Modern Football’s Liverpool FC: Anti-Scouse Ticketing and the Wallet-Rape Hotline
by Mike Kennedy
5th April 2013, by Mike Kennedy
Today is season ticket renewal day. Two things will happen today:
1) Ian Ayre will strip down to his underpants and dive joyously into the Anfield Money Vault. (It’s his favourite day of the year.)
2) The football club I love will take me to the cleaners for a record amount.
The total cost of my season ticket at Anfield for the 2013-14 season will be £900.
There will be 19 league games at Anfield next season which means I’ll be paying £47.37 per game.
Having reflected on it at length, I think it’s an obscene amount of money for Liverpool Football Club to charge its fans.
Take a moment. Stop. Consider the point that we’ve now arrived at by a process of creeping normalcy. Almost FIFTY POUND per game. It’s outrageous.
Each person has a threshold they won’t go beyond, a pivot point in value based on their own personal finances and £50 per match feels perilously close to that point for me.
Contrast my £900 total cost with that of my father-in-law, an Evertonian, who will renew his season ticket at Goodison Park for just £318. (£16.74 per match.)
At the other end of the scale you may hear chastising southern voices: “Stop crying you wuss! Fans at the Emirates pay £89 per match to sit in the Clock End.” Well more fool them. They clearly have more money than sense. (And me.)
Of course the most powerful way any fan can send a message to their club is by voting with their wallet. Stop buying what the club are selling.
Well it’s not quite that straightforward for me and I know there are many others facing a similar dilemma.
I finally got my own season ticket last year, having waited 16 years to reach the front of the season ticket waiting list. So am I really going to give it up after 1 year?
And of course, if I do give it up, it’s likely that a twatty upper-middle class bloke from Henley-on-Thames, probably called Tim, will fill the void.
Tim will be more than happy to pay top dollar, I’m sure. He’ll arrive at Anfield on match day in daring knitwear and a Barbour jacket and spend most of the match palming his floppy hair to one side. Tim will have a jolly nice day out at Anfield.
And thus the club’s anti-Scouse ticketing policy will continue unabated. The very people who built the brand that FSG market all over the world are being squeezed out. Week after week. Season after season.
Mind you, we’re already so far from the working class roots of Liverpool FC (and football in general) that at this point it’s barely even worth referencing.
Me? A lifelong Red from a working class Scouse family? I’ll likely be watching Liverpool’s home games in a pub on an Arabic satellite channel. Behind the incomprehensible warble of the foreign commentary spewing from the TV I’ll be able to hear the players shouting instructions to one another mid-game, clearly audible amid the placid silence of Anfield. (Tim and his chums are a polite bunch, they’re sitting quietly, they don’t like to make a fuss. Also the ‘Scouse pastries’ they ate before kick off are weighing heavily in their bellies and the 2 pints of dishwater/beer they each had have gone to their heads. Still they didn’t mind paying almost £10 for two beers and they visited the club superstore too, and even bought programmes, so they are welcome back at Anfield any time.)
Tim and his chums are John Henry’s ‘increased gameday revenue’.
So I’m not thrilled at the prospect of giving up my season ticket. Not just because of my personal loss, but also because of what it would represent in the big picture; another microscopic incision in English football’s death by a thousand cuts.
But the fact remains: I can’t afford to pay £900.
So I ruminate on all of this for too long and despite feeling thoroughly pissed off and alienated, I finally decide to call the ticket office and explore the middle-ground option of paying for my season ticket in instalments.
“What the hell are you doing?” I ask myself as I pick up my phone. “You can’t afford it.” I can’t help it. I’ve been raised this way. I need to go to Anfield and watch Liverpool.
So now, as ridiculous as it sounds, I start concocting theories in my mind in justification of the outlay, in defence of the club and I’m trying desperately to find an angle to make it ‘ok’ to spend the £900.
“Chelsea and Arsenal fans are paying a lot more, right? And all the season ticket revenue is going into the summer transfer kitty, ultimately. Isn’t it? So it’s, like, helping the club’s future. Isn’t it?”
(Football fans are sick really, when you think about it. This is the kind of behaviour drug addicts exhibit.)
My spurious justifications don’t change the fact that me and the missus genuinely can’t afford the outlay right now. (I recently became one of the UK’s 2.5 million unemployed.) “Sell something! I can sell my Wii U! That’ll help, do that and pay the rest in instalments. That’s the answer!”
(Honestly, being a football fan must be a form of mental illness.)
So I return to my phone, tortured but perversely compelled to see this through. I’m just about to hit dial when I see the ‘0843’ prefix on the ticketline phone number. A super-premium rate line.
More wallet-rape from the club we love.
I’m wary of making the call from my mobile having been stung this way in the past. Suddenly I have a brainwave, I’ll call from Skype. Surely that must be the cheapest possible way to call the LFC Wallet-Rape Hotline?
I clock my Skype balance before the call: £10.05
I make the call, wait on hold for ages (‘Why not keep callers waiting a while? We’re adding to our bank balance every second they’re on hold!’) then I speak to a very helpful girl who explains all the options. I say ‘all the options’ but it’s ultimately a binary choice: pay the £850 in full or apply to pay in instalments and incur a £50 ‘fee’. I opt for the instalments.
At the end of the conversation I make a note of the call duration: 14 minutes and 58 seconds.
I refresh my Skype account page. My new balance is £5.22. Which means the phone call cost me £4.83.
15 minutes divided by £4.83 = 32p per minute.
(Don’t forget I called via the cheapest possible method. Christ knows how much it would’ve cost if I had called from my mobile. North of £1 per minute, I’d guess?)
Maybe I’m out of touch, just an old skinflint, but what’s wrong with using a standard geographical landline number? A number that begins ‘0151’?
Is there no end to the club’s avarice? I mean let’s be clear on this, Liverpool are making money from fans calling them who want to give the club money while they’re giving the club money. It’s greedy and insulting.
So where does this rip off behaviour leave us? After all, these are just two small examples I’ve encountered in one day. A pair of tiny breadcrumbs in an endless trail of exploitation.
We pour our heart and soul into supporting our club and what do we get in return? We get taken advantage of. It really is that simple. We give, they take. And for the most part we lap it up.
Football clubs aren’t like the other businesses that we interact with. They’re special. Taking your custom elsewhere or jumping ship to support a competitor just isn’t an option. Your club can treat you like shit and you’ll still come back for more.
Do you feel good about this? Is it a healthy relationship or an abusive one? The more I reflect on it, the worse it makes me feel. About me, about Liverpool FC and about Modern Football as a whole.
But here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be this way.
If we allow unscrupulous businessmen to ride roughshod over us and our game then unscrupulous businessmen will ride roughshod over us and our game.
If like me you feel passionate about this, for fuck’s sake, make your feelings known. Take action.
For the LFC-specific issues I raised above, the easiest way to lodge your displeasure is to contact the Liverpool FC Supporters’ Committee which has regular meetings with the club’s senior management.
You can email Karen Gill who is the Committee Chair here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, be nice. Don’t send ranty emails at Karen. She’s on our side. She’s the spearhead that delivers our views, she represents you, so let’s give her the ammo she needs to effect change.
You can also email Robert Humphries who is the committee representative for season ticket holders here: Season-Ticket-Holders@liverpoolfcsc.com
The contact details for every LFC committee member are here. Make your voice heard, get in touch with them and tell them you aren’t happy about the ticket prices and the rip-off phone lines (and anything else that’s got your goat).
Seriously consider joining Spirit of Shankly which is the Liverpool supporters union. They fill an important role in holding the club’s owners to account and representing fans’ views. That has to be a good thing.
Nothing will change unless bread and butter fans like you and me do something about it. So speak up comrade.
-Mike Kennedy (You can find me on twitter here.)