Joseph Kavalsoki argues an interesting point that FSG’s inability to grasp fan angst over price increases could be due to a difference between English and American sport.
This week, FSG owner John Henry mentioned that the Anfield Road development may be put on hold due to ticket price concerns. As has been the case with previous acknowledgments of potential price increases, fans have come out in droves to show their outrage at Henry’s claim.
Liverpool just recently completed the construction of the £114 million main stand that was supposed to occur prior to an expansion of the Anfield Road end (estimated cost of around £50 million).
There are a number of key differences between the two construction projects that make the smaller development far more costly than the Main Stand. First, the number of additional seats added in the Main Stand was 13,000 whereas Anfield Road would only add 4,800. This leads to a massive difference in the benefit FSG would reap in terms of match day revenue.
Secondly, all of the tickets in the Anfield Road plan would be general admission. Ticket prices in the new section would be significantly lower than that of the new Main Stand seats. The overall result of these estimates is an approximate £2.5 million increase per year (assuming average ticket price is £27) in match day revenue for the team’s 19 Premier League home matches.
Before the additional benefits are factored in – more fans in the stadium buying concessions and other items – these numbers indicate that it would take upwards of 20 years before the cost of the new development is earned back. That is very different from the Main Stand where match day revenue is increasing by about £25 million per year according to the Daily Mail, and that is before the club has even completed a naming rights deal worth £5-7 million annually.
While the financial side of the Anfield Road plan would be a heavier burden for FSG, another big reason behind the club’s desire to increase ticket prices stems from differences between English and American sports. Ticket prices are incredibly high for all sporting events in the United States and Henry likely believes that a similar revenue stream could be generated out of LFC.
As many already know, John Henry is the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. Major League Baseball is the cheapest of the U.S.’s three main sports (MLB, NBA, and NFL) in terms of attendance costs, but the numbers are still much higher than that of English football. Plus, according to Forbes, the average cost of attending a Red Sox game at Fenway Park is $78.50 per person – highest in MLB and significantly greater than that of a match at Anfield.
When looking at the differences between American Sports and English sports, it is easy to see that FSG may see an opportunity with Liverpool. Increasing ticket prices is annoying for fans and can dissuade some from attending matches, but with a club of Liverpool’s size, there will always be someone else looking to take the seat that was left vacated.
In the United States, ticket prices at sporting events have been increasing astronomically every year. However, there are no prominent fan groups to pose a serious challenge to these major franchises. The result is that American sports fans are forced to accept watching their favorite teams on television rather than in person.
Therefore, FSG may believe that the club can reasonably increase prices without facing a significant impact to the bottom line. Revenue increases would help both the club and FSG, but LFC ownership is ignoring the cultural differences between the United States and England.
Football in England is way different than any sport in the United States. Many fans attend every home match and some have been sitting in the same seat for generations. Football is a part of the culture in England and the same cannot be said of any sport in the United States.
The atmosphere that fans create in matches and the dedication that people show to the hometown club cannot be compared to the sporting environment of the U.S. Stateside, many sports fans are “bandwagoners” that simply call themselves “fans” of the new great team. That is a stark contrast to English football where people are born a fan of their club and follow the team even if they fall to the lower rungs of the English football league.
FSG may be able to get away with ticket price increases despite the fan outrage, but the atmosphere at the club would be damaged. Fans are a vital part of a club’s performance, especially under Klopp. Anfield may always be full but the absence of the passionate fans that have driven LFC to the top of European football would be devastating for the club.
FSG’s intentions with LFC are clearly different than what many fans want. Sport is a business in the United States and that is how FSG views its ownership of LFC. It is a perspective that has damaged the performance of the team throughout FSG’s time on Merseyside and it could continue to do so if FSG fails to realize the differences between sports in the United States and European football.