Liverpool Fans Are Once Again Angry at John Henry and Tom Werner
After last year’s disastrous Red Sox season, John Henry, Tom Werner, and the Red Sox ownership group were wise enough not to raise ticket prices. They’re even knocking a few bucks off beers and dogs this month. That—along with the emergence of our newest
lord and savior, Jackie Bradley, Jr.—seems to have bought the beleaguered owners a bit of good will.
Over in Liverpool, though, it’s a different story right now. Fenway Sports Group, as Henry and Werner’s partnership is called, has decided to dramatically change the pricing structure of tickets for their soccer team, Liverpool FC. The locals are not happy about it, especially considering how their club has struggled on the field ever since FSG came on board in 2010.
Liverpool’s stadium, Anfield, dates back to 1892 and often draws comparisons to Fenway Park. As I discovered when I went there a few years ago, it is an amazing, historic place to watch a game. But it is also a bit crummy—the concourses are tight and the facilities are old. One very big difference between the two stadiums is that, for years, there has basically been one ticket price for all of Anfield. It didn’t matter if you were sitting front and center at midfield or way up high, with a few exceptions, you were paying the same price. It’s strange to us, but it’s the way it was done there. In English soccer there’s generally much less price variation between seats than in American sports, as you’ll see looking at this chart (which, amazingly, also lists the prices of stadium pie and tea). Whereas Anfield ticket prices only ranged between £39 and £45 per seat in 2012, at Fenway, you’ll pay anywhere from $20-$325.
Henry and Werner are effectively trying to make Anfield more like Fenway, if only incrementally. They’ve created six pricing zones for the stadium, with prices going up about 10 percent for the best tickets and actually dropping by £15 for the (relatively) cheap-seats. Here’s the entire scheme. Even with the changes, season tickets only vary between £710 and £830.
Still, it seems to be a shock to the system over there, as the Liverpool Supporters Union, a fan group, fired back at ownership with an angry missive. “In the midst of austerity, with redundancies and cut-backs a daily reality for many supporters, these inflation-busting price rises are an insult to long-standing supporters who have already suffered a massive 716% price rise since 1989,” the group wrote. They’re especially angered by the fact that the price increases are coming before long awaited renovations to Anfield. Unlike Fenway, the old stadium has not been quite so rehabilitated since Henry and Co. took over. “Supporters in the Main Stand and Paddock endure facilities that survived the Shankly era redevelopment, with so-called ‘concourses’ dating back to 1907, while the cramped seating in the Lower Centenary has been notorious since that structure was built as the Kemlyn Road stand in 1963,” the missive continued. But here’s my favorite part:
Paddock seats now designated as the second-best in the stadium are effectively restricted view, with supporters being unable to see down the near touchline without leaving their seats. It is our guess that not one of Liverpool’s multiple “owners” has ever watched a match from any of these seats and that none of them have ever availed themselves of the so-called “facilities” in the Paddock or Main Stand or emerged from a game with a case of “Kemlyn Road Kneecap”! If we are wrong, then more shame on them for believing £815 to £850 is fair price to pay for “the product” on offer.
Burn! It looks like Henry and Werner will have their hands full trying to win back goodwill in Liverpool. Does anyone know if Jackie Bradley, Jr. can play soccer?