A Walk Alone – Liverpool’s Ticket Pricing Crisis

“You’ll never walk alone.” This is the famed motto of Liverpool. However, as many fans, and Steven Gerrard (a lifetime Liverpool player) will tell you, it is more than that — it is a way of life. The teary-eyed 45,000 that shook Anfield with their final serenade to hometown hero Gerrard last May will attest to that. For many Liverpool supporters “you’ll never walk alone” means that there is nothing that would cause them to turn their backs on their club. However, during Liverpool’s match against Sunderland two weekends ago, many supporters felt they had no other choice. In protest of the new £77 main stand ticket and a newly announced ticket pricing structure which will see 75 percent  of tickets increase in price, 10,000 Liverpool supporters left Anfield in the 77th minute.

When asked about the incident after the game, assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders dismissed the notion that the walkout had an effect on the players. However, after seeing 10,000 fans turn their backs to the pitch and their team, it would be hard to blame a mentally-strong player for losing his edge. In the last 10 minutes, as the legs begin to tire and the opposing team becomes more and more desperate to score, the crowd’s impact on the players is paramount. It is often the crowd that provides the energy to fight until the final whistle. Anfield, with 10,000 empty seats, and the other 30,000 filled with stunned spectators, is not the intimidating fortress it usually is. Liverpool was up 2-0 in the 77th minute. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

It is hard, though, to blame Fenway Sports Group, also the owner of the Red Sox, for wanting to raise prices. Considering the new £115 million stadium expansion to be unveiled next season, and the fact that the most expensive Liverpool season ticket is still under half the price of the least expensive Red Sox season ticket, a price increase seems logical. Under the new pricing structure, the demand to attend games is plenty high enough that Anfield will continue to sell out every week. But for many loyal Liverpool supporters (especially of the local variety) the new prices are simply unaffordable. They see it as exploitation. Their Liverpool supporters committee went so far to call the prices “morally unjustifiable.” The president of Bayern Munich, Germany’s most famed team, put the impact on ticket prices into perspective well: “We could charge more than £104 [for a season ticket]. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2 million more in income, but what’s £2 million to us? In a transfer discussion you argue about the sum for five minutes. But the difference between £104 and £300 is huge for the fans […] Football has got to be for everybody.”

After seeing such a profound negative response from its supporters, Fenway Sports Group apologized to the fans and reversed the price increase. After a situation like this, the famous quote from Jock Stein, the legendary Celtic FC manager and former mentor to Sir Alex Ferguson, rings true. “Football is nothing without the fans.”