I went to a New York Rangers game (NHL pro hockey for non-US) the other night. As I was walked into Madison Square Garden, I looked down at my ticket, face value US $337 (at current exchange rate, £275). These were good seats, but for the stadium & price, it was average. Reminded me of the ongoing debate about Liverpool’s home ticket prices. LFC upon delivering a new main stand this fall (+ 8,500), irked some supporters when they proposed modest ticket hikes. They are now considering another 4,800 seat expansion to the Anfield Road end. However, owner John Henry says recently the project’s up in the air, may not make sense in the end.
FSG faced resistance with new pricing. At an Anfield fixture in February vs. Sunderland, broadcasted internationally supporters walked out at the 77th minute in protest to LFC raising ticket prices for this new main stand to £77 per seat (US $94). LFC blinked, and reinstated the original prices. In a September interview, John Henry when asked about the Anfield road expansion, said “I don’t know if there is a next step because ticket prices are an issue in England. That may foreclose further expansion. We’ll have to see.”
Does Henry have a point? Where does Liverpool sit amongst the top six clubs in the Premier League:
- Arsenal: 60,260 seats, average ticket – £1,035 (revenue £62.3M)
- Spurs: 36,284 seats, average ticket – £765 (revenue £27.7M, new 61K stadium increases revenue to £46.65M)
- Chelsea: 41,798 seats, average ticket – £750 (revenue £31.3M, new 60K seat stadium increases revenue to £45M)
- Liverpool 54,074 seats, average ticket – £750 (revenue £37.04M, Anfield Road expansion +4,800 increases revenue to £3.2M)
- Manchester United: 75,653 seats, average ticket – £532 (revenue £40.2M)
- Manchester City: 55,074 seats, average ticket – £299 (revenue £16.46M)
A couple of things stood out. First, when Spurs and Chelsea finish their new stadiums, LFC will have the smallest home stadium of any of the top six. Meanwhile, City can’t fill the Etihad today with one of the league’s cheapest tickets. You can set City aside with the Sheik’s resourcing. When construction is done for Spurs and Chelsea, Liverpool will have the lowest ticket revenue out of all its main rivals except City. And there are three ways to change this: raise prices, add seats, or both.
Back to my Rangers ticket, the NHL is the fifth most popular sport in the United States behind NFL, College Football, NBA & MLB. Face value of tonight’s ticket is US $337, if it was a season seat it could be US $170 or roughly £140 per game. For a 5th most popular sport in US, not 1st in the world like football. Cost of course goes down for seats higher up off the ice (higher up from the pitch) which is what John Henry was alluding to on tiered prices by location in the stands for Anfield. For those other sports ahead of the NHL in popularity, tickets are even more expensive. NFL averages US $250 / ticket (£2,052 for only 10 games) and after you buy the right to purchase a season ticket called a PSL (What is a PSL), adds another $500 – $100k!.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want exorbitant ticket prices at Anfield, but I see FSG’s point. Football with the actual foot is the most popular sport in the world, not 5th most in NHL’s case. LFC remains one of the top 10 teams in the world. £685 (US $822) for a season ticket to see 19 or so matches a year is an absolute steal! Even Arsenal’s £1035 (US $1,262) is a massive bargain considering what fans deal with in the US to see their favorite teams.
If LFC want to keep up with the top sides in the EPL, they need to continue expanding their stadium, generating more revenue from ticket sales. It’s the competitive nature of the Premier League and football writ large. I also understand the supporters’ point of view cause I’m one of them. Couldn’t we be a little more BVB, tickets priced lower for the average fan? Who wouldn’t want that. Of course, I don’t want to spend crazy money to see my team play. However, it’s a symbiotic relationship between club and supporters, one can’t exist and prosper without the other. If LFC are to continue to keep pace the with their top rivals, the supporters are going to have to concede a bit and FSG/LFC will have to continue to invest in stadium expansion otherwise we will get passed by in the pecking order.