Saturday, 13 February 2016

Walk Outs and U-Turns

      When FSG announced the new ticket prices supporters of other clubs may have just shrugged their shoulders, ticket prices go up, that's what happens, clubs talk every last possible pound out of supporters, that's what they do, some supporters won't be able to go any more, they just can't afford it, don't worry others will take their place, what about future generations the kids can't afford to go, we will worry about that later fans, fans always turn up.  At Liverpool things are a little different their had been mumblings their had been discontent over ticket prices, membership schemes, online sales, away prices, match categorisation for a while but we were aware that the owners or club were talking to supporters groups about these issues so although I don't think we were expecting miracles, we were at least expecting consideration and a sensible approach to some of the issues.  When the announcement was made it appeared that all the discussions were for nothing, they hadn't listened, nothing was different, nothing had changed apart from more money as to come out of most people's pockets.  The club had made one or two concessions but on a very small scale.

     Many were upset, the club had missed a massive opportunity, we could have been the first, we could have taken a lead there was an opportunity.  The huge increase in television money makes gate money if not insignificant considerably less important we could have taken a small hit for the benefit of the fans, we are not asking for the club to make a loss, just To make less of a profit, not less than last year, just a little less than they could have made. We are not asking for free or really cheap entry to games, just reasonable with a view to looking at reductions in the future, a sensible overview to ticketing and pricing.

     The response to the announcement about ticketing was protest, a planned walk out in the game against Sunderland with fans to walk out of the match after 77 minutes.  I didn't know what to expect, how many would go, many on social media appeared against the idea, but walk out we did, in our thousands sending a message that would be heard in Boston.  We all owe a huge thanks to the people who walked out, the people who organised it and those in the media who publicised and comments on the event.  It is worth pointing out that many on the Kop who walked out were not effected by the new proposals they were leaving in solidarity with those who were, they were fighting for us all and for future generations of Liverpool and football fans and that makes me very proud to be a red.

     Our owners heard the message and have responded and acted quickly, making a complete U-Turn and offering a full apology in a letter to Liverpool fans.
This is what they wrote :-

Dear Liverpool supporters,

It has been a tumultuous week. On behalf of everyone at Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool Football Club, we would like to apologise for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016-17 season.

The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense. Quite the opposite is true.

From our first days as owners we have understood that serving as custodians of this incredible institution is a distinct privilege and as such, we have been driven solely by the desire to return LFC to the pinnacle of football. In the world of modern football, growing the club in a sustainable way is essential to realising this objective.

To that end, we have never taken a single penny out of the football club. Instead we have injected vast sums of our own money to improve the playing squad and modernise LFC’s infrastructure - exemplified by the £120million advance from FSG to build the new Main Stand. This massive undertaking was made in order to provide more supporters access to Anfield and also to produce additional revenue to help us compete financially with clubs that have greater resources. When it opens in August this year, the stand will accomplish those goals, thereby fulfilling a promise we made upon acquiring LFC in 2010.

We were strongly engaged in the process to develop the ticketing plan for 2016-17. We met directly with representatives of LFC’s Supporters’ Committee and along with LFC management, wholeheartedly agreed with major concerns raised, notably: access for local and young supporters; engagement and access to Anfield for local children; access to Premier League matches for those in Liverpool most challenged by affordability.   

We believe the plan successfully addressed these concerns and are disappointed that these elements have been either lost or, worse, characterised as cynical attempts to mask profiteering in the plan as a whole. Rather, we prefer to look at them as the parts of the ticketing plan we got right. 

On the other hand, part of the ticketing plan we got wrong.

In addition to the other elements of the plan we proposed price increases on a number of tickets. These pricing actions generated growth in general admission ticketing revenue on a like-for-like basis exclusive of revenue from newly-added GA seats. 

We believed by delivering a vastly improved seat offering in what will be the newest stand in English football, concentrating the price increases on those tickets typically purchased by fans least sensitive to affordability, and highlighting the need for LFC to begin repaying the £120million advance from FSG for the new Main Stand that these increases were supportable even in the context of growth in revenues from the new Premier League TV deal.

However, the widespread opposition to this element of the plan has made it clear that we were mistaken.

A great many of you have objected strongly to the £77 price level of our most expensive GA seats and expressed a clear expectation that the club should forego any increased revenue from raising prices on GA tickets in the current environment. 

Message received.

After an intense period of consultation with LFC management we have decided to make major revisions to our ticketing structure for 2016-17:

Removal of game categorisation – regardless of the opposition fans will pay the same price for matchday tickets.
The pricing of tickets will be readjusted to result in zero revenue growth from GA ticketing on a like-for-like basis.
Though individual ticket prices may move marginally from this season, we are freezing our 2016-17 GA ticket revenue at the 2015-16 level exclusive of newly-added seats in the new Main Stand.
The price of our highest general admission ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level - £59.
The price of our highest season ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level - £869. The lowest price reducing a further £25 from the 2015-16 level to £685, as well as all other tiers being frozen or reduced.
£9 GA seats will be offered for each and every Premier League match, an allocation of more than 10,000 tickets across the season.
We would hasten to add that the other initiatives announced last week in the 2016-17 plan will remain:

17-21 young adult concession – 20,000 tickets across the Premier League season available at a 50 per cent reduction for young people.
1,000 tickets to Premier League matches across the season will be given away free of charge to Liverpool schoolchildren based on merit, as recommended by their teachers.
As a sign of our commitment to this improved ticketing structure, we are further announcing that this plan shall be in effect for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. For the next two seasons, LFC will not earn a single additional pound from increasing general admission ticket prices.

We believe we have demonstrated a willingness to listen carefully, reconsider our position, and act decisively. The unique and sacred relationship between Liverpool Football Club and its supporters has always been foremost in our minds. It represents the heartbeat of this extraordinary football club. 

More than any other factor by far, that bond is what drives us to work tirelessly on behalf of the club and its future. We have great conviction in our world-class manager and our young, talented squad and know that in time the on-pitch success we all crave will be realised. 

We look forward to sharing in that success with you.

John W Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon

    This is a superb response and one FSG should be praised for massively praised for, addressing almost every issue the support had and apologising along with attempting to explain the reasoning behind the original proposals.  I hope this is just the start and the club will now listen to supporters especially over this issue and continue to work towards affordable ticketing for all into the future.

    Liverpool supporters have made a stand and we have benefited because our club listened to us let's hope other clubs and owners are also getting the message, football is for everybody, the game would be nothing without the fans and with no atmosphere I am certain there would be no television money, use fans to create the atmosphere to sell to television, use fans to create the atmosphere to sell around the world, use fans to inspire the players to perform even charge them for the privilege but don't price them out don't get to greedy, it's our game and they are our clubs don't take them away.