Although Manchester City are often accused of “ruining football,” recent evidence suggests those complaints may be misplaced. Their commitment to affordable ticket pricing and youth football flies in the face of many of the usual criticisms sent their way.
It was revealed today by the BBC Sport Price of Football survey that City offer the cheapest season ticket in the Premier League. Priced at £299, the value gold season card offers fans an opportunity to buy a reduced price season ticket without the benefit of a specific seat being reserved for each match.
The club say they are determined to offer an affordable match-day experience, with plans to extend the stadium and increase the amount of cut-price tickets available to fans.
Peter Bradshaw, City’s Head of Infrastructure, told the BBC:
We are looking at the project in two phases - introduce 6,000 new seats in the South Stand as the first phase and then introduce another 6,000 seats in the North Stand as phase two. We are also keeping our options open that we may bring those together as one project.
The season tickets we are looking at, the extra seats in each end, will start at £299. That is where we are targeting, to introduce more affordable seats to more fans. That is the intention of this and to provide a stadium with an incredible atmosphere that people who want to watch Manchester City can afford to come and watch.
Although these tickets are limited at the moment, there is a clear strategy in place to keep prices down and attendances up, something that should be applauded in an era of growing costs for football fans.
City’s new training complex is also at an advanced stage of development. The £100 million venture is intended to kick-start the development of homegrown players, with self-sufficiency now high on the club’s list of priorities.
As well as being home to the first-team, it will also be a base for the youth academy, with a homogeneous playing style implemented across all levels of the club. There will be pitches designed solely for 8- to 21-year-olds, and classrooms for City’s academy players. Everyone from young children to the club's big stars will be catered for.
The 80-acre complex is being built to attract top players from around the world and increase the supply of young players produced by the club, with Micah Richards the only current first-team regular who has graduated from the club’s academy.
It’s a bold vision but with Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain heavily involved in strategic planning and bringing in ideas from their days together at Barcelona, it’s not exactly surprising.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and the criticism City have received for not producing young players in recent years is unjustified. The takeover by Sheikh Mansour initially saw heavy investment into the first-team to help push the club in the direction of trophies, but they are now setting about revolutionising the club from the grassroots upwards.
Far from being a club looking to ruin football by ignoring young players and charging extortionate prices, City are trying to do things the right way. It will take time for them to see the fruits of their labour, but in the meantime they should be praised for the effort they’re putting in.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity