Fans group disappointed Uefa ticket price caps don’t go further

Away tickets capped at €70 in the Champions League but could have gone lower again

Bayern Munich fans raise a banner to complain about the cost of tickets during the Champions League last 16 second-leg match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in London in March 2017. Photograph: Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images

Bayern Munich fans raise a banner to complain about the cost of tickets during the Champions League last 16 second-leg match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in London in March 2017. Photograph: Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images

 

Football Supporters Europe has said it is “dismayed, though perhaps not surprised” that some of the continent’s richest clubs blocked a plan to slash the cost of away ticket prices in European club competitions.

Last month, European football’s governing body Uefa announced a compromise deal with the European Club Association to cap the cost of away tickets in the Champions League at €70, with a maximum of €45 in the Europa League.

While the FSE welcomed this as a “step in the right direction” after years of excessive pricing, particularly in Spain, the caps were much higher than it, Uefa and others had hoped for.

“We commend Uefa’s forward thinking but we believe the caps are still too high,” FSE executive director Ronan Evain said.

“Indeed, we are dismayed, though perhaps not surprised, that some of the wealthiest clubs fought so hard to upend a more reasonable solution that had initially been agreed by all parties.

“To be blunt, there is no evidence to suggest a lower price cap — say, 20 or 40 per cent lower — would endanger the financial situation of Barcelona or other unreceptive clubs.”

Having collected price data for two years, the FSE had wanted the caps to be €40 and €30 for the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League, respectively, with corresponding maximums of €60 and €40 for the knockout stages.

These prices were based on a percentage of the cost of the cheapest ticket for the finals of the two competitions: 60 per cent in the group stages and 85 per cent in the knockout stages.

With several clubs in Italy and Spain opposed to the entire concept of limiting prices, Uefa and the ECA ditched the percentages and applied caps, for both stages, based on the cost of the cheapest tickets for the finals.

But, according to the FSE’s research, the average away ticket in the Champions League last year was under €49 and just over €23 in the Europa League, both significantly below the new caps.

In fact, the new cap in the Europa League is double the price of last year’s average away ticket in the group stages.

The gaps between last season’s averages and this season’s caps led some to wonder if some clubs would use the agreement as an excuse to raise their prices and those fears have already been borne out.

When Celtic fans travel to Rennes for their Europa League group-stage opener next week they will be paying €40 for tickets but last season the French side charged away fans €9 for their group-stage games and then €25 in the knockout stages.

And Barcelona, one of the caps’ main opponents, have immediately set their away ticket price at €70. Last season, the Spanish side charged PSV Eindhoven fans €53 but then raised that to €70 for visiting Spurs fans, before charging United and Liverpool fans an eye-watering €119 — making the Nou Camp the most expensive away ticket in Europe.

That prompted both United and Liverpool to raise their prices for visiting Barca fans and use the additional revenue to subsidise their fans in Spain, a tit-for-tat approach United also used with Sevilla in 2018.

“We have already seen migration towards the cap at several clubs,” confirmed Evain.

“We would remind them that the cap represents a ceiling, not a new norm, and the rule on ‘comparable categories’ still applies.”

This is a reference to article 19.3 of Uefa’s ‘safety and security regulations’, which prevents clubs from charging away supporters more than home fans for similar parts of the ground.

AEK Athens and Anderlecht have both been sanctioned for breaching this rule in recent seasons, although the FSE has raised concerns about a recent change to the rule’s wording that allows clubs to offer season-ticket holders and members discounts which are unavailable to away fans.

Fans of British clubs will not be surprised to learn another of the FSE’s findings: they have been paying more for away tickets than fans from any other country.

England’s Football Supporters’ Association is a founder member of the FSE and it agrees with the pan-European body that the price caps “aren’t perfect but they do set a precedent”.

The FSA, however, is less pessimistic about the threat of inflation, as it believes the Premier League’s £30 cap on away tickets has reduced costs across the board.

“Caps can exert a downward pressure on prices and if a club previously thought it could get away with high prices for away fans, it would probably be doing so already,” a spokesperson said.

“What happens in reality — in domestic and European competition — is that clubs who previously were able to charge higher prices have had to make their tickets cheaper.”

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