The Guardian today reports news that will surprise no Manchester United fans bar the gullible: the Glazer family is planning to hike ticket prices for next season. The family, unmoved by mass fans’ protest, recently boasted of its ability to increase prices this season when 19 other Premier League clubs froze or reduced admission.
Ticket prices have risen by an average 48 per cent for standard seats at Old Trafford during the five-year Glazer regime, which is by far the highest in the Premier League. The rises outstrips inflation, which stands at just fourteen per cent during the same time period, by more than a third.
“Manchester United are giving strong consideration to increasing season-ticket prices to help with the club’s enormous interest payments, despite being acutely aware such a move would increase the sense of animosity that has led to fans protesting against the ruling Glazer family,” claimed The Guardian today.
“The Glazers have begun discussions with the club’s England-based directors about next season’s prices, with an official announcement due in the next month, and the early talks have been geared towards United continuing their habit of making supporters pay more every year since the Americans took control in 2005”
The club has also changed the mix between executive and standard seats, with relatively fewer cheap seats available, especially since the opening of the North East and West quadrants in 2007. It’s a move that has the Glazers to increase matchday income by 65 per cent in the past five years – a £109 million “Glazer tax”, according to financier Andy Green.
Indeed, prices at Old Trafford, which range from £27 behind the goal to £49 in the North and South stands, are now comparable to those at Chelsea and Arsenal despite regional income differences. Tickets are also up to £10 more expensive for Champions League matches, with no discounts for less popular Carling Cup fixtures. That is to say little of the hated Automatic Cup Ticket scheme.
The refinancing has also placed pressure on the family to continually increase revenues, with up to 79 per cent of each pound spent by fans at Old Trafford disappearing in interest payments, management fees and dividends associated with the Glazers’ ownership of the club over the next seven years.
“While other Premier League clubs have experienced a flattening or reduction in ticket prices in response to the economic downturn, we were able to increase aggregate ticket prices for the 2009-10 season by 2.5%,” boasted the Glazers’ recent bond issue prospectus of the family’s ability to raise ticket prices in the face of global economic downturn.
Indeed, the family’s Payment-in-Kind (PiK) loans will cost an eye-watering 16.5 per cent interest per annum from August, increasing its determination to remove cash from club coffers. Up to £70 million in the next financial year.
Anger at the Glazers’ management of the club, together with increasingly expensive tickets, is likely to mean thousands of fans will give up their seats for the forthcoming season, even if an official boycott is not called.
While Red Knight Keith Harris recently called for supporters to place pressure on the family by refusing to buy season tickets, a recent Virgin Money survey concluded that up to 60 per cent of United fans will not renew next year.
With prices set to rise anyway, it’s a scenario that seemingly has little effect on the Glazer family. The question is – if it comes down to walking away for the club, even for a short time, to force regime change at Old Trafford – will you?