£104 for a Standing Season Ticket at Leeds United? Ja, Danke! – by Rob Atkinson


Uli Hoeneß in happier times

Uli Hoeneß in happier times

A stunning quote from a couple of years back drifted randomly across my desktop earlier today – and it fair brought me up sharp. It all had to do with the stark distinction between admission prices in the Premier League as compared with those charged for Bundesliga clubs in Germany. Across the board, the English clubs charged prices well towards the rip-off end of the scale, whereas their German counterparts had a much more enlightened view of match-day revenue – summed-up extremely neatly by this quote, which was not so much food for thought as a veritable banquet for a delegation of philosophers.

Before I go any further into that, I should highlight a couple of salient points. The person being quoted is Uli Hoeness, famously and unforgivably the wearer of the number 10 shirt when Bayern Munich cheated Leeds United out of the European Cup in 1975. Hoeness it was, incidentally, after that match, who described Terry Yorath’s early challenge on Björn Andersson as the “most brutal foul I think I have ever seen” – clearly, he was unaware of the thuggish prowess of one Norbert “Nobby” Peter Stiles. Andersson was so badly injured in fact, that he had to quit football and join Abba – just kidding. Anyway, I digress.

Hoeness made this quote, the one that’s belatedly struck me only today, when he was the Bayern Club President – a role he later had to relinquish on account of a conviction for tax evasion, for which he was sentenced to three and a half years in jail. However, I do not accept that either his recent criminal conviction, or his part in the swindling of Billy’s Boys in 1975, constitute any reason to dispute the fact that Uli Hoeness was responsible for the most earth-shatteringly sensible statement in the entire history of football.

So, without any further ado, let’s just look at that quote. Commenting on Bayern’s advertised price at the time for “safe standing” season tickets, Hoeness said:

‘We could charge more than £104. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2m more in income but what’s £2m to us?

‘In a transfer discussion you argue about that sum for five minutes. But the difference between £104 and £300 is huge for the fan.

‘We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody.

‘That’s the biggest difference between us and England.’

Just sit back and take that in. Have you ever heard a simpler, more concise statement of good sense and unarguable logic? The man is stating that, in England, the fans are treated as cattle, to be milked for what they can give – and simply herded from pillar to post the rest of the time. He’s utterly right, indisputably and brilliantly spot-on. The fact of his links to Paris in 1975 – something the mere mention of which can still make a Leeds fan’s ears bleed – is neither here nor there. His tax-evasion and subsequent conviction and incarceration are likewise irrelevant. The guy is simply right – and it’s just as undeniably true today, as we face another football season here and in the newly-crowned leading football nation in the world, Germany.

What’s more, although the figures from the time, two years back, are a comparison between Bundesliga and Premier League, that comparison applies with almost equal impact to the English second tier, the Championship – and this is most certainly true of my beloved but obscenely pricey Leeds United. Have a gander:-

Rip-off England v Value Germany

Rip-off England v Value Germany

Remember, all of these figures are from a couple of years ago – but there are no grounds to suspect that the comparison is any less eye-watering today. The central point that Hoeness was making – that the actual benefit to clubs of higher prices is minimal, as compared to the burden it puts upon hard-pressed fans – is just as valid now as it has always been, and it’s unaffected by the sad fall from grace of the man himself.

Just think of it – what would be the effect if, for instance, Leeds United were able and willing to charge a lower rate of maybe £120 per season for a season ticket – said ticket to be for admission to one or more vast safe-standing areas? The first thing you’d get would be a years-long waiting list for those tickets – the demand would be incredible. Secondly, differentials would have to reduce in proportion, making higher-price seating tickets relatively cheaper. Again, demand would rocket; the stadium would in all likelihood be over-subscribed for every home game. A bigger stadium would become necessary. Leeds United would also be pioneers, the club that broke the mould and stopped ripping their fans off. Didn’t Big Mass himself say something along those lines just the other day?

The fact is that, with increased attendances, everything else improves – including profit margins. Incidental match expenditure would be a much bigger revenue item, as souvenirs, food, drinks, programmes – everything – sold in much higher numbers. Safe standing is, of course, a whole separate argument, with uneasy connotations for anyone who remembers Hillsborough ’89 – but it’s a case that is slowly gathering momentum as the policy is seen to work well elsewhere. The atmosphere under such conditions would improve out of all recognition. The “safe standing” areas would give back an area of the stadium to the fans who always used to generate that atmosphere: the singers, the shouters, the passionate and involved people that really got behind the team. 

Football would, at least in part, be returned to the working man and woman, from whom it has been so rudely snatched in the Sky/Murdoch era. It would be returned to the children too, the raw material for the next generation of hard-core fanatics. Football would be regaining its present and its future. The whole thing would be so incredibly better and more entertaining and inclusive, that people would be scratching their heads and wondering – why had nobody thought of this before? But somebody did, or at least they summarised the philosophy behind it. A former German international footballer, currently languishing in Landsberg Prison.

The current situation in English football is ridiculous when looked at in these terms. The seeds of disillusion for many Leeds fans – and I know this for a fact – were sown long before the club’s dramatic fall from grace from 2004 onwards. For many, the last straw came with the ending of the “East Stand Bond” arrangement, whereby bond-holders, who had contributed £500 each to the construction of the Magnificent New East Stand, had their season tickets pegged at early-nineties prices, and adjusted only for inflation. When that deal ended, those bond holders faced a dramatic rise in the cost of their season tickets because, in the real world outside of the “bond bubble”, match-day and seasonal costs had risen so dramatically. Many were sickened by the sharp elevation in their football expenses, and disappeared off the club’s radar.

The reason for the sharp rise can be divined from a glance at the bottom line on a Premier League player’s wageslip – but as Hoeness said, there’s no real logic to it. Look at that quote again – a club can get a few million quid extra with higher prices – which amounts to a haggling point in one major transfer deal, at the cost of inflicting debt and misery on their loyal supporters. Where’s the sense, or indeed the justice, in that?

As in so many things since the end of the Second World War, Germany gets it right where we get it spectacularly wrong. It just keeps happening time and time again, in industry, culture, sport in general and football in particular – on and off the field. The difference in pricing policy between the two countries’ league structures is not down to Hoeness, of course. It’s a function of logic and common sense on the one side, as opposed to greed, short-sightedness and muddled thinking on the other. It’s just that Hoeness came up with that memorable quote, that devastating logic. You’d think that even a complete fool, a purblind ass, a clueless ditherer without the first idea of how to organise inebriation in a brewery, would be made to see sense by the sheer rightness of his summary.

And on that note, gentlemen of the Football League, the FA and the EPL – it’s over to you.

 

 

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23 responses to “£104 for a Standing Season Ticket at Leeds United? Ja, Danke! – by Rob Atkinson

  1. And you get free public transport to & from the ground with your ticket in Germany, that would save Leeds fans another £57.50 a season just on league games!

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  2. Unbelievable really.
    Puts this country’s economic practices into some perspective. But we already knew this…we’re not known as rip off Britain for nothing.
    I love leeds and would love to attend ER on a regular basis but costs around £150 a game (for me and the wife).
    But money is made of paper…so it grows on trees!

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  3. Mb.limburg@googlemail.com

    €12,50 for a ticket in the west corner standing area at FC Kaiserslautern. 2nd division in Germany, but it was the same a couple of years back in the Bundersliga. You can drink and smoke in this section of the stadium and the atmosphere is superb. You rightly suggest that match day income could be more than compensated for through sales of refreshments etc. however I have often waited 15 mins for a half time pint at ER, and that is with a half full stadium. Not only are prices cheaper in Germany, the atmosphere better but the facilities are second to none. This largely due in my experience to the stadia upgrade for the 06 World Cup. Unfortunately, no matter how well organised or how cheap it is over here (exiled since 7 years) it simply doesn’t cut it like a day at ER (plus they sing “you’ll never walk alone” before KO).

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  4. Murdoch ruined football in this country.

    Pre Murdoch, Leeds champions, lots of clubs in contention even the likes of Wednesday.

    Post murdoch, the manure win everything unless its someone with a wealthy backer like blackburn, chelsea and now man city

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  5. Rob, a few years ago Towcester racecourse experimented with having completely free admission to the course on race days. So successful was it that to this day it is still free to attend. They get so many more punters in, all spending money on food, drink, programmes etc that it far outweighs the income they’d get by charging for tickets. I believe that a more realistic pricing policy in football would be better for everyone. I’d love it if we would be brave enough to be the first to try it.

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  6. jamesnotfred

    In the late 80’s I frequented Hamburg. One boxing day morning I got taken down for a kick around in the gym at St Pauli. My friends didn’t let on some of there players were in attendance. The shock of that first tackle I received made me realise something odd was going on. I persisting in putting in the effort and was rewarded with a sublime goal. Funnily enough they all called me Gazza after that. This is the essense of the German football club. It is open to all. My team in Germany will allways be St Pauli since that day. They were open to all and gave me the feeling of being part of them. Where does this philosophy exist in England where they seem to be concentracting on getting money out of your pocket rather than trying to catch your soul. The English teams need to overhaul themselves.

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    • Brilliant story, that. I’ve never been to Germany but this kind of publicity makes me want to visit.

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    • St pauli are a bit of unique club, brown strip, left wing punk rock supporters, loads of community initiatives, trailblazers on anti racist and anti homophobic policies.

      rob I can highly recommend going to watch a German game, went over for the world cup, never felt so welcome, changed my opinion on the Germans. know a group of bradford fans who go over to watch 1860 every year since.

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      • I shall have to give it a whirl. I have an old Uni friend who’s lived over there for 23 years, so I might kill two birds with one stone and ask her to sort accommodation and tickets!

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  7. I can also recommend Germany to you Rob. I was there for around 3 months on business a few years back, staying close to Dresden. While I was there LUFC announced a pre-season friendly against Dynamo Dresden which would have taken place while I was there if it hadn’t been cancelled for some reason. Anyway, in what had become my local pub there, I met a group of lads who were Dynamo fans. When I told them I was a Leeds season ticket holder, I didn’t have to buy another beer all night! A great set of lads!

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  8. Yes it’s a great idea based on a sound economic model. Not so many years back the income at Newcastle was roughly 50/50 split between commercial revenue against Match day revenue. However, in recent years because of the rise in income from Sky, broadcasting rights, sponsorship etc etc the amount the club now needs in order perform relies far less on match day revenue. Most clear thinking Chief execs should see this as an opportunity to repay the fans loyalty. However, in all honesty, who can see this happening in this current footballing environment where profits and the bottom line are sometimes more important then where the club finishes in the league? This is the situation in the case of Newcastle United. I hope Massimo considers this for Leeds as you have been ripped off for years by the previous regime. If they’d have got their collective fingers out and secured commercial revenue streams instead of simply putting match day prices up then this could have/ should have been facilitated. Mike Ashley realised years ago that you can exploit the fans in much more effective ways than simply hiking up season ticket prices. He charges high prices to the people that can pay and low prices to those that can’t- a mirror image to how he runs Sports Direct. That way it keeps the revenue without stopping people coming back and keeps everyone more or less happy with how much they have to pay- now all we both need is a decent team!!! NUFC

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  9. Doesn’t matter how many times you re blog this rob it’s always right ,, when clubs are buying and selling for 5 , 10 , 30 or even 90 million how can they keep taking from the working man on 20 to 30 grand a year ,, makes me puke what they charge to get into a football game and leeds are amongst the worst for ripping punters off

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    • I really think that’s the message from Hoeness – gate receipts are shrinking as a proportion of total income – so why not ease the burden on the match-going fan and slap a premium on executive/corporate facilities, together with building up the commercial side? Oh, and a salary cap somewhere below the outrageously obscene would be good too.

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  10. Last Sat v Brum I got in to ER for £20 yet a (very cold)Tuesday night game in the middle of January v Bournemouth would have cost me £26! Who makes these decisions?

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    • Pallid little men in suits with badly-coded profit maximisation software. The beautiful game, right?

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    • And the attendance was 17000 v Bournemouth yorxman ,, what’s the point in that ,, I for one would have braved the cold if they would have let me and the lad come for a decent price

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  11. Joe Namath

    It wasn’t that cold. I wore a fleece under my overcoat and went in the Gelderd End for a change. I remember not feeling the cold at all. I took my hat off sporadically when it got on my nerves, and felt the cold briefly. Had I been forced to sit down however, I am sure I would have felt colder. But that’s a whole other argument. Some people wear hardly any clothes then complain about the cold…Why?

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  12. A couple of days ago i posted a comment regarding two cockney gobshite millwall supporters,(baker and liddle) and their crass remarks regarding the recent rothschild purchase-charlie hebdo. Well it turns out that convicted american paedophile and mate of prince andrew jeffrey epstein had a little black book of contacts. Lo and behold representing a strong bbc presence in this revolting mans book is mr danny baker as well as chris evans (scum fan). So all those times we’ve had the misfortune to hear baker crapping on about his holidays in florida,i wonder where he was staying? Both he and his fat spurs friend have enjoyed making snide digs at Leeds United down the years so perhaps we could all text,email or ring the porky chancer and ask him how he came to be friends with a zionist paedo? Don’t believe me? Look at the Aangirfan site. The names in epsteins black book are quite bizarre.MOT.

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  13. yes theres plenty to admire about the Germans when it comes to football. When you treat the fans right you get world class club teams (with healthy amount of home grown players) and you breed world champion national sides. Who will ever forget the total destruction of Brazil in the world cup, done with players mainly playing in Germany and playing a style of football that I doubt we will ever come close to.
    I would still love to know why the Bates/Harvey regime delibeartly dismantled Graysons side, ripped off the fans and indulged in insane building projects? But then..in Germany I suspect that lowlife like creatures like that would never be allowed to run a football club in the first place.
    Great beer and sausages as well!!

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  14. Agree with all your thought and sentiments but wanted to provide a bit of perspective from a Leeds fan across the pond. An average season ticket for my local (and pretty shite) NFL team is approximately one thousand pounds and this gets you into one preseason game and eight regular season games. Plus the atmosphere is so artificially plastic even compared to the sanitized “happy clappy” premier league.

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  15. Excellent and so true, Hoeness was spot on, no wonder the atmosphere is poor, and attendances are down in this country,ripped off working man as usual, they wouldn’t put up with it in Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain.Totally down trodden here. Power corruption and lies.

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    • Lennart Bjolger

      hm.Lets get the facts right.Attendances in Spain and Italy below the top 2-3 clubs, are pretty discouraging and in second division there is hardly any money at all.There is definitely a sense of crisis going on and many clubs struggle to pay wages on time.This is one reason why an increasing number of spanish and italian players opt to play in this country even in lower level clubs. Apart from that, the thread below made for good reading and as a side point- where does Germany stand on fit and proper? After all Ulli went to jail.

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