Increased Europa League ticket prices, Why the surprise?

By Danny Wyn Griffith.

Danish champions FC Midtjylland are charging Manchester United fans 710 kroner (£71.00) for next month’s Europa League tie – three times what they asked Southampton fans to pay during the qualifying stage back in August.

Manchester United fans and the British media have since rightly cried foul over the excessive-looking increase in price. However, this shouldn’t be any kind of surprise to the fans who are used to following the club along Europe’s shores.

February 23rd 2012, Manchester United scraped past Ajax 3-2 on aggregate in the Europa League last 32 round, despite being defeated 2-1 by the Dutch giants at Old Trafford. The same night, Athletic Club Bilbao beat FC Lokomotiv Moscow on away goals at La Catedral after the tie finished 2-2 on aggregate.

Both victorious sides were drawn together for the next round in what would prove to be their first meeting since the famous 1957 European Cup Quarter-final. That tie has forever been embedded in European Football history having seen Los Leones beat the Busby Babes 5-3 in the first leg at home in Bilbao, before heading out of the competition to a 3-0 defeat at United’s temporary home at Maine Road, with late-greats Dennis Viollet and Tommy Taylor scoring in both legs.

The 2011-12 UEFA Champions League campaign had gone much the same as this term’s; having seen United finishing third behind FC Basel and S.L Benfica in their much-fancied group.

Whilst no United fan would have been overjoyed at the demotion, many were quietly licking their lips in taboo-like manner at the European cities, grounds and bars that were potentially waiting for them in the Europa League – much like this year.

Having first of all visited The ‘Dam, United drew the Basque side and many a Red were glad to be looking at a Spanish euro-away that didn’t include the usual suspects of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Villarreal etc.

The Basques were also well known for their love of red wine and hospitality off the pitch – whilst being renowned for their la furia never-say-die attitude on it – all of which made the tie a standout amidst the draw.

What wasn’t to be expected was the eye-watering increase in ticket price that saw Athletic Club charge United fans €90.00 for the second-leg at the Old San Mamés.

FullSizeRender (1)
Second leg stub from the San Mamés

Whilst I and many other a Red never begrudged paying the fee demanded, it was a hard one to swallow due to it being a 350% increase on the €20 fee the visiting Lokomotiv Moscow fans were asked to pay in the previous round.

Given this, we really shouldn’t be surprised at the £71.00 being asked of us for the upcoming FC Midtjylland tie in Denmark. Especially given the ground’s capacity is a mere 11,800 and we were only given a marginal 800-ticket allocation.

“I can understand that it’s expensive for a Manchester United fan to see FC Midtjylland and that they are angry, but that’s how it is,” explained Jacob Jørgensen, the club’s commercial director, on the Danish club’s website.

He continued: “We are in competition with Manchester United to move forward, and their huge turnover and amounts of TV money are so much greater than ours. I think we put up a very fair price, as we could easily sell out even if we made it 1,500-2,000 kroner (£150+) per ticket.”

To be honest, you can’t actually blame these smaller continental sides in increasing the prices when they draw United, due to the ever-recycled line of ‘We’re Manchester United, the world’s biggest club and we have 659million fans worldwide’ that is spouted by Ed Woodward and the marketing department to lure our next commercial partner in Mongolian dumpling manufacturing.

I’m just surprised Paul Scholes hasn’t come round to calling that particular line boring yet.

Nevertheless, opponents have now realised that if the regular match-goers aren’t willing to pay the going-price, many more will supposedly be waiting in the wings to do so.

One only needs looking back a couple of months to remember the away-end at CSKA Moscow being full of Moscow Reds – no disrespect meant towards them.

We are now that global brand the club vowed to become over the last decade or so. With that comes the burden of foreign clubs hiking prices for their Cup Finals against us and it’s the supporters picking up the tab once again.

This isn’t the first time, and certainly won’t be the last time we do so either.

 

First published in Red News Issue 231 on 23/01/2016.

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