From ticket prices and FA Cup replays, Laura Jones asks why avenues for Football League and non-league clubs to earn money are slowly diminishing.Embed from Getty Images
I’m sick and tired of seeing Football League clubs and fans getting the excremental end of the stick.
Everything in English football is designed to benefit the Premier League and the past few weeks have only solidified that view.
First off, let’s congratulate the Liverpool fans who forced their club to rethink their ticketing policy. Seventy-seven pounds is an extortionate amount of money to extract from any supporter and they have proved that boycotts can force clubs to listen.
When it comes to the cost of match tickets, the Football Supporters’ Federation campaign ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ on away tickets is also a very worthwhile crusade and I urge you all to take part, but what about Football League clubs who still rely on ticket revenue?
Liverpool’s U-turn on ticket prices was laudable but let’s not be coy about the fact that the club is in an enviable position in that it’s about to receive a share of the biggest football TV deal in history. The halt on their ticket prices isn’t going to hit their profit margins too much but it does stop a PR nightmare for them.
Hypothetically, Premier League clubs could subsidise their fans’ tickets by using their share of the TV money but could Football League clubs shoulder the same cost? The answer has to be no because there are fewer avenues for them to generate income in the same way and the gate receipts are essential to most clubs.
Attempts are being made to collaborate on prices so fans aren’t paying more for one fixture over the other. Doncaster Rovers have done this with Bradford City and Barnsley this season, where they agreed that in their games against each other they wouldn’t pay more than £20. However, these clubs couldn’t afford to do this every match without it affecting their finances.
Now the Football Association are considering dropping FA Cup replays and are looking at the option of making League Cup semi-finals just one leg, all in the name of reducing fixture congestion. This could harm the financial prospects of lower league clubs, even if it only applies to a few clubs per season.
There is an argument that it will make the competition more exciting and that there may be more ‘giant-killings’. To the Premier League and FA, it will reduce the amount of games in the fixture list and thereby improving the top clubs’ chances in Europe.
Arsenal v Hull City will be replayed after an uninspiring 0-0 draw at the weekend. Both managers have bemoaned having to play another game as they fight to be champions of their respective leagues but what about clubs like Shrewsbury who could benefit from a lucrative FA Cup replay?
League One strugglers Shrewsbury should look at the BBC website because they have calculated the ‘maths behind a jackpot FA Cup run’ and it makes some very revealing points about what teams can earn via televised cup games and, more pertinently, what they could earn from a replay against a bigger club.
According to the article, League Two club Cambridge United earned around £1million from gate receipts at Old Trafford in their fourth-round replay against Manchester United in 2014-15. The club are looking to use the extra income to redevelop their stadium.
Without this opportunity to turn their season around or to secure their imminent future clubs like Shrewsbury will be left to find more innovative way to generate income.
If the Premier League’s needs are always prioritised over the Football League it will continue to suck up all the money floating around in football and league clubs will suffocate in the vacuum.