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EXCLUSIVE | Premier League clubs should rethink ticket structures – Henry Winter

The Times Chief Football Writer gives his verdict on why the Premier League must act after England forced to play Nations League match behind closed doors.

The Times Chief Football Writer, Henry Winter, on a recent visit to the University of Gloucestershire.

The Times Chief Football Writer, Henry Winter, has called on Premier League clubs to change their ticket prices following England’s 0-0 draw with Croatia.

For the first time in 988 senior England matches, the match was played behind closed doors as Croatia were still serving a two-match stadium ban for misdemeanours back in 2015.

Some supporters still travelled to Croatia and watched from a vantage point atop a hill – creating at least some kind of atmosphere for the multi-million-pound footballers beneath them – but Winter feels the ‘soulless’ atmosphere in Rijeka should show Premier League officials the down sides of playing matches with no support.

So far in the 2018/19 campaign, only Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley average less than 90% full capacity for home matches, but no club has achieved a complete 100% attendance.

That is partly due to some tickets being allocated to corporate sponsors, officials and playing staff, but the striking comparisons to times gone by denote ease of watching live sport from your living room and hikes in ticket prices.

For example, newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers announced that their season ticket prices would rise by 30% this coming season, in stark contrast to only three Premier League clubs decreasing their average season ticket cost.

Huddersfield Town have received some plaudits for putting adult season ticket prices at £100, the lowest in the top flight, but European superpowers Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona and Juventus can be found at similar prices – including Champions League matches.

The lack of atmosphere in Croatia transpired onto the pitch as well, with neither England or Croatia ever really looking like breaking the deadlock in a bore draw.

The Nations League was brought in by UEFA to try and make matches more competitive, but this had much more of a disparaging feel of a friendly match.

When negotiating huge commercial contracts – SKY and BT paid a combined £5.136 billion to broadcast the Premier League – they want stadiums to be filled to produce an abundance of noise for their respective TV and Radio audiences.

It’s time the Premier League took notice that fans are still the life and soul of the sport – otherwise the best league in the world could turn into another corporate monopoly.

 

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