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Ticketing, Tradition, and the Modern Game

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The club revealed a new pricing structure today that caused grumblings amongst some loyalists while providing increased opportunity to attend matches for others.

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Alex Livesey

Football stadia across England have been the front lines of a small protest movement gaining traction amongst supporters. Loosely organized around the hashtag-friendly "Against Modern Football" eponym, supporters have been speaking with their wallets by sending back pricey away ticket allocations – as was the case with Manchester City fans not interested in paying £62 for the privilege of attending a match at the Emirates – or engaging in traditional fan messaging in the form of banners reading "Football Without Fans Is Nothing."

Some fans are just not having it when it comes to the increasing monetization of the sport they love, many Liverpool fans amongst them. A working class sport for a working class city, football at Anfield in the Premier League era has become increasingly out of reach for many of the club’s core constituents. In an attempt to address this challenge, the club announced some major changes to its ticketing prices for the 2013-14 season.

"Over the past two years, the club has given careful consideration to ticket prices and pricing structures in consultation with the Supporters Committee," said Ian Ayre, the club’s managing director.

"Following last year's price freeze, this year we have reviewed our overall stadium pricing structure and, similar to many other Premier League clubs, from next season we will also be introducing a multiple-tier pricing structure which will more accurately reflect seat location and view. This new approach to ticket price points at Anfield will see all Kop tickets reduce or remain flat in price for the second year in succession."

The club already employs a tiered ticketing structure through the categorization of matches by opponent into A, B, and C type matches, as well as by pricing each of the stands at Anfield differently within each of those categories, but the new structure goes one step further in creating new price zones within a single stand to better reflect sight lines and location.

Although not uncommon in England at this point, this strategy is also the standard ticketing structure for most North American sports, and it’s unsurprising that the club’s American ownership would move in this direction.

Read the comments on any article discussing the new pricing scheme and you will not have to read long before finding a commenter waxing lyrical about the glory days of the traditional fan who could purchase a season ticket on the old standing Kop for only £45. There’s a romanticism wrapped up in the idea of being against modern football, and it’s often couched in the idea that there’s a "right" way to be a fan, regardless of who that traditionalism might exclude from the match day experience.

Prices have gone up in some sections of the stadium, it’s true, but as part of the ticketing announcement the club also revealed £5 tickets for kids at select matches, reduced prices for season tickets for those 16 and under, as well as a £1 million investment in pre- and post-match family-friendly activities outside the ground. Family-friendly matches may not be everyone’s cup of Bovril, but for a club that prides itself on its history and its generations of fandom handed down from parent to child, families are a perfectly legitimate audience to develop.

At the end of the day, all fans want the club to succeed. In the modern era, competing at the highest level requires being able to generate revenue far greater than that created by Anfield’s ticketing capacity. The club will always need to stay sensitive to the city’s economic climate and it’s unlikely they will ever be able to charge London prices for matches, but prices will never stay stagnant or even consistent with the rise in inflation. Liverpool itself is gentrifying at a quick pace, with many areas around the stadium going through a "revitalization" process to bring new life to dying neighbourhoods.

There are 90,000 people on the waiting list for Liverpool season tickets. Ninety. Thousand. Enough to fill Anfield twice. It’s something to consider when faced with the idea that there are no "real" fans left.