THE chief executive of Liverpool Football Club, speaking to anyone, anywhere, ever in public in the internet age is news. It will be picked up by someone, somewhere and arrive back on the doorstep, neatly packaged in soundbites, ready to digest.
Or, in the case of Ian Ayre’s ill-judged comments at the weekend, as a flaming dog turd left burning on the L4 doorstep, ready to be unknowingly stamped on barefoot in the crueller version of the traditional knock and run.
Ayre, speaking in New York on Saturday at Blazer Con, an event centred around the globalisation of the game, is quoted as saying: “We have the enviable position of selling out every game but not having the route in to have a 12 or 13 year old come.
“Local supporters groups want to discriminate against travelling fans to get more Scousers back in Anfield. Stadium renovation could help.”
Liverpool FC know how important public statements are, hence the staff spin-doctors and communication chiefs on the pay roll. Ayre will know, too, not least because as a senior executive he will be more than aware of the image and messages the club wishes to convey.
They read what we say on Twitter, remember?
So what was the point of this public brain fart (initially reported on Twitter as it happens)? Especially when, in the same interview, Ayre added: “Being a Liverpool fan is more than football, it’s about being part of a family.”
Well it’s not feeling too family-like when the most senior Liverpool-based club executive is making broad-brush statements about discrimination, is it? Particularly when some of the groups he appears to be pointing the finger at have members worldwide in their number.
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It appears to suggest a section of support are a problem when in fact most fans just want to see something approaching fairness in regards to ticketing. The problem, of course, is the different perceptions of fairness, but most seem to recognise the issue of getting children and young fans in the ground as part of the ideal.
Ayre himself made a suggestion around the idea of distributing tickets to young fans when games haven’t sold out. Logistically, that is likely to be a late decision and warrant distribution among fans local to the ground, supporters who can travel quickly, easily and cheaply to Anfield. A ground in Liverpool. Discrimination, or just plain common sense?
Ayre seems to suggest a small-mindedness from local fans and undoubtedly some do dream of some kind of exclusive utopia warranting postcode checks, Scouse lingo tests and a once over from the Fashion Police before fans are allowed to set foot on The Kop.
But back in the real world, most get it. We know. Liverpool Football Club is a global brand. According to the official website the club “…has just over 200 Official Supporters Clubs all over the world in over 50 different countries.”
A “supporters all over the world” scarf has recently been revived by Hat Scarf Or A Badge, an Anfield-based supporter-run merchandise shop. The same design was a scarf and car sticker in the 80s/90s, one I spotted daily on Merseyside. Despite the endless, and tiresome narrative, there are plenty of examples of local fans taking pride that their club is a worldwide name and draws support from across the globe.
Where the waters muddy is when there is suggestion, or evidence of, a lack of fairness — around pricing, around access, around opportunity for the next generation to choose Liverpool not Everton, another of Ayre’s own anecdotes in the Q&A. He had the opportunity to become engaged in football at a young age. As a Scouser. At Anfield. People he is now seemingly pointing the finger at simply want the same for their children.
What is also strange about Ayre’s comments is the idea of “not having the route” for young fans. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that all the answers are easy, but it is up to the club to at least try to balance opportunities for corporate and community, young and old, foreign and local. At the moment, given the level of discussion, it doesn’t feel like that balance is being achieved.
For many, the club’s — and the Premier League’s — aggressive marketing abroad has not been backed up with a suitable solution to meet the demand on match-days, nor has there been a true declaration of where priorities lie when the ground swells in size.
The club has only the sixth largest stadium in English club football as things stand — behind Old Trafford (76,100), The Emirates (60,432), The Etihad (55,087), St James’ Park (52,401) and The Stadium of Light (49,000) with an official capacity of 45,362.
That figure will increase to 54,000 on completion of the Main Stand during the 2016-17 season. Both Spurs and Chelsea have planned bigger grounds, with the former’s at a far more advanced stage than the latter’s. Meanwhile, Liverpool still aren’t sure if they’ll extend the Anfield Road with planning still at the outline stage and a big, fat “might” leaping from FSG’s club site Q&A back in July (imagine they answered some difficult questions one day…).
Anfield then will boast the same capacity as West Ham United, who will kick off 2016-17 in the 54,000-seater Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium.
The Londoners have already made their intentions clear price-wise. Every season ticket band will reduce, with a new-entry level season ticket being introduced costing £289 — the cheapest in the Premier League.
All season tickets for Under-16s will be cut to just £99 — the equivalent of £5 per game.
The Hammers, rightly, are cashing on the PR of this decision already. It’s listed on their website, with the club describing itself as “the first Barclays Premier League Club to use the increased broadcast revenue for the 2016/17 season to cut ticket prices for supporters”.
Liverpool could break from the shackles of the cartel, too. Liverpool could set away tickets at £20. Liverpool could sell its policy of railing against prices to the football world. It chooses not to.
Instead, a visit to Liverpool’s website tells a very different story about its plans for the bigger Anfield. There, the push is for Main Stand hospitality packages, ranging from “Club Level” at “approx £2,500-4,000 per person” through “Premium” which is “approx £5,500-8,500 per person” to “Executive” at “£13,000 per person”.
And the “ordinary” tickets? How many? How much? In the FAQs section, a question around general admission and season tickets is listed, dated December 2014, with the answer: “The Main Stand will become one of the largest all-seater single stands in Europe, providing approximately 8,500 additional seats within the Stadium and increasing the overall capacity at Anfield to roughly 54,000.
“At this stage it is too early to provide an exact breakdown of seating/ticketing allocations; however we anticipate that half of the tickets will be hospitality and the remainder will be split between GA and Season Tickets. Further details will be available in 2015.”
We are in the 11th month of 2015. Where are the promised details?
West Ham is a different club in a different place but it competes in the same league as Liverpool. The challenges for Liverpool are clearly different but if supporters are feeling discriminated against, is it really other fans that are solely responsible for that feeling?
West Ham season ticket holders are being invited to bring with them two individuals as new season ticket holders at the new ground. Liverpool have closed the waiting list for a season ticket with the club not accepting new applications.
The members scheme is saturated and oversubscribed, too, yet the best stadium solution was the same as West Ham’s, according to the club.
And that’s not just a sleight on the current regime. Anfield not being able to supply demand is a problem that has dated back generations.
Writing in the Liverpool Official Handbook, season 1971-72, then club secretary Peter Robinson said: “When I’m asked what the biggest problem is for Liverpool, I can say — promptly — that it’s too many people chasing too few seats. Probably we’re the only club in the country in this enviable (or unenviable) position, for most clubs have the problem of EMPTY seats.
“Completion of the new stand means the 5,000-long waiting list for season tickets will be cut…but although the new seating will make some inroads, there will be more than 3,000 on the list. But, as ever, we are all doing our best for the fans who Liverpool. And we thank them, and hope they will continue to give us their support.”
We have. And yet now we have club suits telling us we are discriminating against each other. Discriminating because we want to corner some tickets. Because there aren’t enough to go around. Whose fault is that? Supporters groups have never had the opportunity to make decisions on stadium solutions.
Meanwhile, Liverpool continues to partner with Thomas Cook for “match breaks” costing up to £300 for a game to be part of (their words) “undoubtedly one of the best atmospheres in World football”.
It’s a practice that has previously been criticised by Which? Magazine, with the publication highlighting mark ups of “up to 325 per cent” when compared to DIY purchases of ticket, hotel and travel.
Liverpool has also failed to address the plight of 17-21 olds, as detailed in Mike Nevin’s open letter on tickets regarding his son, Sam, in April.
As Mike detailed: “Sam, turned 17 in December last year and is now being asked to pay £725 versus the £200 he paid last season when Liverpool Football Club finally introduced a junior price for under-16s in The Kop.
“Prior to that, after 14 years on the waiting list, we had no option but to pay a full adult price for his first two seasons. That in itself was ridiculous but after a lifetime on the waiting list — since the day he was born — it was a price pill we had to swallow, albeit paid for by benevolent grandparents.”
If we’re getting into discrimination, it doesn’t feel like it’s a tit-for-tat argument the club is going to win anytime soon. Not when its prices discriminate against many of the people that live in the city it operates out of.
Perhaps next time, Mr Ayre could choose his words more carefully. Because we read Twitter, too.
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well said, the entire ticket situation is a mess and frankly we need someone smarter then Ian Ayre to fix it. I can’t for the life of me don’t understand why they don’t sit down with a few different supporters groups and look at how they have done things in Germany, etc to come up with a a few different ideas on how to improve ticketing for kids which will in turn improve the atmosphere which in turn will help the team win (and make more money for the club) because winning and atmosphere is what they sell.
My one suggestion, which I never hear anyone talk about is to open a section of the ground that is general admission (un-assigned seats) so kids can sit next to their mates at the game.
Because they’re business people – not football people. They’ve made that apparent by their inaction in regard to these obvious issues. Money men generally don’t hesitate to compromise the greater good when there’s a “sure thing” available, and the Premier League, in it’s current state, is just that.
It’s easy for the man on the street to criticize, but would he be any different if the tables we’re turned? If a bucket of gold was delivered on his door step every morning as long as he sacrificed a couple of his core values. Values he may not really be in touch with anymore anyway. It’s a test of character and the fellows at the top are failing.
I’ve suggested something similar in the past.
Have a section of seats of 200/300 set aside for u25s on proof of ID which can be bought on the day of the game at a reduced rate.
Haven’t even just for cup matches. Europa league, FA and League cups matches are generally during the week so less out of towners there to snap them up.
Seething has to give. There has to be some sort of compromise by the club.
Giving the massive increase in TV money I’m sure they can forgo a little extra money in ticket sales.
From what I saw in the last LFC financial accounts, matchday revenues equates to around 50m quid a year. So thats about 1 million tickets at 50 quid a pop (very rough estimate)
So, an average of 25 games a season at home you could make the whole of the Kop 20 quid a game and it would hit the club for around 8 million quid a year – or half a Mario Balotelli….and that 8m is more than offset with the increased revenue from the new expansion.
The work out a way to make 25% of the Kop tickets available to local residents on the day or by season ticket…
West Ham is a fair comparison only in terms of the size of the ground. If we got a 54k stadium for almost nothing then I think, or would hope, the ticket price outlook at Anfield might be somewhat different.
The thing to remember with West Ham as well is that the taxpayer is basically paying for that stadium for them! Policing? Covered by the public purse. Stewarding? Covered by the public purse. Cleaning? Catering? Yes, all covered by the public purse, as well as almost all of the conversion costs!
The fact is that the Olympic stadium is actually only going to cost West Ham about 2 million a year, a fraction of what Anfield costs us. So it is much easier for West Ham to reduce ticket prices.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with everything you are saying and I applaud you quite rightly calling out that snake Ayre, but I just don’t think the West Ham comparison is fair
I get that there are different challenges, and it is a different club, and I’ve said that. It’s more the communication and the policy. If Liverpool communicated how difficult it is – from their point of view – to get kids in the ground, perhaps fans would be more understanding of the challenges. As it is, from my perspective at least, it just feels like they don’t really care. And Ayre trying to throw supporters’ groups under the bus doesn’t help that. If Liverpool came out tomorrow and said the new stand will include xxx seats for Under-16s that will cost £99 for the season, I’d be delighted. Ditto if they said they’ll start charging away fans only £20 and would call for reciprocal arrangements with other clubs in the league. Ditto if they said any empty seats at games will be filled by kids from the community. And so on, and so on. Robbo.
Fact – West Ham’s deal to use the Olympic Stadium from next season includes provisions for a number of services to be financed by the taxpayer, including medical staff, cleaners and the majority of stewards and security staff. This is a joke.
Standing section is the way to go!
Thanks to the pig-fucker and his cronies!!
Sure, but I believe WHU have a clause in the deal around cheap seating – and they also need to make political capital out of it as its still being reviewed around the legality of the use of tax payer money.
I am taking my two younger kids aged 14 and 11 to their first game against Bordeaux, tickets were £25 for me and £12.50 for the kids, but of course to buy the tickets you all have to become members, £30 for me and another £20 for the kids so it still costs £120 for the 3 tickets which is still better than £50 each for a premier league match and we now have the right to buy more tickets.
I also registered for corporate and they are too much in terms of cost and commitment ( i dont want a sit down meal every game,) but i do like the sports bar corporate ticket, we were invited several times to Rennes and it was great because you sat with friends and then you could chat to mates before the game at half time and at the end of the game over a beer and you could park the car and leave an hour and a half later when all the traffic had gone.
What a great concept this is, the idea of supporters going to the match with mates and having a beer before during and afterwards, its only being going on for about 130 years and so why do clubs not embrace it more instead of trying to put as many hurdles in place to stop this happening, you could argue 30 years ago when their was terracing and a different atmosphere at games but this is the double standards that football clubs live by. Its OK if your a ‘corporate’ person, MCC member or Rugby Union supporter, you can drink all day, but if your an ordinary football supporter its lime and soda, a packet of crisps and shady with Grandad at Xmas. Their is this idea that ordinary supporters are hooligans in disguise and somehow if you are a top lawyer that you know how to behave (like that chelsea gobshite last week)
Why does LFC not embrace the idea that all supporters want to have a good time, not only the corporate brigade and that with the expansion of the main stand and outline planning for the Annie Road this is exactly the time to look at the whole ticketing situation and for the club to be pro active in what it provides for all supporters, home and away, local and non-local . This is where I find FSG so frustrating, their lack of imagination and vision. As an Architect and Urban designer you look at Anfield next to a beautiful park and ask why FSG are not providing better facilities for supporters, why is the club not trying to profit from having a captive audience, every other sport embraces this.
Liverpool as a club under John Smith lead the way, shirt sponsorship, the boot room and the idea of promotion from within, sell a top player and replace them with a top player, no fucking around trying to get ‘value’ and all this comes from the top, and all FSG do is follow like sheep, but without a shepard to give any sort of direction which is why one day they go this way and another day they that way and occasionally like getting Klopp they go in the right direction.
Now is the time they should be looking at the Annie road and saying how do we make the best stand for supporters, what do they want to do, how can this stand provide this? how do other sports do this? how do other clubs do this? If they don’t then Spurs and West Ham will be above us and the excuse will be because they have bigger grounds, blah, blah, blah, Its OK United being bigger to a point, but nobody else should be in the UK, its about being first, not only on the pitch but in the boardroom and you need to show ambition and now that the main stand is under way FSG need to do the next thing before somebody else does.
The other point about Anfield is that it is the same season ticket holders going to every game for the past 20 years and probably the next 20 years, its not as if its 45,000 different people going to Anfield every other week, the average age on the Kop is 40 something? In 20 years time they will be ready to retire, are they still going to be treated like teenagers looking for a fight?
The problem is that you could fill 70,000 seats at Anfield quite easily for most games, and so the only way to allow kids in at sensible prices is to have a bigger stadium than Anfield could ever be.
Building a new stadium is exhorbitant. Wembley cost >700m and the Emirates cost around £500m, both 10 years ago (so add inflation). The London Olympic stadium cost around 500m (with > 130m conversion costs on top). To build a new stadium for LFC with around 70,000 seats would cost significantly more than £500m. That’s much more than half a billion pounds for an extra 25,000 seats, loads of which we think should be cheap (with good reason)! There’s no business plan that can make sense of that, so we’re stuck with demand much greater than supply. I have no idea how smart/committed Ayre is, but I don’t think that anyone could square that circle.
Think this is a bit harsh on Ayre (Can’t believe I just typed that). No one doubts that it’s true. Read the comments on any Liverpool site and you hear the anti-tourist supporters. You hear the anti-Geezer supporters. Hear the anti-corporate supporters. There are factions galore and there always will be. The question is how to accommodate them.
One of the first keys is to push for safe-standing from the Kop end. From a financial perspective, adding 15k seats to the Kop end even at reduced rates would solve a few problems. It would lower the age of the Kop end and increase the volume. People would have to make the choice to sit in the Kop end and be part of the Kop. not a just bump on a seat there taking selfies and panoramas to prove to everyone and remind yourself you were there. And there are still going 40k other seats with seats and all the pies you can eat. This is actually part of my larger thesis. There is room for everyone.
There’s no legitimate reason to oppose safe-standing. We all know the lies that brought it about in the first place and we also know in this day and age that increased security in and around stadiums has mitigated that argument to the point of ridiculousness.
So you will have the new seats which most people are assuming will be more corporate in intent. Why not take the other end. Convert a third of it to safe standing and make it for under 18s. You increase the capacity again at least partially off-setting the losses of selling the tickets at £5 a match.
With event touts being able to allow ticket holders to post unused tickets close to game day working with great effectiveness, there’s no reason why the club couldn’t use this technology to recycle tickets in a more pro-active manner. If a seat holder, lists a ticket for re-use, the club could reward them to provide incentive.
Under 18 fan zones, family fan zones can create areas where people can meet players (U21s and reserves I’d imagine), legends, etc. They can create more of an event situation around the stadium than inside the stadium where it’s actually about the match (or it should be).
From a operational modern football perspective, Liverpool was stone age a decade ago. They’ve progressed at some levels, but they’re not nearly at the level they need to be at from the fan engagement perspective. This is actually something they could do and do well.
Politically, I think the supporters clamoring for cheaper tickets while their hearts are in the right place, their heads miss the point. Clubs are corporations and corporations follow bottom lines. Don’t expect them to change their behavior all because you march and paint banners. Give them a way to change. That way is safe-standing. Let them recoup some money and they’ll lower ticket prices. Cheaper ticket prices is great. Brilliant. But it’s an outcome, not a path. The path is safe-standing.
You sir, can be the next CEO.
All seater stadia have brought new challenges that LFC has not addressed and that is the ability for a group of friends to be together to watch the match, standing solves this because you are free to move and stand next to friends, but for those in seats, this is not an option. The challenge is to find ways for friends to sit together, their are ways but LFC seem to have no intrest, in the same way they have no intrest of finding space for a younger generation. There are many things the club could do for this for example, let season ticket holders allow someone under 25 go to the match on their ticket if the season ticket holder was unable to go or wanted to gib a few games. Put a 5 year limit on new season tickets holders, allow existing season ticket holders to take a year out. There are loads of things the club could do and LFC has fans groups already set up to discuss these ideas.
There is no need for tickets to be so high when the TV money and sponsorship is expanding all the time, 1000 tickets per match could be reduced to £10 and be given to local schools and young academy kids, the club could even get one of the corporate sponsors to subsidise it. There is lots that can be done but the club has to want to do it and make the effort, and it is too easy to do nothing and collect the easy money. That is what is so dissapointing, the lack of desire.
The Hillsborough families oppose safe standing and their wishes have to be respected..It will never happen at Anfield..There is no empirical evidence to suggest a standing terrace is potentially noisier than a seating section ,The Kop, at a time when LFC were beating everyone in sight ,often was like the Reading Room Of The British Museum.There is nothing new in that for all the current hand wring and breast beating.Liverpool don’t want groups of boisterous teens bouncing around they want affluent visitors who will spend in the club shop.They are a business after all
The problem is the club is a “massive global brand” when it comes to revenues, but a bottom half English side when it comes to stadium ambitions, with only a cheap extension arriving instead of a new stadium to be proud of.
No accuses Liverpool Libraries of discrimination in only issuing tickets to locals, and as a local club built by locals, no one should be using the word discrimination when talking about Liverpool FC allocations.
Unless we rename the club “Global Football franchise FC”
I don’t visit the out of towners local establishments and expect them to move aside, and no out of towner should expect scouses to move aside for them at Anfield.
Ian Ayre certainly needs to be a little more careful about what he says and how it will be interpreted, and a word like “discriminate” is always going to be loaded, but…
The reports of what he said seem to be via Twitter, so the context and even the language he used to get hos point across may have been lost.
The essential point that supporter groups would like some “bias” in favour of the local community is reflected in the minutes of the last supporters committee meeting, which is publicly available for fans to read via the LFC web site:-
3.6. GS said that the Committee has made a real statement that addressing the
needs of local support is a major theme for the coming season. There is a
feeling that the Club is losing the culture that was established by a local fan
base, and this needs to change. The Committee believes that if the debate for a local bias were opened up, there wouldn’t be as much push back from the
international and travelling fans as one might expect. The Committee believes
the Club should take some positive steps to get more local people in the ground by, for example, setting aside blocks of tickets to be sold in local schools. The Committee is prepared to give the Club the necessary cover to implement such a policy as it believes the mandate from the supporters is there and such an agenda would gain wide approval. MS and LF stated that even though their constituencies are non-local they are in support.
3.7. IA said that the Club would recognises the need to have more local support in Anfield and would welcome any ideas put forward by the Committee that would help solve the problem. The Club has no problem with creating a bias in favour of local fans as long as it is what the majority of fans want. The Club will identify some proposals that might address the issue and will share with the Committee for comment”
Great post. His tone certainly didn’t translate well. He was actually talking about what could be done to get more young people into the stadium but it has been translated to him not wanting to do anything. Yes-poor choice of words but poor translation as well. The club has just recently been meeting with the supporters group and they have agreed that the one topic for the year is ticket pricing and getting younger fans into the stadium. They are trying at least-it seems. Ayre isn’t exactly the demon he is made out to be. Just in an impossible position.
Comparing to West Ham isn’t really fair either. They’re offering those prices because they are scared they won’t fill that behemoth. Rightly.
Until the club is owned by Scouse folk the Scouse crowd (which is to say half the reason LFC is soooo cool) will never get the respect it deserves. Thats my humble opinion. Im not from Liverpool.