Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group made a stunning U-turn on their proposed ticket prices for next season, announcing a two-year price freeze and a host of other initiatives on Wednesday evening.
FSG's change of heart arrived following Saturday's unprecedented walkout at Anfield, where an estimated 10,000 supporters protested the new ticket prices by leaving the stadium in the 77th minute.
"Message received," wrote owners John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon in an open letter to the fans.
Among the revised changes is the huge decision to remove categorisation of games—meaning fans will pay the same price no matter who Liverpool are playing.
Therefore, those £9 general admission seats—which, by the way, appear to be restricted views—will be available for every match of the season, not just three games as was previously intended. That means that around 250 supporters will attend Liverpool vs Manchester United, or the Merseyside derby, in the club's new Main Stand, for just £9. That is fantastic news.
Of course, there will always be skeptics, and the removal of categorisation does in fact mean tickets for previously denoted category B and C games will actually increase from what was initially intended by the club.
However, to freeze prices—the top price being £59 still—for two years, represents a positive move by the club.
Overall, the new prices and revised structure is fairer for all.
Credit should go to FSG for the eventual decision they have arrived at, but also to those supporters who stood for what they believed in. Perhaps the naysayers will think twice next time—although, those who sneered at the protest clearly hadn't remembered the role supporters had in ousting previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Where Hicks spoke of protesting fans creating an "epic swindle" in an "internet terrorism campaign," FSG said "the widespread opposition to this element of the plan has made it clear that we were mistaken."
The protest was never about FSG being bad owners, but directly about ticket prices—something that isn't unique to Liverpool's owners.
However, while FSG has proved time and again it does listen to fans, to have undergone a 13-month consultation with fans in a Ticket Working Group, where the removal of categorisation was proposed, then to not listen to those fans initially, shows how out of touch the men at the top are with the man in the stands.
Perhaps, more than anything, this shows how Liverpool—and indeed any Premier League club—can benefit from having supporter representation at boardroom level.
That doesn't mean supporters making decisions, but an informed supporter who can give input into decisions and provide a bridge between the boardroom and the stands would benefit any discussions on issues such as ticket pricing.
The news of Liverpool's U-turn saw supporters of other Premier League outfits discussing whether their respective clubs will now take positive action towards ticket prices. Indeed, the response to the protest on Saturday has seen ticket prices on the agenda in national and international media.
There finally seems to be momentum towards something being done to control the excessive demands of football clubs who are pricing out the average man on the street and benefiting from supporters' passionate loyalty.
We've even seen Tony Pulis, the West Bromwich Albion manager, claim away tickets should be capped at £10 for every Premier League ground.
"With all the money coming in, I’d love to see that atmosphere come back," said Pulis, per the Guardian. "I’d love away supporters to only pay £10 a ticket: whatever ground you go to, make it £10."
Pulis' comments come in the wake of Premier League clubs voting against a £30 cap on away tickets—which shows the utter disregard the top brass have for their own supporters.
The momentum from Liverpool's ticket price protest must now be used to put pressure on the Premier League and its clubs to pass the £30 away ticket cap—something the Football Supporters Federation has said "would be a good start."
League-wide action, boycotts and protests are required. The Premier League would soon start putting the pressure on its clubs when images of mass boycotts at several games are being aired around the world.
Liverpool supporters did something proactive, put their neck on the line, and now it's time for others to stand up similarly.
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