The subtle difference between value for money and gross over-inflation

12 01 2013

The issue of ticket prices has fallen into momentary gaze of the mass media. The only thing needed to trigger the media’s interest was a decision by Man City; they returned 900 tickets because their fans refused to buy them. You can understand why the fans refused to buy £62 tickets, that’s the amount you’re expected to pay for cup finals not ordinary league matches, regrettably there have been even more expensive tickets at the Emirates this season;

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£92!!! NINETY TWO FUCKING POUNDS, that’s enough for a dirty weekend Wolverhampton! Twenty years ago an Arsenal ticket cost £8.

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“Everybody knows that ticket prices have gone up massively in price” is a well known lament about football in 2013. It’s a lament that’s become accepted truth. However did it become the accepted truth simply because it’s been repeated so often? If you took the example of Bangor City’s European matches you’d wonder if there was any truth in the lament. In 2012 it cost £17 to sit in the stands at Bangor’s European match;

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In 1985 it cost £15 to sit in the stands at Bangor’s European match (click on the photo to magnify);

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This isn’t much of an inflationary spiral! Mind you of the two examples I’ve given Bangor’s is the one that presents the wrong impression. Everybody knows that the cost of match tickets have gone up because everybody has to fork out more and more with each passing season. The Arsenal example may be an exaggerated example but it strongly hints that there is a trend. There are plenty of other examples that highlight the trend. In 1989 some Manchester United tickets cost £6.60.

Man Utd 1

In 2011 some Manchester United tickets cost £36.

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In 1994 a Liverpool ticket cost £10.

Liverpool 1

In 2012 a Liverpool ticket cost £48.

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In 1995 a Chelsea ticket cost £20.

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In 2012 a Chelsea ticket cost £70.

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In 1992 a QPR ticket cost £15.

QPR 1

In 2012 a QPR ticket cost £53.

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In 1993 Manchester City fans charged away fans £12.

Man City 1

In 2012 Manchester City fans were charged £50 at away matches.

Man City 2

In 1992 Tottenham tickets were £11.50.

Chelsea 1

In 2012 they cost £52.

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The overcharging trend is also highlighted by the Bank of England’s Prices Machine. The Prices Machine shows how the cost of an everyday selection of goods and services has changed over the years. If the items cost a pound in 1955 the Prices Machine shows how much they would cost in 2008 if they underwent the same level of inflation as they have done.

  1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 2007 2008
Football Tickets £1 £2.03 £3.36 £12.91 £37.39 £76.77 £82.96 £85.52
Haircuts £1 £1.46 £3.44 £11.53 £22.45 £38.76 £42.42 £44.26 
Petrol £1 £1.17 £3.29 £8.98 £12.20 £19.94 £21.50 £24.75 
Rail fares £1 £1.64 £4.26 £15.38 £30.31 £41.21 £45.05 £47.01
Rent £1 £1.88 £3.98 £14.59 £31.80 £42.97 £45.70 £47.37

Inflation is a natural consequence of the capitalist mode of production so price rises are natural. As you can see between 1955 and 2008 the cost of everything rose; petrol by 2400%,  haircuts by 4400%, rail fares and rent by 4700%. The table also shows that football tickets have been grossly overvalued by the people setting the prize; their cost rose by 8500%.

The table also highlights the distorting effect of the market economy. We see this in the gross overvaluation of football tickets and in the way the cost of rail fares seem to be unconnected to logic. (Logically speaking Britain is a civilised country and trains are needed to provide relatively cheap public transport. As a lot of trains run on liquid fuel train fares should have risen at the same level as petrol but train fares have risen at twice the rate of petrol. That’s privatisation for you!! )

The market may not contain absolute logic there is an internal logic, the so-called “The logic of the market”. This internal logic is one of the most destructive forces in contemporary society; it allows fly bastards to move away from charging people by the intrinsic value of objects to charging people whatever they think they can get away with. Why are rent levels and rail fares allowed to become over-inflated? Why do football tickets cost so much? “Well, that’s the market!!” is not enough of an answer for either question.

Market apologists will say that markets are the most natural form of human society. They will say that markets are benign devices that smooth over societal problems and democratise economic activity (by allowing everyone to have a chance of buying stuff). This is all bullshit. When we apply the logic of the market to areas like rail travel and football matches the market quickly becomes anti-democratic. These two “products” have a captive market; you can only use certain train companies to travel to certain locations and a football club only plays home matches in one venue. You either pay the price or miss out, where is the democracy?

The table helps to disprove a lot of the justifications for the market economy. It shows that massive rises in the cost of football tickets are the result of two spikes; a trebling of price between 1985 and 1995 and a further doubling between 1995 and 2005. Both of these spikes are the result of the unnatural actions of calculating humans; between 1985 and 1995 new types of people (money-orientated Thatcherite success stories) became the directors of football clubs; between 1995 and 2005 football was repackaged by opportunists for the benefits of opportunists; Sky’s hype made football appear as though it was the ultimate “leisure activity” for young and happening dudes with wallets full of disposable cash. There is nothing “natural” about this, there is no democratisation, there is no trickle down effect.

The last buzz-phrase is another market justification but the only trickle down effect in the area of football tickets is the way the market sets the bar at a grossly inflated price at the highest level. This grossly inflated level obliges the clubs at the lower level to follow its wake. Hence Wrexham charge £18 and Newport charge between £15 and £17 for Conference football. Mind you, to be fair to the lower level clubs, another trickle down effect causes a need to charge a certain amount; the higher level clubs also create a level of grossly inflated costs for football clubs through things like wages.

Scudamore and his ilk may think that the drama of the premier league provides wonderful value for money but those twats don’t stalk the pubs of Stretford, Anfield or Highbury.

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