Norwich City Football Club
9 July 2015
By email and post
Norwich City v Crystal Palace – away ticket pricing decision
We write in relation to your recent decision to charge Crystal Palace supporters £45 for admission to Carrow Road for the first game of the 2015/16 Premier League season.
By way of introduction, we are a Crystal Palace fanzine which has been running for over 12 years. While we would never be so presumptuous as to state that we speak on behalf of all Palace fans, who are a diverse bunch from all walks of life, we are, however, all ardent fans of the club and attend matches home and away, come rain or shine.
Congratulations to all at Norwich City on your recent promotion to the Premier League. Having only recently been promoted through the playoffs ourselves, many Palace fans watched your club enjoy its very own May day of jubilation at Wembley with some interest, not only to find out the identity of the 20th name in the hat for the 2015/16 Premier League, but also to remind ourselves of the excitement and fervour of the Championship playoffs. We empathised with the joy your fans showed on the final whistle, having been in the same position – albeit while making more noise, of course – only 2 years ago.
We also know only too well how difficult the Premier League can be for clubs recently promoted from the Championship. This is a league where teams of more modest ambition and humble roots attempt to rub shoulders with global giants but, as fans, it’s hard not to be seduced by some of the glamour that comes with being part of a league that is subject to so much media exposure and public interest.
Being a fan of a Premier League club is not, however, without its pitfalls and disadvantages. Fixtures are frequently changed at the whim of broadcasters, and with scant notice, to inconvenient times with many fans having already paid for travel (and other expenses) and with no avenue for recompense. There are, of course, also fewer opportunities to see your favourite club play, given the league’s smaller size, and when a high profile fixture comes around there is a greater scarcity of tickets than there would be against a smaller team in the Championship (like, say, Ipswich Town).
On top of that, and most pertinently, ticket prices can often be prohibitively expensive. Some tickets for away matches are priced appropriately, reasonably and proportionately. Tickets for Palace’s away match at West Brom last season were a sensible £25, for example. All too many clubs, however, charge prices for away fans which are disproportionately high. Chelsea have twice charged Palace fans over £60 for the pleasure of watching a match in the cauldron of silence that is Stamford Bridge. However, not all clubs are, or have to be, like that. Which is probably just as well as I am not sure the universe could take 20 clubs like Chelsea without some form of mass immunisation programme.
The issue of clubs overcharging away fans has become so acute that, as I am sure you are aware, Swansea City have even gone so far as to subsidise the price of away tickets for their fans in instances where the home side has taken the decision to charge an exorbitant amount. You must agree that this does nothing to address the underlying issue of unreasonably priced tickets, as it provides little motivation for the home club to do anything other than to continue increasing prices, knowing that a portion of the cost will be subsidised by the away club. For Swansea City’s part it does at least attest to a club putting the interests of supporters ahead of short term gain, which we and many other fans of various clubs applaud.
We expect that many Palace fans are sadly resigned to, and expect, the fact that tickets for away matches at clubs like Chelsea will be priced at an inappropriately high level. We do not, however, expect it from a club like Norwich, whose background, fanbase and wealth is largely similar to that of our beloved Palace. You may be surprised to hear that numerous of our fans were excited at the news of Palace playing at Carrow Road on 8 August. Norwich is a fine and welcoming city, and is a destination which Palace fans are always happy to visit. It was therefore a source of immense disappointment and frustration that a club of a similar standing to ours has taken the decision to charge adult away fans £45 for admission to the forthcoming match. In the circumstances we, and many other Palace fans, are of the view that the decision taken is plainly unreasonable and ill-judged.
You will no doubt point to the fact that the market can sustain £45 tickets at present. And you would be right. But football, and indeed the Premier League product as promoted overseas, is dependent upon more than market forces. In any other industry the market would have dictated that the customer base of a club the size of Norwich City would dwindle to a negligible level following your relegation in 2014, such is the relative disparity between the quality of football in the Premier League and other levels of the English game.
Fortunately for Norwich City, and many other clubs who have been in your position (including Palace), fans value, perhaps naively, the virtues of loyalty and devotion rather than value for money and return on investment. Moreover, even those global viewers who tune into the Premier League on television from around the world do so not only for the stars on the pitch, but also because of the atmospheres in the stadia. Those fans are in some ways the very essence of the Premier League’s appeal, not extraneous to it.
We also anticipate that you might believe that many fans can afford to pay £45 for a ticket to a football match. Again, you would be correct in stating that some can afford to pay £45 for a ticket. Many, however, cannot. Football may no longer be the preserve of solely working class men, but not every spectator earns a middle class income. For many, the price of admission to Carrow Road will amount to nearly a full day’s work at the government’s recently announced minimum Living Wage. Clubs that implement ticket prices at the level you have set for our forthcoming match are, in the circumstances, clearly doing a disservice to their many fans for whom £45 amounts to a substantial sum, let alone for a mere 90 minutes or entertainment (or not, on very many occasions).
Those fans who do engage in the quaint practice of attending matches rather than watching everything on the red button, are also obviously acutely aware of the extent of TV Revenues received by Premier League clubs. The marginal nature of the gain created by increased ticket prices, which creates greater relative strain on the individual fans’ finances than the benefit accrued by the clubs (in the context of their wider finances), is keenly appreciated by fans. The additional £56,000 Norwich City will generate in charging Crystal Palace fans £45 for admission rather than £25 is a small drop in the overall TV revenues that Premier League clubs receive. We understand the need for clubs to obtain financial advantages in such a competitive league, but there are clearly other ways to achieve this aim which do not adversely impact the lifeblood of the sport.
While you will probably reflect on the fact that your club is likely to sell out many games in the Premier League this season in any event, we urge you to take into account the effect upon overall away ticket prices throughout the league that your policy will have and the consequent increase in expense to your own supporters when they travel away from Carrow Road. Crystal Palace fans do not deserve to be charged £45 for admission in the same way that Norwich City fans do not deserve to be charged £45 for admission to the Hawthorns or Selhurst Park or the Liberty Stadium.
Clubs like Crystal Palace and Norwich may receive vast sums from broadcasters at present but it is the fans who sustained those clubs when they were on the brink of liquidation or relegated twice in a row or made it through nailbiting playoff semi-finals against their bitter rivals. And it is those fans who will stand by both clubs should something go wrong and the TV money dry up following another relegation.
We urge you to take a principled stand, not just in the interests of Palace fans for the upcoming fixture but for all away fans attending Premier League matches, including your own.
FIVE YEAR PLAN FANZINE
*This letter has been sent via post and email to Mr McNally