Fans of Lionel Messi's Inter Miami are up in arms after the Major League Soccer club doubled season ticket prices for next season, but the chance to watch the World Cup winner will still tempt many into forking out the cash.
The club, owned by Miami businessman Jorge Mas
, brother Jose Mas
and former England star David Beckham
, emailed fans on Thursday with details of their ticket renewal prices.
This season's cheapest season ticket was $485, but the "Messi effect" means that has risen to $884 for a place behind the goal for the 17 home MLS games. That comes out at $52 per match.
Seats offering a broader view, close to the half-way line with access to a food and drink 'club' area, have risen from $3,600 to $7,650 and there are similar rises for the most expensive seats.
The cheapest season ticket to watch European and Premier League champions Manchester City is $469 with the most expensive costing $1,256, although hospitality deals are separate from season tickets.
At Messi's former club Barcelona, the lowest price for a season pass is $380.53 with the most costly $919.62.
Season ticket holders this season have been protected from the massive surge in single match ticket prices for Miami games prompted by Messi's arrival in July.
Indeed, some have cashed in by selling their season ticket access to individual games on the secondary ticket market for significant mark-ups.
Fans will be able to downgrade their seats to cheaper options if they wish, and a club source said that they have an extensive waiting list for season tickets.
The club are in just the fourth season of their existence and the annoyance is particularly acute among fans who spent years hoping to have an MLS team to support. Ed Serrano
, who was one of the leaders of the campaign to bring an MLS franchise to South Florida, spending years lobbying league officials and holding events to build support, said he knows of many fans who are thinking of not renewing.
"It's crazy. I expected them to go up, but maximum 50%. These guys are just thinking about making money and there is a lot of demand so they think they will get away with it," he told AFP. "Maybe they are looking for just the elite to watch the games and forget about other people. They are going to lose people like this if they continue with this mentality." New stadium.
The club plan to move from their temporary DRV PNK Stadium, in Fort Lauderdale in 2025, to a new site Miami Freedom Park, by Miami International Airport.
The $350 million stadium will be part of a reported $1 billion retail, entertainment, office and hotel development.
That switch to the new home is scheduled for the last year of Messi's $150 million deal with the club.
A club source said that the price rise reflects the changes on the field after bringing in Messi, along with former Spain internationals Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, as well as the broader investments being made.
But Serrano fears the cost increase may damage the building of a fan base for the future.
"One day Messi will be gone....they aren't thinking in the big picture. It is the hardcore that they are chasing away and they may never come back," he said.
Some fans who have already been prepared to commit large sums to secure seats are rethinking their approach for next season.
Jeffrey Skatoff of Palm Beach Gardens, who spent over $20,000 on seven season tickets for family and friends, said the renewal price he was quoted saw the total rise to $53,550.
"I liked having seven season tickets. I could give them away or bring casual fans to games, because the price was decent. Now I will probably go from seven season tickets down to two," he said.
Serrano, known among Inter fans as "Uncle Ed'"says that despite his strong objections, he will likely still fork out the money.
"I'm just so shocked by all this. I was contemplating boycotting but I love the team too much and fought so hard to get a team that I can't bring myself to do it".