As tickets for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League finals go on sale today, February 23, British soccer fans will have to dig a bit deeper into their pockets.
The May finals are only the sixth ever to be hosted by the UK in the event’s 55 year history, and British fans run a high risk of being priced out this time around. The lowest priced tickets for neutral fans (those who are not members of a regional football club) start at £150 ($244), with an additional £26 ($42) administration fee. The highest priced finals tickets for neutral fans are selling for £297, or $481. The New York Times’ London Bureau this week reported some discounted children’s tickets for the finals priced at £225 ($364), as well as corporate seats at £4,000 ($6,477). Only those who are members of their local football clubs will get a break in pricing, with UEFA-allocated tickets going for £80 ($130).
That makes this year’s finals, to be held at London’s Wembley Stadium, nearly twice as expensive to attend than just two years ago. UEFA officials have defended their pricing schedule, citing the need to adjust ticket prices to the host city’s market. However, UEFA’s Director of Competitions Giorgio Marchetti, was quoted in BBC Sport this week with his own defense of the pricing, stating, “We don’t think that the Champions League final is overpriced…We have to benchmark this event against other comparable events, like for example the final of the Euros and the World Cup. Last year there was already a significant increase compared to the previous editions but it’s nothing to do with being in London and it is still priced below comparable events.”
A globally popular event, the UEFA Champions League is one of the most watched sporting events in the world, in 2009 drawing more television viewers than the Super Bowl. It even brings in more revenue than the widely watched FIFA World Cup.
Graham Burns, Chairman of the UK’s Association of Secondary Ticket Agents (ASTA) disagrees with the UEFA’s insistence that this is fair pricing. In fact, he believes that this constitutes a hypocritical act when so many UK brokers have been under fire for selling their own tickets at a premium. In the UK, football ticket resale, except that expressly authorized by a club, is illegal.
“To be honest it is not a surprise,” Burns told TicketNews. “Slowly but surely the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them campaign’ is slowly being rolled out across the whole ticketing industry, and this is just a monumental statement from Europe’s governing body of maybe the world’s biggest sport, ‘football’, that they want a slice of the action.
“There are brokers with a threat of losing their homes in the UK because they have sold some football tickets for a match, only to be criminalised for what most see as a ‘victimless crime’, whilst big brother at UEFA roll out their very own ‘white market’ pricing of the world’s biggest club football match,” Burns added.
However, James Hamlin, Marketing Director for European secondary ticketer Seatwave, has a different perspective on the UEFA’s pricing rationale. “The brouhaha is around the face value of the (Champions League finals) ticket, perceived by the British press. The ticket’s [starting price is] still cheaper than the face value of a Super Bowl ticket. It’s a premium event, it’s a showcase of European club soccer. They are trying to position it like a European Super Bowl.”
Could the UEFA’s price hikes be an attempt to capture some of the money that would ordinarily be exchanged on the secondary market? “Not really,” Hamlin told TicketNews. “It was extremely difficult to get a ticket on the secondary market for Madrid (the locale of last year’s finals) for less than 1,000 euros ($1,376).” Hamlin was not impressed with the finals pricing when taken in context of football pricing as a whole. “The face value of the last sixteens of the final can cost as much as 79 pounds. For the top clubs in the English Premier League, they charge 69-70 pounds.”