The price of everything - and the value of nothing

Our beloved club do have the insatiable ability to tick off their fans at every given opportunity and then try to make us feel guilty for daring to moan.

I mean, raising season ticket prices for the ‘poorest’ of our fans by up to 14 per cent and just six per cent for the richer amongst us (excluding Club London) does nothing for the affordable prices myth - while the suggestion that we need extra money for a bigger squad in Europe is a feeble excuse.

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Let’s all blame David Moyes - we seem to do for everything else - for giving us three years of European football, which has also raked in a considerable amount of money in its own right.

For what it’s worth, and it’s quite a lot, we’ve had 17 home European matches under Moyes. Now a rule of thumb is about £2m every time we open the gates, so we are talking £34m plus all the extras. Let’s say £40m extra income, with Bayer Leverkusen still to come. It’s already about £13m this season alone - and then there’s the UEFA prize money.

The excuse is always cash flow, or lack of it. Surely it’s not cash flow now for David Sullivan, or are those summer yacht hires in the Med getting a touch expensive?

As always, the danger is in the detail. Inflation is now 3.4 %, but the cost of living crisis has been raging now for a few years.

Now without getting into a political debate, you would assume that the folk in the cheap seats would be in bands five and six, where you would get a better view of Middlesex than the far penalty area.

You would also assume that fans in those seats can’t afford being elsewhere in the stadium where prices are higher. But the cheaper tickets are the ones with the highest increase; kids season tickets are up by 10 per cent, with the previously discounted two-year band five now up by 14 per cent.

I'm not sure how that sits morally with our board, we don’t all live in Jeremy Hunt’s constituency where £100,000 a week goes nowhere. I mean, just cancel Netfix or have a cheaper golf club membership. Sorted.

Next season the cheapest season ticket will have risen 19 per cent since we moved to Stratford and the most expensive tickets in that same time will be up by 56 per cent.

There will now be no more concession seats in the more expensive seats, now only in band five and six. I suppose us old folk (and the kids) should be grateful for this.

Over at Spurs all concessions are gone, much to their fans’ outrage. It has also promoted a few of our fans on twitter last night to want the same at the London Stadium. Why should they sit next to someone paying half of what they are shelling out?

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I’ll tell you why. Us oldies - I’m the same age as Sullivan and Bruce Springsteen (you can guess who I’d rather be bracketed with) - have been supporting West Ham for decades. Me since 1958, my old fella was around in the early 1930s while my grandfather was at Wembley in 1923 and also watched West Ham at Canning Town. I’m nothing special, many families have the same East End roots and devotion to the club.

We’ve been paying out all that time and now, as pensioners, we deserve some consideration. And it’s not costing the club much relatively. How many fans are there on our supporters' list who are over 66?

They will know exactly. I, among many others recall getting a lovely, genuine, phone call from a young lady in the supporters liaison department making sure I was OK during Covid. It actually meant quite a lot and I’m sure many old timers appreciated that call. So the extra cost for concessions is peanuts really and wouldn’t buy the left leg of a new full back.

I’m indebted to the WHUST people for these statistics, which call out the club for their rather disingenuous releasing of the price rises this week, just a few days after the Leverkusen home tie was announced as sold out three weeks before the 18 April date.

We are told that prices have to rise, I think for the second or third year on the trot, because we could fall foul of FFP, now called Profit and Sustainability rules which will change again anyway by next season to be more in line with UEFA’s regulations.

We all know that Everton, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City have already been punished, subject to appeals. It’s also been suggested that Aston Villa and Newcastle could also be in the frame. But just how much will be raked in by hoisting ticket prices anyway?

We need to buy players and pay them accordingly and we are limited just like anyone else by the three-year sustainability rules(£120m pre-tax loss) that seem to have been broken by Everton - constantly over three years - Forest and Leicester, the later doing a good job in manipulating the rules that differ from the EFL to the Premier League. Forest by buying 40 players, who would have guessed?

It was pretty obvious that during the recent disastrous winter transfer window - where we got rid of three high earners from our wage bill, saving something like £250,000 a week - while not bringing anyone in to boost our European qualification chances apart from the less than convincing Kalvin Phillips on loan. Once again, Sullivan showed how terrified he is of overstepping the FFP mark.

But financial experts outside the club insisted we were nowhere near the threshold for PL intervention anyway, Moyes and Tim Steidten wanted those deals stopped when we were clearly not going to buy, but Sullivan insisted. There was money there for new signings, so using the ‘no transfer money’ card now is a bit rich (maybe not the best use of the word).

So it seems the fans must pay for the success of the last three years, the European run and final triumph and the two top half finishes we have achieved. All that, of course, boosts our revenue anyway added to the £1.5billion TV revenue we get, that will be rocketing anyway with new deals.

The long suffering punter sees a club ownership and board members, billionaires and millionaires all, seemingly spending their time trying to knock-out their shares to make as much money as possible or searching for unsuspecting Middle East or American investors to sell large chunks of the club to.

And you would feel that maximising the price of tickets would encourage potential new investors rather than making sure the less financially able of our fans get a decent chance to see their team play.

All this from our club comes at the same time as the Government are imposing a new regulator to run football. Don’t get me wrong, this is needed and testimony to the hard work of fans’ trusts and national bodies across the country.

However there is a ‘but’ from me. Isn’t this a Tory ‘working class’ vote grabber, or am I being too cynical? Tories never give me the impression of knowing much or caring about football, right back to the days that Maggie Thatcher tried to impose ID cards on us all.

Now we see a Culture minister, Luzy Frazer, dressing down for the occasion and air-kissing fans’ group leaders on the pitch at Orient for the press launch of the scheme. I mean, useless sports ministers there are aplenty, MPs who are more interested in the racing industry and free tickets to Ascot, Wimbledon or Lords.

Back in the day, I had occasion to talk to a few of them, or their officers, one of whom is believed to have asked his advisors if the rules of football were the same as polo. Another who had a crash course on the offside law. All quick to launch into the wages that talented black kids from a south London tower block could earn. In fact, that was one of the MSM media questions that day.

And I must apologise if any of that tirade upset a few and betrayed my politics, but there was even a couple of Labour sports ministers who got involved in the Sheffield United-Carlos Tevez debacle. Sorry, you can see I have harboured that resentment for a while (I’ll get my coat).

I would want the regulator scheme to work to improve the game and fans’ representation, but I fear government intervention. Strange that I share some of Sullivan’s issues on the subject.

Football and the Premier League produces vast amounts of money from taxes, it achieves that by being the best league in the world and has to be competitive, paying the best wages and producing the most sellable TV matches. I always fear it when politicians get involved.

So, back to West Ham’s latest cash grab. Some of my lot will be paying £50 more, not a vast amount if you can afford it, but it pushes a few to the brink. I don’t accept the reasons, to be honest. One guy has seen his ticket price rise by £150 in three years. You can make up your own minds, I’m sure.

Finally today, I’d like to express my condolenses to the family and friends of Hugh Southon, founder of Claret & Hugh, who passed away at the weekend. Back in the day when we were both working for a living, Hugh and I met frequently in press boxes around the north and Midlands. He will be missed; RIP Hugh.

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