Virgin Media are in the middle of an advertising blitz, promoting their ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ offering with The Football Supporters Federation. The first thing you’d think about such a campaign is ‘everyone’s a winner’, right? Well, no. And this is why:
First things first: I think the campaign to reduce the price of tickets is absolutely bang-on. For years The Premier League talked about ‘stretch pricing’ (having different levels of pricing all over the stadium – pushing up prices in some areas, using them to offset prices in others) – a way of avoiding the real issue, which was that tickets were too expensive full stop, especially given that amount of money clubs were receiving from broadcasting rights was hitting around £8bn for three years. It was also an issue that groups like MUST and SOS were beginning to organise on themselves, and so in terms of responsiveness, it’s good that the FSF has gone big on it. And great that a commercial partner has made this possible. The fact it’s Virgin Media is even better: they have just about enough of the right brand chutzpah to pull of backing a campaign like this. But…
Source: BBC Price of Football Survey 2016
The problem is The EFL. As a division, the Championship is basically half a division of ex/wannabe Premier League clubs, with the rest trying to keep up, or keep their heads above water. That means that the money isn’t anything like as even as in the PL: Some clubs receive multi-millions from PL parachute payments; another group have additional money from their owners/investors; whilst the rest try their best with the money they earn themselves, or get from the EFL (80% of the income received by the League – about £6m a season). When you finally get to League Two, you might say that cutting an average £1.80 off a ticket should be easy, but tell that to the manager, whose budget would be very likely hit. And that does matter, because a football club’s first team and its performance on the pitch, week-in-week-out, matters: it’s what all the other activity relies upon, when push comes to shove.
We should all stand back and be thankful that a national campaign like Twenty’s Plenty has hit the headlines, and that supporters are benefiting. It’s to be applauded.
But the elephant in the room is the price of football across the EFL, and crucially, the reasons for it. That can’t be easily addressed with a relatively short-term sponsorship deal. For these clubs, Twenty isn’t Plenty.