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Take a hike The exploitation of season t icket holders’ loyalt y is something that fans must collectively push back on

Manchester City could set a record this season. Retaining their League title would make them the first English team ever to win four in a row, something that has been done in all the other major European leagues. Some have managed four in five seasons, while Huddersfield Town were runners-up in the two years after completing their three consecutive triumphs in 1925-26. Having not won another major trophy since, Huddersfield are also the most extreme case among the several English clubs that have had one period of sustained success.

The competitiveness of the league became a vital part of its appeal from early on. As was shown when the international club competitions started in the mid1950s, it might not always have the best teams but it was among the most open in Europe. That the 2023-24 title race is the first three-team contest in ten years will be presented as a testimony to the league’s strength in depth. But none of this trio, with their billionaire owners and global fanbases, are ever going to fade away as some of the top teams used to do. Even if Manchester City don’t win the title this year, they will be expected to compete for it every season from now on.

On the face of it, there has never been a better time to be a City supporter. But at the home match against Arsenal at the end of March there was a protest banner, quickly removed by stewards. The message – “Record profits but record prices. Stop exploiting our loyalty” – expressed a view that is widely shared by fan groups at other Premier League clubs.

Manchester City season tickets will go up by an average of five per cent for 202425, having had similar rises in several seasons since their takeover by the Abu Dhabi United group in 2008. Seventeen Premier League clubs hiked their season ticket prices for the current season, six more than in the previous year.

Tottenham are one of the three who froze their prices, but they have already announced an increase for next season and say they will stop offering new senior concession discounts for fans aged 65

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Manchester City supporters protest before their recent home match against Arsenal and over from the 2025-26 campaign. In protest, thousands of fans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium turned their backs to the pitch in the 65th minute of their match against Luton on March 30.

Some clubs have cited increased operating costs as justification for the increases but the rises in their revenue are generally far higher. This is notably the case with the wealthiest few. The latest Deloitte Money League report, which examined clubs’ finances in 2023, showed that the matchday revenues of the “big six” represented

The latest Deloitte Money League report showed that the matchday revenues of the “big six” represented on average only 17 per cent of their income, as little as ten per cent in the case of Manchester City on average only 17 per cent of their total income, as little as ten per cent in the case of Manchester City.

Clubs can’t claim to have a pressing need for the extra income they are taking from matchgoing fans. Spurs’ commercial revenues for the year ending June 2023 went up by £44 million on the previous period; the two per cent season ticket increase Liverpool are making for next season adds up to around £1m, an amount that would pay a star player’s wages for less than a month.

These price hikes seem indefensible but might serve another purpose. The awful term “legacy fans” was widely used by those promoting the European Super League (ESL) in 2020. It served to differentiate a club’s long-term support (who in the case of Manchester City may recall seeing League matches against Macclesfield and York) from those who were attracted to them by recent success. Clubs use images of the first type to promote their matches. But the “big six” in particular are now able to recruit the second type from around the world and want to have a bigger proportion of them in the crowd.

Principally this is because supporters who make an annual trip to see a home game will spend far more at the stadium than season ticket holders who would rarely visit the club shop, on top of their seat costing considerably more than the price of a season ticket divided by 19 home games. The six clubs who were prepared to join the ESL four years ago will also be aware that some of their overseas followers were broadly supportive of the concept, in strong contrast to the matchgoing fans in the UK who successfully protested against it.

In 2016, fans’ groups worked together in the Premier League Away Supporters’ Initiative to get away ticket prices capped at £30 (a level that will be reviewed next year). Football grounds need not be transformed into theme parks selling a matchday experience. That process can only be halted by more collective action by supporters. A freeze to season ticket price hikes is the least to expect.


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