More than 1,000 Bayern Munich fans angered by ticket prices charged by Arsenal for their Champions League match Tuesday night refused to take their seats for the first five minutes of the match.
Bayern fans, who were charged 64 pounds ($99) held up banners that read: “£64 a ticket. But without fans football is not worth a penny.” They were applauded by Arsenal fans when they took their seats after kickoff. The rest of the Bayern fans, who could not wait with them in the concourse due to lack of space, took their seats in silence and stayed quiet until their compatriots joined them. FC Bayern Worldwide organized the protest, which touched a nerve with Gunners fans chafing under costs they incur as home fans.
“It was really encouraging in that when the Bayern fans walked into their seats, they got a round of applause from the entire ground. It was clear the whole ground recognized it and wanted to show support,” said Tim Payton of the Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST).
Arsenal, which won the match, 2-0, charges the highest ticket prices in the Premier League and several times has been the target of fans’ frustration. The club’s Annual General Meeting last week was roiled by protests in the wake of a 3 million pound ($4.55 million) payout to a company owned by majority investor Stan Kroenke, and the issue of cost has been simmering for some time. Two years ago, Manchester City fans objected to the prices they were charged to attend matches at the Emirates.
AST members have urged team officials to reduce prices, especially for younger fans and those of lower-income families. Arsenal offers a cheapest match ticket of 27 pounds ($42), but fans have pointed out very few seats are available at that price. Its ticket prices for a home match ($194) and a full season ($1,571) are the highest in the Premier League.
Bayern is the richest club in Germany yet offers a wide range of prices, including a cheapest match-day ticket of 15 euros ($16.50) to stand behind the goal for Bundesliga games. It is charging Arsenal fans 50 euros ($55) for the reverse Champions League game with Arsenal.
Bayern Munich banners at Arsenal tonight. ''£64 a ticket,but without fans. Football is not worth a penny!'' pic.twitter.com/JVNmgQjdLj— When Sunday Comes (@WSCsm) October 20, 2015
“Many English Premier League fans have looked with envy at Bundesliga ticket pricing over years, said Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters Federation. “But sometimes it takes the impact of our prices on foreign visitors to sharpen the focus on just how much some English fans are being expected to pay.
“The Germans enjoy reasonably priced or even cheap tickets for every game rather than the exceptional game or a handful of lower categories that are then held up as examples of good practice.”
A BBC Price of Football study analyzed costs at 227 clubs across Britain and Europe. Its data, released last week, showed that Arsenal has the most expensive match-day ticket. (In contrast, Bayern Munich’s cheapest season ticket for Bundesliga games is $171.)
The BBC study showed that the average price of the cheapest Premier League ticket had risen above £30 ($46.50) for the first time after 11 clubs increased their prices in that category. Premier League research shows the average price per match for Premier League season ticket holders is £32.50 ($50) for adults and £10 ($15.50) for juniors. Two-thirds of fans attending Premier League matches are season-ticket holders, and the league operates with attendances at 95 percent of capacity.
A movement in the UK and Europe began years ago to pressure clubs into lowering ticket prices for fans, with away supporters who must bear the costs of travel and housing in many cases singled out as particularly under-served.
In England, the Football Supporters Federation lobbies teams to use a portion of their extensive TV revenues to fund price cuts. The Premier League has introduced an Away Fans Fund that allocates £200,000 per club per season to subsidize costs of tickets and travel.
The Premier League will reap more than $12.4 billion in broadcasting revenues for three seasons starting with the 2016-17 campaign, and FSF members have escalated their efforts in advance of a meeting of Premier League executives in November. The FSF regards away support as essential to the noisy, colorful backdrop that casts an attractive sheen on Premier League matches.
Fan groups are using the game’s financial might as leverage in the argument to cut costs for those to whom a match ticket buys much more than mere admittance to an event. “We still talk about football clubs,” said AST member Payton. “A club means bringing together the local community to support their team. For the future of the game, we must allow young fans and those on low incomes to come and support their heroes.”