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On the last day of the season and front of a capacity crowd at Loftus Road, Queens Park Rangers played their last Championship match of the season against Leeds United. The match was covered by the cameras of the BBC, who had already, for the last episiode of “The Football League Show” of the season, been hanging around the main entrance to the ground on South Africa Road (one of the more confusing aspects of the club’s idiosyncratic ground) as the FA’s decision that the club were not to be deducted any points over the Faurlin affair was announced, a decision made just in time to leave those that had assembled there in paryoxyms of delight at the club’s return to the Premier League after an absence of fifteen years.
Some of them may this evening be wondering what they got so worked up about, after the announcement made earlier today of the club’s tickets prices for its first season back at what is, for better or for worse, football’s top table. Individual tickets for Loftus Road will cost beween £47 and £72, whilst season ticket prices have been raised by a jaw-dropping 40%, even though the club will play four less home matches next season than it did this time around. There have been understandable howls of outrage from supporters of the club over an announcement, which threatens to much of the feelgood aroma that has been wafting around it since the FA decided that a fine would suffice for its wrong-doings.
The obscenity of these price rises becomes plain when we pause to consider who the owners of the club are. Lakshmi Mittal is the richest man in Britain and the second richest man in Europe. He is said to be worth around £21bn. Bernie Ecclestone is said to be worth – depending on who you believe – between £1.5bn and £2.5bn. Flavio Briatore resigned his chairmanship of the club at the start of 2010, but retains his share-holding. He is said to be worth over £150m. No-one would suggest for a moment that anyone should necessarily fund losses that Queens Park Rangers or at any other football club may incur during their time in the Premier League. The club will, however, benefit from the voluptuous television money that comes from joining the Premier League, as well as, it seems reasonable to presume, increased sponsorship and commercial revenue from being there.
So, what is the justification for the price rises? Predictably enough, the club’s official defence of the decision, which read that the club, “…is keen to stress that the prices are in line with other London-based Premier League Clubs, and are encouraged by early sales figures following the release of season tickets earlier on Tuesday”, which could lead us to one obvious, if unappealing conclusion: because they can. The current capacity of the ground is 18,360. If supporters of the club are priced out by the increases – which they surely will be – or refuses to pay this level of price out of principle – which some may – the club may well merely work to the assumption that someone else will fill those spaces and carry on as normal. This, perhaps, is what has happened to football over the last couple of decades personified in one club. Very few people shed many tears for those that have been priced out of the game since the cost of tickets started to spiral out of control, yet millions have been.
Even if we set aside moral considerations, Queens Park Rangers have already been hit on an altogether more practical level. Vice-chairman Amit Bhatia, the son-in-law of Lakshmi Mittal, resigned earlier today, stating that, “it is clear to me from recent board meetings that my vision, strategy and direction for the club is very different from that of the other shareholders and board members”, and that, “the recent decisions to sack club CEO and Chairman Ishan Saksena and significantly increase season ticket prices are just two of the decisions I disagree with”. Bhatia has reportedly failed to agree terms with Ecclestone and Briatore to buy the club out and this may or may not have more to do with his resignation, but that he should mention it all when his family will be holding onto its share in the club is telling, to say the least.
Even if we cast moral considerations aside, there are practical concerns over raising ticket prices by this much upon promotion to the Premier League. QPR may last one season in the Premier League, they may last two, three or five. It would be foolish, however, to hold the opinion that they are likely to become perpetual members of it. Will ticket prices be reduced by the same amounts that they have increased if or when the club is relegated again? Even if they are, the club may find that they need the supporters that they are pricing out and angering right now in a year, two years or five years time, and those people might well have found something better to do with their Saturday afternoons by the time the club needs them again. Such short-termism – some might call it profiteering – is unsurprising, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing for being so.
Meanwhile, today saw the public release of the FA’s report into the Alejandro Faurlin affair. It makes for interesting reading, and it all adds to a sense of unease around the club that can only grow with the sort of decision that they have made over this ticketing policy. Flavio Briatore made his desire to turn QPR into a “boutique” club no secret, and this pricing strategy, with all the exclusion that it carries, puts right into that category. Perhaps it would be wise just to keep our fingers crossed that the club will be okay in the medium to long-term. Somebody has to, after all, and decisions like this add to the lingering suspicion that the owners couldn’t give a damn about the supporters. This summer, which should really be one for celebration for them, feels as if it is starting to turn sour already.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
fans raped again by their club
Q-P-ha-ha-ha-har! They’ll be lucky to get 25pts. Fuck the Prem, Championships where we belong…end of. MOT, We are Leeds, we know our limits
Well put Ian–QPR will need those supporters they have priced out or angered by this decision over time. It seems they have put form to the saying “bite the hand that feeds you.”
Am I the only person who thinks the verb “raped” as used by David 2304 is not the most appropriate here? Every sympathy with QPR fans but being priced out of the match is not the same as being forced to have sex against your will…
Trueyorxman, if there is anything which makes me feel embarrassed about being a Yorkshire man and a Leeds supporter, it’s comments like yours. Perhaps you should change your name to ‘Truefool’. (It’s easier to spell than Yorkshire man and no-one would know where you’re from),
@Johnny C – Well, there are different degrees of rape, you see…
At least QPR fans are getting ’boutique’ football for their money under Mr Warnock…oh.
Owners don’t care who is in the crowd. Just look at Chelsea, Arsenal & Man U – half of their grounds are filled with Chinese tourists. Do you think any of these guys made their money because they care? Just boo them when they take their seats for the opening game.
johnny c if you dont like it let me know when youre in leeds. f****d against your will equaals rape sonny. wets like you ruin football
Just for the record, sound minded Leeds fans do exist. I sympathise with QPR fans, the latest in a long line of loyal supporters shown minimal respect by their clubs ownwers. Leeds fans take note!!I quite fancy QPR to survive in the prem. Good footballing side with promising players a good manager and team spirit. Best of luck to you.
Loyalty in football is very much a one way street. Fans show it clubs do not. When I began to watch in the 60’s football was a game for the working man (or woman). Now unfortunately it’s a commodity to be exploited, like any other, by the greedy and the corrupt. Best wishes to the genuine QPR fans, hope you get your club back soon MOT.
I am afraid to comment for fear of being cast as a smug AFC Wimbledon fan who will be paying the same next season as this season.
Protest, kick up a stink. Just don’t take it lying down.
I sympathise will all football fans who are being ‘fleece’ by unscrupulous owners, in this case QPR. The main benefit to fans of being in the Premiership is that you will be able to see your favourite team on TV a lot more, so make a stand, choose your games and if necessary stay at home and flatly refuse to pay these ridiculously inflated prices.
I also know as a Leeds fan, that we can expect exactly the same treatment on price increases if we are successful in gaining promotion to the Premership.
Was david2304 just threatening to rape johnny c there?
It’s always the angry ones…
Despite the vast increase in TV money, the clubs joining the Premier League haven’t had the benefit of it for the last n years and they also don’t get it straight away. The basic fund is paid in three instalments over the season, the facility fund as the club appears on TV (presumably paid in arrears as well) and the prize money at the end of the season when places are worked out. Usually the club will be scraping the bottom of the coffers but be expected to pay outrageous transfer fees. The only potential source of income to tap is the season ticket holders. For QPR it’s more extreme than most because the ground is so small.
If they don’t start paying out stupid transfer fees, numerous fans will accuse the board of a lack of ambition and refuse to renew. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Am I the only one who is struggling to understand the attention QPR ticket prices are getting? I’d just like to point out that the cheapest season ticket at QPR next season will be £549. The cheapest at Leeds is £612! Why is everyone moaning about QPR? Try paying more having to watch Barnsley on a cold, wet October eve! STOP MOANING!! MOT
So, just because you’re being ripped off by Bates (no surprise there then), it’s OK for QPR fans to get ripped off by their board too?
And, as you’re “struggling to understand” the attention, it’s because they’ve hiked prices by 40%, an attention-grabbing figure in anyone’s estimate. And in doing so, have priced out many of the loyal fans who’ve stuck with them throughout the lean years in favour (they hope) of fly-by-night, but well-heeled, fashion fans who’ll drop the club like a hot potato as soon as times get tough again. Which part of that did you struggle with?
Yeah, you’re probably right, QPR probably need a few minutes in the spot light. I forget other fans aren’t as devoted to their club as Leeds supporters. I didn’t think you could put a price on loyalty and passion, but here we are….
Wow, that’s some real hardcore smugness you’ve got going on there. No wonder Leeds are so universally well-liked