The break from ticket price hikes for Manchester United fans was nice, but it’s over. The Glazer family, criticized for years now over their management of the club and its finances, has decided to raise ticket prices for next season, even while they have reduced ticket prices for their other franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Man U this week announced a £1 pound ($1.65) increase across the board on all tickets for next season. The increase comes a year after the club decided to freeze prices for the current season following months of fan protests.
The move will result in the cheapest adult seats in the Old Trafford stadium increasing to £28 ($46), an increase of 3.7 percent, with the higher cost seats increasing 2 percent to £50 ($82). The highest priced season tickets will be £950 ($1,560) for a total of 19 Premier League home games, not including games such as the League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League matches.
In a response to fan suggestions, the club will place a cap on single match prices for 16 and 17 year olds, with the cost only going up to £20 ($33) for this group. The intention of this move was to ease teens’ transition from junior prices of £10 ($16.50) to regular adult prices. But beyond this, the club seems to have little response to fans’ price concerns.
Duncan Drasdo, Chief Executive of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, an association of club supporters and previous shareholders in the club, said in a statement this week: “[The club] recently slashed prices by as much as 30 percent for many fans of Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and claimed they were listening to supporters. The Glazers have received more than 28,000 emails from United fans in the last two weeks asking for price reductions but obviously they aren’t interested in listening to Manchester United supporters.”
The club attributed its decision to increase prices to the uptick in the British VAT (Value Added Tax) imposed on January 4 of this year, up from 17.5 percent to 20 percent. The club notes that it has absorbed the cost of the VAT increase since the start of the year, but now is increasing prices to help cover these tax costs.
Ownership also maintains that ticket price hikes under the six-year tenure of the Glazers come in under those of the previous six years, when the club was a publicly traded entity, with the Glazers hikes at an average of 5.8 percent and the previous six years averaging 5.9 percent.
Drasdo also took issue with that assertion: “Their claim that average prices have increased less under the Glazers than the equivalent period under the PLC (Public Limited Company) is laughable. Fans have seen prices rise 55 percent in the seasons since the Glazers took over and at a time when the club has been enjoying continued commercial success – something they seem more than happy to crow about – along with more than £100 million cash sitting in the bank unspent – they want to take yet more from ordinary supporters many of whom are struggling in difficult economic conditions.”
Man U’s move comes just one month after two other British Premier League teams, Chelsea and Arsenal, announced their own ticket price hikes for next season. In a letter to the Arsenal Supporters Trust, an association of some of the club’s smaller shareholders, Arsenal Chief Executive Officer Ivan Gazidis suggested that spending across all clubs is driving up prices: “I share your concerns that ordinary fans are being priced out of live football. This is bad for the continued health of the game and is driven primarily by escalating and ultimately unsustainable levels of spending on transfer fees and salaries. This is a fundamental issue that football needs to address and is why I have been a vocal supporter of UEFA’s (Union of European Football Associations) proposals to bring more restraint and responsibility to spending within football.”
It’s unclear at this point how all these price increases will affect football ticket resale in Great Britain, illegal in the country for all but authorized resellers. However, last month, in response to the reported Chelsea price hikes, Edward Parkinson, the director of Chelsea’s authorized resale partner viagogo, commented to TicketNews on the potentially transformative role that more widespread resale could play in the British football market: “Every year football fans spend their hard earned money on season tickets and now more than ever, fans are looking for value for money. Research undertaken by viagogo highlighted that Premier League football fans waste more than £42m a year on unused season tickets, and this is a number we believe can be reduced dramatically by the clubs offering a ticket exchange facility for its fans.
“[Our company] offers a ticket exchange service for a number of Premier League clubs including Chelsea FC, Manchester Utd., Aston Villa and West Ham where fans are able to legally sell tickets they are unable to use to other loyal football fans and recoup some of the cost back for matches they cannot attend.”