Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hooligan's Wake Up: BBC releases Price of Football study with interesting findings

Yesterday's Scores
None.

Headlines
D.C. United have acquired Boca Juniors midfielder Luciano Acosta on a permanent bases after his loan contract has ends at the end of this season. While no specific transfer figure was given, they did did say it was a record deal for the club. Acosta will be United's latest Designated Player after next season. For 2017, Targeted Allocation Money will be used to buy down the deal. Acosta scored thrice for United while leading the team with 11 assists.

In other MLS transaction news, midfielder Benny Feilhaber has officially re upped with Sporting Kansas City. The two year deal will keep him at Children's Mercy Park through 2018 and give him a raise that may put him into DP territory.

Lionel Messi is leading the Argentinian National team in a media boycott thanks to some negative press from the local journalists. He cites a lack of respect from the scribes and many false accusations, including one claiming Ezequiel Lavezzi was off smoking pot after a training session. He led the entire squad in a walkout of the post match press conference following their 3-0 win over Colombia on Tuesday night.

The BBC released it's Price of Football study yesterday, which analyzes the price of match tickets, concessions, and merchandise of every professional club in the United Kingdom and several large clubs throughout Europe. Overall, more than 200 clubs provided data. You can use the tool yourself to too see what the cost of attending a match, buying a shirt, or having  a cup of tea at the stadium for your favorite club.

Some of the findings are rather interesting. One of the most intriguing facts is that the average cost of a Premier League ticket has actually dropped by 6% since last year. Two thirds of ticket prices have either dropped or been frozen from last season. Also of note, an away ticket is actually more expensive in the second tier. The Championship sees an away ticket cost at most £31.57, while all Premier League away tickets are capped at £30.

This is mostly due to the Premier League starting a £8 billion global television deal this season. This is pumping revenue in to all clubs in the league, allowing them to slack off on match ticket prices.

It really makes me think. I can only wish American sports worked the same way. With every season, ticket prices for American sports seem to rise steadily, despite television revenues experiencing astronomical growth. I can only conclude that we American fans must be doing something wrong here.

Sure, we're sports addicts who feel the need to attend games despite rising prices. I'm guilty of this myself. My family have been going to Detroit Lions games for well over 20 years and continue to buy our tickets despite the rising costs and poor performances. I often tell people that I can count on one hand the number of times I have not enjoyed myself at a game over the course of some 24 seasons. I've always felt the price was worth it, despite the fact that the team has been downright awful for the last decade and a half.

I would love to see a study on the differences between the business of American sports teams and English/European soccer clubs. How have the fans successfully created this influence with the clubs they support where Americans have only become bigger suckers for the rising costs of their sports? Can anything be done to help out more Americans who want to attend sporting events, but cannot afford the costs? Is it too late for us to do anything about it? It's a real conundrum that I would love to put more personal thought and examination into.

My view has always been if I don't pay the price somebody (or, more likely, some corporation) will. However, after seeing this study and the effects new television money is having on English football, it makes me wonder if we Americans aren't doing this whole thing right. Could some form of organized effort among American sports fans, similar to the Liverpool fan walkout that protested a rise in ticket prices have any effect? I feel like it would have to be done on a league wide level to have a chance at creating change.

We live in a society where empty stadiums are mocked for various reasons. Either it's an unpopular league, as is the case with MLS, or poor fan support, which is how it works with the main American sports leagues. If we see a Cleveland Indians game with a half empty stadium on a gorgeous summer night, we blame the fans for not caring without taking a look at the cost of attending an Indians game.

Then we have the typical capitalist attitude. The problem is never the price of your product it's the product itself, or, more accurately, people's perception of it. The answer is never cheaper prices, it's throw more marketing materials at it. Find more promotions, giveaways, pyrotechnics, that sort of thing. Ironically, these things cost money to implement and drive the cost of attendance up even more. Is it possible that simply dropping prices and lowering expenses could actually make a team just as much, if not more money than a half empty stadium paying higher prices to see fireworks with a game as a distraction?

I remember taking a sports marketing class in college. I remember it being the worst experience of my life. It was more or less finding ways to distract people from the action on the field in order to enhance their experience. I remember looking at a team with an attendance problem and suggesting that ticket prices drop and the entire class, professor included, looking at me like I was crazy. Where as in my non-businessman mind, I saw this as the most logical conclusion. I was just as baffled as they all were, just for a different reason.

I've never been to a European soccer game. My live soccer fan experience is limited to Detroit City FC matches, last year's MLS Cup Final, and a CONCACAF Gold Cup match between the USA and Canada back in 2011. These have all been very American events, complete with silly games at half time and promotional messages mid-match (although the ruckus of the Northern Guard makes it difficult to hear those at DCFC matches). I don't know if the experience is the same across the pond. Do clubs at any tier feel the need for gimmicks and distractions to bring people in, or is the allure of the game itself enough? Can American sports businessmen learn a thing or two from their European counterparts? So many questions.

Anyway, thus ends my tangent for the day. Man, I hate when there aren't any games to keep my brain occupied.

Today's Matches
None.

50,000 Words of Soccer Update
It turns out that in addition to attending sporting events, I am becoming addicted to writing about soccer. I suppose that was the whole point of the 50,000 Words exercise to begin with. Anyway, over at Last Word on Soccer, I published three pieces yesterday. First, a general recap of the second matchday of the Hex, then the news of Benny Feilhaber making his new deal with Sporting Kansas City official, and finally an editorial advocating for the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann. Those, along with this lengthy diatribe about ticket prices, takes the overall word count to 28,233.

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