on football and ticket prices

bensticket_zps56c4a90e

A brief brush of blue in a blanket sky of grey – how it felt as a football fan, hearing that FSG decided against the proposed increase in top-tier ticket prices at Liverpool games from £59 to £77. This proposed increase created a furore over the price of watching football at Anfield which, stoked by the team’s abject performances on the pitch, has been whistling in the background for a few years now. The issue ignited a week of debate between club and fan, with the former arguing that the ticket raise was balanced out by an atomic portion of tickets being priced at £9 at the other end of the scale.

As Paul Cope explained in The Anfield Wrap, the debate itself was one which ignored the main issues at hand: that the general level of ticket prices at Anfield are pricing those who have travelled to games for years and younger fans out of attendance. I’ve done a bit of digging myself, and trying to find cold hard statistics on the average price of a ticket at Anfield, let alone the Premier League in general is a bit of a nightmare – the closest I got was a Daily Mail article (no chance am I linking anything in my writing to that rag) which claimed the Anfield average stood at nearly £50. Furthermore, David Conn wrote a brilliant article in the Guardian a few years back which showed that, for example, the cheapest-seat ticket at Old Trafford has increased some 700% since 1990, an increased mirrored and also surpassed at Anfield, the Emirates, and at many other of the league’s stadiums.

Inflation meanwhile, as Conn described has increased a mere 77% in the same time period, while average real wages appear to have risen somewhere in the region of 50%. Ultimately then, the price of watching top-tier football has absolutely hammered its way beyond the income growth of the average local supporter over the last 30 years, outstripping the growth of people’s pocket money in excess of ten times over.

At the minute, protests against high ticket prices are unlikely to reverse this trend, namely because the entire model of modern football is fuelled by the relentless chucking spin of hyper-inflation. In the Premier League, the game’s bosses broker record TV deal after record TV deal and saddle stadiums, club shirts and television channels with the signatures of lucrative sponsorship deals. This in turn arms clubs with the power to purchase players for obscene levels of money at equally preposterous wage rates. And as with bees to a pot of honey, rats to a sewer, armies of agents, PR squads and bureaucrats flock to throw added timbre down the landslide, siphoning off their own chunks of wealth while they do so. In this sense, the issue of ticket prices is only a stream within, and sprinting off from the sea of the problem: that football has become an ultra-commercialised, venture capitalistic patch of social terrain. And it is on this very terrain that the lines dividing and crafting footballing success from lucrative business have become dissolved and now obliterated, into a point of corporate nihilism.

It’s clear that ultimately, Liverpool’s owners have no intention at all of reducing prices to truly affordable levels: this would work to undermine their entire project, driving against the staggering efforts over recent years to commercialise every last drop of the club’s blood. As fans, we need to look elsewhere. Only a football which is owned and run collectively by fans, rather than businessmen, will work and operate towards fan interests. There are various models of this in today’s game, each working to differing degrees of success. The obvious example is in Germany, where a ‘50%+1’ law requires nearly all clubs in the Bundesliga to be owned by a supporter-collective majority shareholder stake. Tickets are much cheaper than they are in England, and the example of Germany offers a clear indication that even in modern football’s tiring reality, there is an alternative. In England, this alternative requires installation from institutions such as the Premier League and the FA: two institutions who’s devotion to the status-quo and greed still astounds, with every new announcement of McDonalds partnerships and proposals for ‘marketing league matches‘ to be played in Dubai. It therefore falls to us, as fans, to wrestle our domestic game towards this near-utopian glimmer in modern football.

Yet even in Germany, fans still pay vulgar amounts of money to watch live football at times. Dortmund fans recently protested by throwing tennis balls onto the pitch away at Stuttgart, after a quarter of their fans paid 70Euros for a ticket before travelling over 400kilometres to watch the game. And in a Bundesliga team, the remaining 49% of shares typically belongs to a variety of corporate entities – usually team sponsors. The sheer power of Bayern Munich’s sponsorship deals over the last 30 years with companies such as Adidas, Allianz and Audi, has fattened the club’s transfer budgets for new players in monstrous proportions and helped rifle the club to levels of domestic and continental success which absolutely dwarfs that of any other side in Germany. Such gross inequality in resources suggests that the model needs refining yet more. And why not. The one-fan one-vote policy of FC United of Manchester, a club thrashed together in fury upon Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Manchester United, is unlikely to find international success on the pitch any time soon. But a more a much difficult task is at hand: the task to save the spectacle of modern football from the prying lense of a furious desire to commercialise and profiteer from all of its earthy, utopian brilliance. And any success at all in this battle, is a victory worth fighting for.

 

 

 

 

 

on football and ticket prices

Obama’s legacy? A liberal Supreme Court

The passing of Antonin Scalia, the US Supreme Court’s longest-serving associate justice, piqued my interest greatly. I once studied the American legislature as part of a Politics A-Level, and my imagination was always caught more by the political system over the pond than our own staid, playing fields of Eton ‘democracy’.

Scalia, appointed to the Supreme Court in 1986 by the States’ neoliberal president Ronald Reagan, was the federal court’s longest-serving member, and arguably its most conservative. Throughout his tenure in D.C., Scalia saw himself as a staunch protector of the US constitution, that yellowed document considered sacred from Maine in the north-east to California in the south-west.

It’s therefore somewhat ironic that the justice’s death has ignited a fierce argument over the US’s constitutional ‘checks and balances system’, with Republicans and Democrats fighting for supremacy before Scalia’s corpse has gone cold. Even Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have had their say – but more on those two later.

President Barack Obama will, for the third time since being inaugurated in 2009, be tasked with nominating an associate justice to fill a gap on the Supreme Court. In his first year in charge, Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter and, a year later, Elena Kagan took over from John Paul Stevens. Yet both of those appointments were relatively straightforward; both outgoing justices were liberal in outlook, so their replacements, although ethnically and religiously fresh in terms of the Court’s make-up, were like-for-like. Perhaps more importantly the Senate, who vote to confirm the President’s choices, was dominated by Democrats until the 2014 mid-terms.

This time, it’s a little different. In his last full year as head of state, Obama, before Saturday, was seen as something of a lame duck at home, presiding over a Republican-controlled Senate (54 GOP; 44 Democrats and 2 Independents) and House of Representatives. However, Scalia’s death has changed everything.

The ideological ‘outlook’ of the Court now stands at four conservatives – Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – and four liberals – Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. The next appointment will be key in shifting the balance, and that’s why Republicans are up in arms.

The aforementioned Cruz, who harbours realistic hopes of sitting in the Oval Office this time next year, is threatening to ‘filibuster’ any nomination Obama makes, while Rubio even went as far as saying that the ‘next President’ should appoint Scalia’s successor. This is despite Obama still having 11 months of his second four-year term to run.

GOP leaders are running scared because they know that, if Obama gets his way, they’re looking at a legislature that is largely liberal in make-up – a complete turnaround from the days of the 1980s and 1990s when, after Reagan and then George Bush Sr had enjoyed the best part of a decade-and-a-half in power, the Court was overly conservative (although Souter became more liberal during his time in D.C.)

The result of a liberal Obama nomination – should he manage to do what no Democrat President has done since 1895 – could be a more socially active Supreme Court, similar to the one we saw in the 1970s (Roe v Wade, et al.) after John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson had left their mark on the highest level of the federal legislature. Last year, the Court legalised gay marriage with Scalia present, what could it do with the balance further tipped in the centre-left’s favour?

At the moment, this is more of a constitutional and political conversation than a judicial debate but, if Rubio’s (unlikely) and Cruz’s (more likely) protests fall by the wayside and Obama does have his way, the vacant seat could be filled by the time US voters come to the polls.

Perhaps then Obama’s promise of ‘hope’ – so prevalent in his 2008 campaign, but unfulfilled for many – could linger on for a while longer, and the journalists, writers and historians could start scribbling at length under the ‘legacy’ column of the 44th President of the United States.

obama-hope-shelter1

Obama’s legacy? A liberal Supreme Court

Episode 1: A tale of two stubborn reds and a dwindling talent?

We’re live!

 

In the first edition of the Amateurs Podcast, we discuss the enduring tediousness that is Louis van Gaal’s reign at Manchester United. We’ll also check up on how that old socialist Jeremy Corbyn is doing after a few months in charge and there’s also a look at Alex Turner’s 10-year anniversary in the spotlight. Enjoy and share!

Episode 1: A tale of two stubborn reds and a dwindling talent?