Dortmund pricing and the bigger picture

by Katrina Law

Since Spurs announced that the pricing for the Europa League Round of 16 home tie against Borussia Dortmund would be in their Category C pricing bracket, an interesting debate has unfurled among fans across social media.

Since Spurs announced that the pricing for the Europa League Round of 16 home tie against Borussia Dortmund would be in their Category C pricing bracket, an interesting debate has unfurled among fans across social media.

On the face of it, pricing a European match against this calibre of opposition at between £32 and £47 may not seem unreasonable. It’s Dortmund. We pay the same to watch West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth. They could have charged more and the stadium would still be full. It’s our biggest European game for five years.

Looking at the Dortmund pricing in isolation, what’s the problem? Yet many have passionately expressed an anger and a disappointment that Spurs chose to price this match in this way. It’s not as if the club needed the extra money, let’s be clear about that.

Many have passionately expressed an anger and a disappointment that Spurs chose to price this match in this way

Over the past two years, Spurs has won plaudits and widespread praise from all quarters for choosing to adopt an approach to Cup pricing which was both inclusive and accessible. Cup matches, traditionally harder to sell out at home as the majority fall outside of the Season Ticket package, were seen as a good opportunity to encourage those supporters who cannot afford to attend regularly to be part of the One Hotspur family. An opportunity for parents to take their kids to their first ever games at White Hart Lane without needing a second mortgage. An opportunity for those on lower incomes or in full time education to experience White Hart Lane under the floodlights on a European night. And what a success that has been. Thousands of youngsters have had their first taste of football at Spurs and thousands more have reconnected with a team they could only dream about watching live. And this was due to every seat in every stand being priced at either £20 or £25, and £5 for juniors, or free if you bought a ‘family pack’.

This approach demonstrated an understanding of the need to make football affordable for all fans and the foresight to nurture the next generation. A terrific scheme which worked superbly well.

On Thursday 25 February, I sat in my regular seat in the East Lower to watch us dismantle Fiorentina for £25. On Friday 26 February, that same seat to watch Spurs play Dortmund in the next round of the same competition had gone up by 60% to £40.

My friend took his 5 year old son to the Fiorentina match for £30 all in. Their seats will cost £80 for Dortmund.

A family of four in the East Upper paid £50 to watch the side currently third in Serie A pulled apart by Tottenham. Their seats will cost them £176 in the next round.

The most expensive adult ticket has risen by 88% and the concessionary rate of £5 has increased by almost 250% from one round to the next.

My friend won’t be taking his boy to the Dortmund match. And those families of four will be thinking hard about what else they could do with that £176. The fans on lower incomes who grabbed the opportunity to support in earlier rounds are now back to screaming at the TV and the fantastic atmosphere enthusiastically praised and shared across various platforms by Tottenham Hotspur as prime content after the Fiorentina match will be poorer for it.

Fans are a part of the English football product, let’s not forget that. Passionate, loud crowds are a marketers dream.

For too long now, the financial burden on fans has been too great.

Football is all about supply and demand, though. It’s a matter of simple economics. It’s a business like any other. And it’s a real shame those fans are now priced out, but Category C pricing against Dortmund is still an absolute bargain, right?

Football is not a business like any other. Football trades on unbelievable, irrational levels of loyalty. I shop at Tesco’s. I don’t have a Tesco’s tattoo on my left shoulder. I also occasionally pop into Sainsbury’s if it’s easier. If Tesco increase the price of their custard creams, I can simply go elsewhere. If they discontinue a product line, it doesn’t ruin my entire weekend. I don’t lose sleep if they change the formation of their aisles. I’m not a stakeholder in Tesco’s. My shopping there does not increase the worth of their brand.

Football is incomparable to any other business. And supply and demand and the free market economy is too simplistic an argument in this context.

For too long now, the financial burden on fans has been too great. And there was a real chance here to continue the goodwill generated by Cup pricing at Spurs this season by electing to continue with a pricing approach that was both popular and mutually beneficial.

It’s not as if Tottenham Hotspur need the additional gate receipts this pricing decision will generate. The latest TV broadcast deal is worth £8.3 billion. Let that sink in for a moment. The total ticket income from all Premier League home games at White Hart Lane was c £35 million last season, and that includes corporate hospitality. Ticket revenues are dwarfed by broadcast and sponsorship deals. Every fan could watch every game for free and the clubs would still have more money than this year, such is the increase in the 2016-2019 TV deal.

But watching Dortmund for the same price as Bournemouth is still very reasonable, yes? The minute anyone takes the most expensive league in the world as a benchmark for ticket pricing, we’re all in trouble. Premier League tickets are too expensive. They have risen by 700% since the inception of the elite division. Commentators, journalists, pundits, players, national fan organisations, the Premier League and, to an extent, the Chairmen themselves acknowledge this. Two wrongs do not make a right. It may be the same price as watching Bournemouth but that price is too high to start with.

Fans are so conditioned to paying through the nose that some are now at the stage where they argue we should actually thank clubs for only partially milking us, not milking us completely dry.

Still, it’s only £40. What can you do in London for £40 these days? I’m going to a gig next month and my ticket is far more than that. It’s still reasonable. I’m not, however, going to 20 or 30 or 40 gigs in a 9 month spell, where I’ll be mainly sitting in the freezing cold on a plastic seat, sipping at a pitifully weak cup of tea after queuing for 20 minutes to be served by a bewildered member of the match day catering staff. Football is not a leisure pursuit like any other, either.

But £40 against Dortmund does feel about right, doesn’t it? That depends on your benchmark. It’s subjective. What feels right to one fan will depend on their circumstances and the context of the wider pricing policy in English football, which many feel is artificially high. Would the tie be any less attractive or any less important if tickets were priced at, say £30 all areas and £5 for children? We would still be playing the same opposition in the same stage of the same competition. The accepted norm that prices increase as competitions progress and opposition improves has traction, but it’s the level of increase up for debate here. Tottenham have discarded an approach that worked in favour of a quick buck, and an unnecessary one at that. And norms are there to be challenged.

Football is incomparable to any other business. And supply and demand and the free market economy is too simplistic an argument in this context.

Yet White Hart Lane will be packed to the rafters on 17 March. For every fan now relegated to their sofa, dozens wait to eagerly take their places. And that’s our fault. With every passing opportunity to make a stand and speak out in solidarity with others less fortunate than ourselves, we encourage clubs to exploit our loyalty, our passion and our bank balances. Because this is not just about the Dortmund pricing. It’s about setting a precedent for all subsequent rounds from here on in. A quarter final won’t drop in price, a semi final will undoubtedly be Category A. A line has been drawn in the sand.

In just over two years, Spurs move into their new 61,000 seater stadium. Those fans who turned up for the group stage games will be needed once again and more regularly if our new home is to even come close to replicating the feel of White Hart Lane. Whether they’ll get through the turnstiles is dependent on Spurs adopting the kind of approach they’ve discarded with the Dortmund pricing.

Spurs are yet to announce their pricing for next season and are currently exploring pricing structures for the new ground. We’ve been cash cows for too long. Don’t let us all be crying over spilt milk over the coming years.

Author

Katrina Law

Co-Chair, THST

Disclaimer

All views and opinions expressed in this article are the views and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of The Fighting Cock. We offer a platform for fans to commit their views to text and voice their thoughts. Football is a passionate game and as long as the views stay within the parameters of what is acceptable, we encourage people to write, get involved and share their thoughts on the mighty Tottenham Hotspur.

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