With Financial Fair Play (FFP) due to kick in next year, is this going to be a panacea for all ills within the game, or just an aspirin to deal with a small headache?
Whilst I agree that something needs to be done to control the profligate spending of certain clubs within Europe, I do not believe FFP on its own will do anything to further the stability of football clubs throughout the UK & Europe.
In fact there are some who say that FFP on its own will actually create a further imbalance by giving more money to fewer clubs, mainly those who compete in the Champions League on a regular basis, such as Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid etc.
In my opinion, what is needed is a complete restructure throughout the professional game. Dealing just with the clubs who come under the auspices of the FA & The Football League I would suggest that radical changes are needed.
Firstly I would allow ALL clubs to introduce a standing only area for 2 years, with a maximum capacity of 5000 or 10% of their normal ground capacity initially. After this trial period, clubs could then be allowed if there have been no safety issues or problems, to extend this standing area to other parts of the ground.
In Germany, clubs have significant areas allocated to standing & it has been beneficial to their game and to the supporters in terms of cost.
We are also in danger of pricing the ordinary football fan out of attending games in the Premier League, with ticket prices being ridiculously high compared to other European leagues. Arsenal for instance charge £95 for some tickets, whereas Bayern Munich charge £82……………………………………..but hold on a minute. Arsenal’s charge is per game, Bayern’s is for a Standing Season Ticket!
Arsenal are not alone in this, other clubs such as Spurs, Chelsea and City have ticket prices that ordinary fans struggle to meet week in, week out.
By converting seating areas to standing only, clubs would increase the numbers of spectators able to attend matches significantly but also reduce ticket prices to a more reasonable level.
I think we also need to look at the German model for club ownership. In Germany all clubs must be majority owned by fans, Bayern for instance are 90% owned by the fans. They also limit the number of season tickets available to 35,000 which is just under 50% of the Allianz Stadium capacity. Their reasoning behind this is so that they will get a % of new people coming every week, thus opening the club fan base to a wider audience.
For those who will say that lower pricing means less takings and profit, then Bayern’s model completely refutes that. In the past 21 years Bayern have only failed to make a profit once.
In 2011 they turned over £320 million and made a profit of £9m, the low profit is deceiving however as Bayern plough EVERY SINGLE EURO back into the club, plus they also bought Javi Martinez for a club record fee of £32m last summer.
Coming back to standing only, I think even if there is resistance by the money clubs, it is vital to the future of English clubs that we re-introduce standing only areas back into football. I am not sure how many extra you would get if you removed say 500 seats, but allowing for barriers I would estimate not too far short of the 3000-4000 mark.
Clubs have ignored the supporters for too long, instead preferring to shovel bucket loads of money into the offshore accounts of players. They will continue to ignore the grass roots supporters at their peril.
The clock is ticking on football, if nothing is done over the next 2-3 years then I believe it could have catastrophic consequences for a lot of clubs and the game as a whole.