Even tickets for children cost between £50 and £70, a gross PR misstep amid a tight cost of living
Three years later, Fulham fans are fighting the same battle. In March, season ticket prices were announced at their newly refurbished Riverside stand, with £1,000 for an adult making the headlines; Supporter confidence was understandably alarmed.
“Fulham’s ticket pricing strategy is idiotic, short-sighted and shameful” was our headline in March 2019 after a 2-0 home loss to Manchester City. Before and during that game, volunteers supporting Fulham distributed flyers protesting their club’s inflated ticket prices. “Stop the greed” was their simple message.
Another blow last week: for the Liverpool game on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, the cheapest adult ticket outside the family section is £65. Some standard adult tickets cost £100.
There’s more devil in the details. Over 65s, many of whom have been frequenting Craven Cottage for many decades, only get a £5 discount off the full adult price – except at Riverside where they have to pay the full £100. Children, who often get at least 50 per cent off match tickets at other clubs, can get admission into the stands at Riverside, Putney and Johnny Haynes for between £50 and £70.
The most nonsensical aspect of the pricing strategy is that it offers little immediate financial gain for overwhelmingly bad PR. For hypothesis purposes, let’s assume that Fulham provide 10,000 tickets to each of their 19 home league games. Reducing the cost of those tickets by £20 each would cost the club £3.8m a year. Last season, the team, which finished 18th in the Premier League, received around £105m in broadcast revenue.
After hearing criticism of ticket prices in 2019 and again in March, we have to assume this is a deliberate strategy. Perhaps Fulham will take a cue from its geography and social demographics and brand itself as the top tier club in English football. Order two tons of Marie Rose sauce and all the shrimp you can buy. Start building the Dom Perignon bar. This is English football, with smoothed corners.
There is no big secret here. When you’re charging that much for tickets, you’re pricing out a large segment of your traditional fan base, including the potential next generation of Fulham fans. You intentionally attract the tourists, the one-offs, and the fair-weather riders.
They choose to prioritize matchday revenue over the atmosphere and connection between the club and its community.
All of which would be a little easier for existing supporters to take if they weren’t constantly being told how much those in charge care about them. In May 2020, owner Shahid Khan wrote a statement praising fans for their community spirit coming together amid the pandemic and having the gall to promise there would be “no loss in terms of family, tradition and faith who.” Signatures are Fulham Football Club’. The foot soldiers of this tradition may now have to stay at home.
Fulham have always been a quaint family club – their club website features the slogan ‘London’s Original Football Club’ – and with good reason. You’ll forgive the somewhat shabby wooden seats because you came here to see them. They’re a part of Fulham, like Haynes, Hill, Robson and Stock and everyone who watched them. We all know they will one day go, sucked in the name of progress, and with them a part of what makes Fulham Fulham. Backers will regret it, but they will also understand.
But they fail to understand why change must bring such greed. At a time when energy prices are soaring and disposable incomes are falling, when loyal fans need their clubs back to distract them from the grind, Fulham have taken a different step. The tickets will of course be sold. But has Fulham’s identity been put up for sale with them?