Is the Europa League priced too high at Anfield?

By Andy Hayes on Feb 19, 10 07:24 PM in Fans

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As supporters hurried to get out of Block 205 after the final whistle last night, there was a constant grumbling amongst the departing Kopites. Spirits were unsurprisingly not high, as the reality of being in Europe's secondary competition really hit home after an uninspiring narrow victory over Romanian champions Unirea Urziceni.

'Aquilani's not worth £20 million', 'one up front against ten defenders is ridiculous' and 'Pacheco is better than N'gog' were all rash yet understandable analysis of the frustrated faithful, but one common theme stood out more than the others - the price people had paid to watch that game.

The price of watching football at the top level is well documented to be an expensive hobby, and paying £32.00 to watch Liverpool play a team of virtual unknowns does seem a bit steep, but is it too much?

Now we have all sat within ear shot of some 'diehard red' who starts letting everyone else know 70 minutes into a draw how much money they have spent and usually how far they've travelled to watch this rubbish, but yesterday it was Scousers, Kop End regulars who thought they had forked out too much.

When Spirit of Shankly recently asked commercial director Ian Ayre about how the club can justify the prices for the Europa League, they were told "the club decides on ticket pricing based on anticipated demand. The club has to make this decision and submit pricing to UEFA immediately after the draw for approval. This is the price that the club believes is fair for this fixture of the competition."

Is it fair? Fulham, who last night played holders Shakhtar Donetsk, charged £20.00 for an adult ticket. If a season ticket holder at Everton bought a ticket within a certain period for their tie with 2005 finalists Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday, it was £21.00, and a fiver more for non- season ticket holders.

It is only reasonable that Liverpool charge more than the likes of Fulham and Everton, you wouldn't expect anything different in terms of quality of player on show and chance of success in the competition. Obviously the demand for tickets is higher, but maybe the price shouldn't be different by such a margin. Many fans take partners and children with them; it really does start to add up.

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Comparisons to this time last year were probably made by every Liverpool fan this week when Real Madrid were battered. Although Madrid came to Anfield in the second leg of the first knock out stage, it is important to remember the price it cost - £36.00.

For those who aren't mathematicians that is just four pound difference between watching a Champions League game between two of the European Cups most successful sides and watching last nights attack versus defence of well knowns against unknowns in a consolation competition.

Where's the value in that? Well, to be fair to the club, £36.00 is good value for Liverpool v Real Madrid at Anfield because even if they charged £50.00 per ticket, they would no doubt sell out. Memories of Torres and Gerrard outwitting Cannavaro and forcing Casillas into world class saves linger long in the mind. That is the absolute peak of professional football, anything paid is worth it, so what was paid for what was got was quite a steal.

Although it's not much in time, the level between that occasion and the Unirea clash is at total opposite ends of the European football spectrum. Manchester United have a policy where they charge more with every round progressed to. Would this be a better route for the club to take? It's difficult to decide, particularly at a point where we are playing less mouth watering games.

Regardless of the performance and the spectacle as a whole last night - it was poor - £32.00 is too much, if only taking opposition and competition into consideration. If, however, the price remains the same for a potential semi final clash with Juventus or Valencia then there won't be too many complaints from the terraces.

Over the past few seasons, Liverpool have proved exceptional value in Europe, so football fans must do what football fans do and take the rough with the smooth.

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