Nowadays football has become not only the King of Sports but the King of television too. You can easily find proof for this in the £5.14bn TV rights package signed by the English Football Association. This leads to a chain of conclusions that are largely alarming for diehard football fans and true ultras around the world. Capitalism obviously has offered the chance for this sky-rocketing of prices.
Free-market ideas and corporatism have infected football and its higher echelons, dragging to this disgraceful result the lower clubs of Europe and local leagues who strive to keep up with the giants under unfair financial conditions. We have seen numerous clubs even change emblems, stadium names and colours as suggested by the examples of Wimbledon and SV Austria Salzburg who have now become Milton Keynes Dons and Red Bull Salzburg respectively. Furthermore, traditions have been trampled such as the recent entrance of a sponsor on the Barcelona t-shirt which had a long history of keeping its kits free of advertisements and sponsorship deals. All in the name of increasing the already alarmingly large budgets that are needed to keep football clubs competitive and at pace with a rapidly developing corporate football model.
Recent years have seen the rise of corporate football clubs such as Chelsea, PSG, Manchester City and many more. These clubs, have poured millions of euros to improve their squads, proceeding in large sum transfers, forcing the overall prices in football to rise dangerously. Players move to clubs to which the only real incentive is a good CV and despicably high wages. Thus, the cost of a transfer rises considerably even if excluding the price tag paid to the receiving club. In addition to these factors, another that has cause this rise in ticket prices, is the involvement of managers and agents promoting their players, aiming for higher fees for themselves and their ‘clients’, i.e. the players. This pushes transfer, sign-up, agent and player fees even higher than what used to be the case a decade ago.
This increase in transfer expenditure calls for the funneling of resources into clubs from other sources of revenue, one of them being ticket prices. Evidently, in recent years, research has concluded that ticket prices rise almost three times the rate of inflation in countries such as the United Kingdom. What is even more worrying is the rise in ticket prices of today’s Premier League clubs compared to prices in 1981. This comes in a time when wages are comparably lower and unemployment is on the rise in a Europe which is stricken by financial crisis.
All the above have also pushed for a more marketable image of football. Football clubs now pay a lot of attention to their image, one the results being watching historically racist and nationalist clubs such as apoel Nicosia and Lazio promoting anti-racist messages, an utter hypocrisy. Other moves that show towards this way is for example the deliberate transfers of players to football clubs just because of their origin, because that will help the buying club promote itself there. My only problem with that this creates imbalances in squads and teams are forced to offload local players at many times, which leads to the weakening of the connection between teams and fans.
The commercialisation of football has brought the sport we grew up to love to its knees. The minimum wage worker can no more visit the stadium to watch his favorite club. With even more unemployment throughout Europe and the World, who do you think fills up the glamorous stadiums of the big European clubs? Why do you think that instead of hearing Catalunian boos, Cristiano Ronaldo gets taken photos while celebrating a goal in front of the Barcelona fans? Why do you think that Crystal Palace is the only Premier League club to ever have ultras fans?
Though this article started off solely wanting to talk about the alarming rise of ticket prices it ended up being an attack on modern football. I promise to return with more and more. For now, welcome to my world brothers and sisters!