With Manchester City returning 912 unsold tickets to the Emirates Stadium, just how much are football fans willing to pay to watch their club?
Over the years, the influence of money in the beautiful game has continued to grow, with top players now transferred between teams for prices beyond £50 million and earning weekly salaries of over £200,000.
Such increases in cost for clubs have had a huge effect on the people who personify football: the fans. Whilst huge offers of cash attract the best players and help leagues produce the most entertaining games, ultimately it is the supporters who provide the funds that make this possible.
The power of money in the game can be seen in the extreme case of Wimbledon Football Club. After enjoying the heights of the Premier League, the club was relegated after spending 14 consecutive years in the top flight, eventually falling to the third division of English football. It was here that Wimbledon would eventually meet their unsavoury end, as the intention to relocate the team to Milton Keynes saw the formation of a new club by supporters against the move. That club was AFC Wimbledon, and the original Wimbledon’s subsequent lack of support saw them enter administration, before finishing bottom of the league in their first season playing in Milton Keynes. It could be said that Wimbledon never exited administration, as they were only brought out when a Pete Winkleman-led consortium bought the club, rebranding the team as Milton Keynes Dons. Winkleman remains chairman of MK Dons, who recently met AFC Wimbledon for the very first time in a match, something which many people say should never have happened.
Whilst Wimbledon fans ultimately lost their club to money, teams such as Portsmouth and Rangers have also faced uncertainty surrounding their futures. Both clubs have previously entered administration and suffered relegation because of it. A slightly more bizarre loss due to money involved Cardiff City, whose famous blue kit was changed to red when the club was bought by Malaysian owners. This prompted fury from large sections of Cardiff’s support yet, similarly to Wimbledon’s takeover, they were powerless to do anything about it.
There have long been arguments that the game should be given back to the fans, with many supporters expressing their dissatisfaction with modern football. Unfortunately though, that doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon. Situated in the heart of London, Chelsea offer season tickets which boldly exceed the £1,000 mark, whilst North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal push the boundaries further at almost £2,000. Any reductions in price are usually minimal and not very long-lasting.
Moving away from the capital, there are the two Manchester clubs who displayed an intense battle in the race for last season’s Premier League title. To watch either of those teams in action could cost beyond £50 for a single match. Manchester United have enjoyed great success over the past two decades, whilst Manchester City have come into prominence after heavy investment during the last few years. It could be argued, then, that, as the leading forces in English football, the clubs have the right to charge premium prices.
Time will tell if the sport is ever to acknowledge its roots and return to the people who made it famous. In the meantime, only one thing is certain: football without fans is nothing.