Twenty’s Plenty is a Vital Campaign
Football fans have never felt the pinch of the financial climate more than the present day. The world has been in the grips of an economic recession for over seven years now and is beginning to show green shoots of recovery, yet things only get worse for those who devote their time and money to supporting a football team.
The Football Supporter’s Federation (FSF) has been running the “Twenty’s Plenty” campaign since 2013 and I want to highlight this campaign for the good it is trying to achieve in our sport. Domestically and internationally we have seen increasing protests borne out of growing difficulties for fans of all clubs, be it the European powerhouses benefiting from remarkable payment increases in the T.V. coverage rights packages, to the smaller community clubs feeling the brunt of the lack of fair and equal distribution of said television money. It is a misconception that campaigns and protests such as this are only purported by representatives of lower league clubs and grassroots football, and the whole point of the work that organisations like the FSF do is to make things fairer and more affordable for fans of all clubs. Indeed, the “Twenty’s Plenty” initiative came about after Manchester City returned a portion of their ticket allocation for a match away at Arsenal, who had seen fit to charge City fans the ludicrous sum of £62 to watch their team compete in a Premier League fixture.
The “Twenty’s Plenty” campaign seeks to, as set out in the aims expressed on the FSF website, to “recognise and reward the amazing contribution of away fans by getting together to agree an across the board price cap on away tickets of £20 (£15 for concessions)”; it is an objective and aim that seems so simple and achievable, yet it remains the case that getting clubs to wake up and start treating their loyal fans better is a task which is much easier said than done. The Premier League recently agreed a new domestic television rights deal worth an eye-watering £5.14billion, which is an obscene amount of money and one that should easily allow all clubs at the elite level to help their fans by offering lower ticket prices across the board in addition to aiding clubs less fortunate lower down the pyramid, all whilst still delivering more profits than they have in the past. The rise in financial income that these clubs can expect over the next few years from this T.V. deal is enormous so even when you factor in the money that has to go on club developments, player transfers and wages, all 20 top flight teams should be able to accommodate cheaper prices for away fans and indeed their own ardent supporters.
As you look through the leagues, there is no excuse for practices like those of Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United, among others, to continue. Wednesday charged visiting Bristol City fans almost £40 to watch a clash between two sides in the bottom half of the Championship, and Leeds have this week announced an almost unfathomable ‘pie tax’ forcing home fans to pay mandatory additional ticket costs to include food and drink that they may not even wish to buy. Newcastle meet Liverpool this weekend in the Premier League, and in this fixture last season fan groups from both sides protested the decision to charge visiting fans £52 for a Monday night match screened live on Sky.
Practices like this cannot continue. I myself have had to reduce the number of away games I travel to in support of Doncaster Rovers in recent seasons, with even £20 feeling too expensive for most League One fixtures. We were recently charged that price for a match at Blackpool, a match featuring two of the bottom six sides in League One at the time. The same price is being charged for our F.A. Cup tie at Cambridge this Sunday, a match against a League Two team that fans of both sides would find hard to argue is much of a marquee game. We must continue to fight the selfish, short sighted policies of the money men in power throughout football, and continue to back organisations like the FSF and campaigns like “Twenty’s Plenty” and the #ShareTVWealth Petition, before the cost of being a football supporter is allowed to spiral too much further out of the realms of realism.