The Price Is Right?


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.

9 Comments

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  1. Ali Ghahremani

    Great piece @Bryan, but I do not agree with increasing ticket prices to stay with the “top teams.” Football is far too expensive for its traditional audience, the traditional audience is what has made Liverpool’s atmosphere so great. If you increase the ticket price you will drive some fans out, driving these fans out will in turn damage the atmosphere or at least create a division/poisonous atmosphere.

    So you have to ask yourself is increasing the ticket prices for a little revenue compared to what Liverpool is making off TV rights worth damaging the already hurting atmosphere? Let’s face it our atmosphere has not been near what it used to be on a consistent basis. I think not.

    • Bryan Painter

      Hi Ali – thanks for reading and the comments. To clarify , the ticket price LFC pays relative to the rest of our top rivals is not out of line. However the divide will grow unless we act to expand Anfield. Its one area of the overall equation. They are ahead of us in other revenue areas as well. so the gap expands in another area.

      My 2nd point is that the atmosphere at NFL games or college football games doesnt diminish and they have 3x the cost per ticket. If you want to argue that people cant afford it because it a blue collar working class city…I point Green Bay, Cleveland as examples. Cleveland is an old steel town thats trying to reinvent itself and Green Bay in the middle of Wisconsin with a population of 104K people. (they sell out every game in 82K seat stadium).

      Atmosphere shouldn’t depend exclusively on Ticket Prices. Ticket prices (prices on any product in general) is about value. In this case are you getting good entertainment value for your 685 quid investment.? If you told me I could go to every LFC home match for 685 quid I would bite your hand off at that deal and I would go to every match signing, supporting our lads in full voice.

  2. Jimmy

    i just cannot agree with increasing tickets prices to stay on par with other teams. After reading soccernomics and then having the privilege to talk to one of the co authors (Stefan Szymanski) I believe that a football team should not be run as a profitable business. Those other teams at the top make more money and attract more profitable types of sponsorships because they are successful. the owners should instead focus on making the team successful again, keeping the supporters happy, and attract more money in that way. I feel that Henry’s comments, on not moving forward with more redevelopment because the money wouldn’t balance out, as a bit insulting to the people whether intentional or not.

  3. Bryan Painter

    @Jimmy – So Soccer is not a business? Its non-profit .org type of community service? Do you agree all sports should be .org’s then? NFL, MLB, NBA etc etc all .org then ya?

  4. Kevin

    Hi Bryan, good article. Living in North America and just trying to purchase a ticket to the Montreal Canadiens vs the Toronto Maples is neither easy nor cheap. At cost, nose bleed section is $75.00 CAD (46 GBP). Trying to see a 2 inch rubber disc from that height is impossible. It also doesn’t detract from the atmosphere. I was offered seats in the reds, center ice at a cost of $443 CAD (270 GBP). Season tickets are cheaper of course, but still… I didn’t go. to the game.

    Pricing based on seat location has long been in place in North America and I don’t see any issue with that. But if pricing gets too high, as it has in hockey, then the only people who get to go are the corporate types. What some of the teams have been doing, is setting aside family group tickets that are very very affordable and this seems to be working. English teams at the Premier level could do the same.

  5. Bryan Painter

    Hi Kevin thanks for reading and the feedback. The only thing I would say is that Hockey unlike Soccer doesnt get the TV revenue so they may have to charge more for tickets. I am not an expert on the financials/business of Hockey. The argument has always been with the billions pouring in from the TV money does another couple of million from tickets really make all that much of the difference in the grand scheme of things…probably not to most of the big clubs.

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