Liverpool owners make apology/warning about ticket price proposal

Responding swiftly to the protests of their club’s supporters over a proposed ticket price increase, Liverpool’s owners have released an apology letter that backtracks from the unpopular price hike.

Here it is in full…

Dear Liverpool supporters,

It has been a tumultuous week. On behalf of everyone at Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool Football Club, we would like to apologise for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016-17 season.

The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense. Quite the opposite is true.

From our first days as owners we have understood that serving as custodians of this incredible institution is a distinct privilege and as such, we have been driven solely by the desire to return LFC to the pinnacle of football. In the world of modern football, growing the club in a sustainable way is essential to realising this objective.

To that end, we have never taken a single penny out of the football club. Instead we have injected vast sums of our own money to improve the playing squad and modernise LFC’s infrastructure – exemplified by the £120million advance from FSG to build the new Main Stand. This massive undertaking was made in order to provide more supporters access to Anfield and also to produce additional revenue to help us compete financially with clubs that have greater resources. When it opens in August this year, the stand will accomplish those goals, thereby fulfilling a promise we made upon acquiring LFC in 2010.

We were strongly engaged in the process to develop the ticketing plan for 2016-17. We met directly with representatives of LFC’s Supporters’ Committee and along with LFC management, wholeheartedly agreed with major concerns raised, notably: access for local and young supporters; engagement and access to Anfield for local children; access to Premier League matches for those in Liverpool most challenged by affordability.   

We believe the plan successfully addressed these concerns and are disappointed that these elements have been either lost or, worse, characterised as cynical attempts to mask profiteering in the plan as a whole. Rather, we prefer to look at them as the parts of the ticketing plan we got right. 

On the other hand, part of the ticketing plan we got wrong.

In addition to the other elements of the plan we proposed price increases on a number of tickets. These pricing actions generated growth in general admission ticketing revenue on a like-for-like basis exclusive of revenue from newly-added GA seats. 

We believed by delivering a vastly improved seat offering in what will be the newest stand in English football, concentrating the price increases on those tickets typically purchased by fans least sensitive to affordability, and for LFC to begin repaying the £120million advance from FSG for the new Main Stand that these increases were supportable even in the context of growth in revenues from the new Premier League TV deal.

However, the widespread opposition to this element of the plan has made it clear that we were mistaken.

A great many of you have objected strongly to the £77 price level of our most expensive GA seats and expressed a clear expectation that the club should forego any increased revenue from raising prices on GA tickets in the current environment. 

Message received.

After an intense period of consultation with LFC management we have decided to make major revisions to our ticketing structure for 2016-17:

  • Removal of game categorisation – regardless of the opposition fans will pay the same price for matchday tickets.
  • The pricing of tickets will be readjusted to result in zero revenue growth from GA ticketing on a like-for-like basis.
  • Though individual ticket prices may move marginally from this season, we are freezing our 2016-17 GA ticket revenue at the 2015-16 level exclusive of newly-added seats in the new Main Stand.
  • The price of our highest general admission ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level – £59.
  • The price of our highest season ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level – £869. The lowest price reducing a further £25 from the 2015-16 level to £685, as well as all other tiers being frozen or reduced.
  • £9 GA seats will be offered for each and every Premier League match, an allocation of more than 10,000 tickets across the season.

We would hasten to add that the other initiatives announced last week in the 2016-17 plan will remain:

  • 17-21 young adult concession – 20,000 tickets across the Premier League season available at a 50 per cent reduction for young people.
  • 1,000 tickets to Premier League matches across the season will be given away free of charge to Liverpool schoolchildren based on merit, as recommended by their teachers.

As a sign of our commitment to this improved ticketing structure, we are further announcing that this plan shall be in effect for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. For the next two seasons, LFC will not earn a single additional pound from increasing general admission ticket prices.

We believe we have demonstrated a willingness to listen carefully, reconsider our position, and act decisively. The unique and sacred relationship between Liverpool Football Club and its supporters has always been foremost in our minds. It represents the heartbeat of this extraordinary football club. 

More than any other factor by far, that bond is what drives us to work tirelessly on behalf of the club and its future. We have great conviction in our world-class manager and our young, talented squad and know that in time the on-pitch success we all crave will be realised. 

We look forward to sharing in that success with you.

John W Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon

The apology and recognition that they’ve done something to upset supporters is certainly refreshing, but mixed in with the contrition and desire to rectify the situation is what seems like a warning. Or maybe even a threat.

After disputing the accusations of greed and profiteering, the trio point out the huge sums of money they’ve invested in building the new stand that was going to house higher priced seats and signing the overpriced players requested by the club’s transfer committee (not to mention an expensive new manager). Then I counted six instances when the letter mentions abandoning revenue growth — money posed as necessary to get Liverpool back on top — to placate the fans. Six.

It’s as if they’re saying “Don’t come crying to us when we say we don’t have the revenue to put towards new signing this summer” and “We’re sorry we thought you wanted to be higher than ninth in the table.”

Of course, shelling out big money for new signings hasn’t exactly worked out for Liverpool in recent years, so maybe tighter purse strings will force them to find hidden gems rather than overpaying for mediocrity.

Still, the true message of this letter seems to be laying the groundwork for a “We told ya so” if/when fans complain about the club’s inability to challenge for titles while also developing their ground.

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