Last week was the best week in the Champions League that I can remember for a long time, particularly as a follower of the Premier League. Tottenham Hotspur put in a highly accomplished performance against AC Milan in the daunting arena that is the San Siro, and then their north London neighbours Arsenal showed an ability to tough it out and overcome arguably the best team in the world in Barcelona, in the first leg at least. But then with all the optimism surrounding the European competition from an English perspective, news emerges that almost defies belief.
Saturday May 28th is the standout European fixture on this year’s football calendar. It’s the date of the Champions League final and should be a great day for English football, what with the match being played at the home of English football – Wembley; and four Premier League teams in Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all with a realistic chance of being part of the grand occasion. However, while an English club or maybe even two could reach the final, most of us football fans have no realistic chance of going.
Obviously not everyone can go to the Champions League final, but many of those considering applying for tickets will have been put off by the ridiculous prices quoted. The cheapest tickets on general sale will cost £150, with that figure being almost halved for fans of one of the team’s in the final to £80. It that wasn’t bad enough, a further kick in the teeth is the administration fee per pair of tickets, which is a whopping £26. Yep that’s right, £13 per person for admin, which I’m guessing amounts to a couple of minutes filling in details on a computer and then posting the tickets to you – that’s one expensive envelope!
There has been outrage and widespread disbelief in the media surrounding the price of the tickets, and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed his thoughts. I’m not Fergie’s biggest fan, what with his boycott of the BBC; more someone highly respectful of his achievements in English football, but for once the Scot is right on the money. Fergie said “It’s a killer and a corporate deal. Managers and players can’t do anything about it. I don’t know what you can do.” They could always use a portion of their wages to compensate and bring the prices of tickets down, but that’s another matter.
Now I’m not detached from the capitalist world in which we live and I understand the ticket prices are driven by demand. In fact they could possibly double the price and the 86,000-capacity Wembley Stadium would still be filled, but that’s not really the point. The issue here is that once again football fans are footing the bill for the support of their team, or the support of football in general in the neutral’s case here. UEFA’s director of competitions, Giorgio Marchetti, might well defend the prices and argue that “we don’t think that the Champions League final is overpriced,” but then he’s not paying for tickets, is he?
Champions League finals of course used to take place on Wednesday nights, but FIFA President Sepp Blatter moved it to a Saturday so that more families could go. But in truth, how many families are going to go with the ticket prices set as they are? Very few I’d bet, and while going to a Champions League final contested by two English teams or indeed won by a Premier League club at Wembley would be a priceless experience, £176 isn’t a price I’m willing to pay. Oh well, looks like I’ll be watching it on the telly then!