Liverpool Football Club thought they had found the right balance when they announced ticket prices for the coming season. The majority of seats at Anfield were either coming down in price or being frozen, worthy initiatives to get more local youth in were being undertaken, and some of the best seats in the stadium were going up in price to subsidize that while allowing the club to raise revenue by £2M.
Given expected ticket price increases elsewhere and that the club has struggled to break even under FSG, in theory every pound counts when it comes time to renegotiate contracts or do a deal in the transfer market. Given the massive television windfall Liverpool and the entire Premier League are set for next season, though, news of the club trying to get a further £2M out of supporters didn’t sit well. Neither did a £77 top tier ticket.
The response was quick and it was loud, with fans walking out at the 77th minute over the weekend, chanting "You greedy bastards, enough is enough" as they went. It was a message for all the other Premier League clubs as much as for Liverpool’s owners, at least for most of those protesting. The response from the club has been nearly as quick as they seek to control the fallout and get the club’s most loyal supporters back on side.
"On behalf of everyone at Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool Football Club, we would like to apologise for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for 2016-17," read a statement from John Henry, Tom Werner, and Mike Gordon. "The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense."
"Quite the opposite is true. From our first days as owners we have understood that serving as custodians of this incredible institution is a distinct privilege and as such, we have been driven solely by the desire to return LFC to the pinnacle of football. In the world of modern football, growing the club in a sustainable way is essential to realising this objective. To that end, we have never taken a single penny out of the football club."
Fans may have been angered by ticket price increases, and £77 may have been something of a symbolic breaking point for many who have watched over the last 20 years as grass roots support has been priced out of the game in England. The truth is, though, that Fenway Sports Group have to date reinvested any of the money the club has made—from television or sponsorships or tickets and merchandise—back into the club.
Still, the owners claim to have heard the complaints, and whether or not they are valid, FSG have listened and reversed course. Ticket prices will be adjusted so that the net revenue change will be zero rather than bringing in an extra £2M, and game categorisation will also be removed. The costliest ticket in Anfield will be frozen at £59 for the next two seasons, and the costliest season ticket will be frozen at £896.
This is, clearly, good news for those fans who felt personally impacted by the changes. It’s also a win for fan power in the Premier League and now the hope will have to be that what Liverpool’s fans have achieved can spread league-wide, both for the sake of the grassroots fan as well as—from a selfish, Liverpool point of view—for the sake of the club's competitiveness in the coming seasons.