why not price it at a level necessary to fulfil that demand?
From an economic standpoint this is wholly justifiable, but in the context of a sport like football it is borderline immoral. Indeed this is the view held by many across the political and economic spectrum, the defenders largely find themselves in the corporate minority.
This issue though goes beyond football, and it was reassuring today to find evidence of this from across the world of sport and culture. In an open letter to the Independent representatives from the live event industry committed themselves to ensuring event goers get the best experience at the best possible price. It was also made clear that clear steps could be made to improve the situation:
“Tomorrow, the House of Commons has the chance to pass that legislation.
Clause 33 of the Consumer Rights Bill would give consumers looking for tickets basic information which the secondary platforms have been so keen to hide: who they’re buying from, the face value of the ticket, the seat number and, importantly, whether that ticket is being sold in contravention of its terms and conditions.
Sadly, the Government tried to block this Clause in the Lords, and want to strip it out of the Bill in the Commons tomorrow.
If the secondary platforms have nothing to fear from transparency, they have nothing to fear from these simple provisions.
It’s high time the Government stopped sticking up for them, and decided to put fans first.”
Football clearly isn’t alone in this struggle, but arguably represents the most poignant of examples. With the lifeblood of our sport being continually priced out, it is increasingly difficult to make any legitimate case for secondary ticketing.