JUDGING by the reaction on Twitter, Liverpool’s local ticket sale, a plan first announced in February to distribute a limited number of tickets for home games to members with an ‘L’ postcode, hasn’t pleased everyone.
Do those upset by the idea have a point?
The more I thought about it the more I realised that for many the issue wasn’t about locals being given priority for some tickets, but rather that they themselves didn’t have the same opportunity.
I can’t really get my head around any scenario in people from Eastbourne and Glasgow would be angry that people from Liverpool were given a helping hand to enter the football stadium of a club from Liverpool.
No, they were angry because it’s really difficult for them to do it, too.
The anger around the local sale is really one about access in general and it’s ground that has been well-trodden over the years.
If fans travelled from Eastbourne or Glasgow with a ticket for the Kop and the new Main Stand in their hands would they be annoyed if they entered the ground and were sat next to a Scouser with his son or daughter? Of course not. They’d be delighted to be there and they would be happy to be mixing it with a local, perhaps learning a new song or a great Scouse phrase (‘Gegging in’ remains my favourite).
The problem is that it remains incredibly difficult to get tickets for Liverpool games. Despite the paucity of success in recent times, Liverpool Football Club is still a huge draw; perhaps even more so with Jürgen Klopp in the dugout, pulling faces that scare babies.
When it was announced that a further 8,500 seats would be added to the Main Stand it sounded like a step in the right direction. It wasn’t a new ground with 90,000 seats but it was an improvement on what had gone before. It wasn’t until we started to dig into the details that we realised the issue: Less than half of the seats would be general admission, with the rest being taken up by various levels of corporate hospitality.
As fans it’s difficult not to look at that and be immensely disappointed. The club market the ‘Twelfth Man’ on a regular basis, yet between rising ticket costs and increasing hospitality sales it’s becoming harder and harder for that ‘Twelfth Man’ to get into the ground.
The club, of course, would tell you that those corporate sections are necessary to raise match-day funds through ticket sales that, in turn, will allow the team to be more competitive on the pitch.
Fans, in response, might point out that we’ve just ended a transfer window with a positive net spend and FSG didn’t invest any money at all in the building of the squad. John Henry and pals would doubtless reply that they invested a huge amount of money developing the ground in the first place.
On and on the argument will go, with both sides making entirely fair and reasonable points.
Another one that often gets overlooked is that UEFA demand stadiums have a certain level of corporate hospitality if they’re going to be considered for a five-star rating. Of course we shouldn’t be surprised that UEFA bigwigs want an area where they can be wined and dined at somebody else’s expense, but that’s a conversation for another time.
However, the reality is that having a five-star-rated stadium is a prestigious thing that would allow the ground to hold events such as the Champions League final.
Imagine if one day in the future Liverpool got to play in a European Cup final in front of the Kop. That will never happen unless the ground is developed to meet UEFA’s self-serving standards. The rights and wrongs of that can be argued forever, too, but that’s just the way it is.
The sad truth about ticketing for football matches in the 21st century is that it’s an immensely complex issue. Touts are still a major problem, but what’s the best way to combat that?
In Poland football clubs know the name and address of every person inside the ground at any given game. It’s not possible to buy tickets for Polish matches online unless you’re a Polish citizen with a PESEL number. Is that the way forward in the UK?
If it is, then another load of problems expose themselves. How many of us have borrowed a ticket off a mate in order to attend a game? How many season tickets are in the name of a father, sister or uncle who can’t go the match for some reason or another? Where are they all ending up on match day? The tout question needs to be dealt with, but it’s folly to pretend that it’s an easy thing to sort out.
Then there’s the question of the ‘legal touts’ that come in the form of sponsorship partners such as Thomas Cook. Buy a ticket for the match through them alongside your travel and hotel and you’ll pay an extortionate price, but it’s ok because their name is on a billboard in the ground, right? Again, though, corporate partners are a necessary evil for the club to continue to raise its income.
More should be done to help kids get into the stadium on a match day. It’s why I don’t have a problem with the existence of Mighty Red. If a fella in a cormorant suit gets a couple of kids interested in the game who might not have been before and they fall in love with the club then that’s fine by me. I just don’t want to see him anywhere near the pitch, or in the circle for a minute’s silence like that dickhead at The Emirates.
Having a sale exclusively for locals is an excellent idea, in my opinion. The more people we can get into the ground from the city of Liverpool the better. That can only be good for the club in the long term.
I can totally understand why some are upset about it, but they’re not upset with the locals. They’re upset with the club for prioritising money from corporate pockets over songs from general admission voices.
The best decision FSG can make moving forward is to give the go ahead to the redevelopment of the Anfield Road End. We know that the 4,800 seats they’ve got permission to add there would be general admission and that the reason they’re reluctant to do it is because there’s no way to add a corporate section. Now is the time to do more to find a balance between raking in the corporate dough and welcoming in the average Joe.
John Henry said in an interview when the development of the Main Stand was confirmed that he felt that “it will change the future of the club”. Some people are doubting FSG’s ambition but they’re walking a tightrope between not sending themselves out of business and making the club as good as it can be.
One of the decisions they’ve made to help us return to the top of the league is to install Jürgen Klopp as manager. I wonder, if you offered Klopp one £70million player or a Main Stand full of general admission tickets making an almighty racket every week, which one of them would he prefer?
The local sale is about two per cent of tickets. It should be five per cent. It should be 10 per cent.
It should be just as easy for fans from Eastbourne and Glasgow to get into the ground as it is for fans from Tuebrook and Scottie Road.
Developing the Anfield Road end might not help a hedge fund, but it would go a long way to building some bridges with the supporters and there’s no real downside to that.
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