Watching the FA Cup at the weekend always puts a smile on my face, especially when you see the likes of League One Notts County and Leyton Orient compete against top Premier League opposition. However, I could not help but notice the array of empty seats when it comes to Cup games in this country. Although it is only noticeable during these Cup games against less glamorous opposition, could it be a trend that extends into League games? If we were to borrow the Tardis from Doctor Who and go into the future, would it be common for games to be played behind closed doors?
The FA Cup 3rd Round saw crowds down by 126,948 in total, with Sunderland being the most noticeable with crowds down by 20,000. It is clear that fans, who pay out a shed load for season tickets are not prepared to pay match day prices for home cup games and fair play to them. The Black Cats are a good example to look at after chairman, Niall Quinn pleaded for fans to return to the Stadium of Light after an overall decline in attendances. The former Sunderland striker revealed that research discovered fans were choosing to watch games illegally shown at pubs, bars and social clubs all around the area. Although this is just one example, it could start to bode a trend if football clubs are to keep raising ticket prices.
If we were in the future, could games just be shown live on a pay-per-view basis rather having the hassle of fans going to the game? Of course the atmosphere for the games would not be the same but there will be a point where fans will stop going if it becomes too pricey. Today, some fans work every hour of the week so they are able to follow their team every week but some fans (like me) had to draw the line. Football clubs like Sunderland need the fans to come back to increase revenue so they can attract better players, but with the extraordinary transfer fees and player wages in the game today – there call out to fans will fail to impress.
What is the solution? Well from the fans point of view, a reduction in ticket prices will put bums back in seats but it’s not that simple. With football being a huge commodity today clubs need to create a high enough revenue in order to compete and keep up with richest clubs. The (FFP) Financial Fair Play by UEFA is set to start in the summer may stabilise the increase in transfer fees and wages, but clubs will be even more reliant on using ticket revenue to generate funds. I sincerely hope that we don’t reach the days of completely empty stadiums but with the growing coverage of games available to watch online and increasing prices of match tickets – it looks likely.