Top of the Month (February 2016): Liverpool FC reverses decision to raise ticket prices

Liverpool Football Club has effectively been owned by Americans for a decade and frequently these US 'franchise holders' have been locked in a bitter battle with the famous club's loyal local fanbase.

And yet in early February a remarkable thing happened. Outraged by LFC owner Fenway Sports Group’s (FSG) announcement that ticket prices would be hiked as high as £77 next season, 10,000 fans marched out of the stadium in the 77th minute of a home match on 6 February.

The anger had been exacerbated by the fact that Premier League clubs have received a massive windfall in revenues, thanks to their most recent broadcast rights deal.

Faced with such protests in the past many millionaire bosses of football clubs have stood firm, quite prepared to face down angry fans, who tend to be viewed (wrongly) as simply ‘customers of the franchise’. 

But on this occasion, FSG was smart enough to listen to the fans’ protest – along with criticism from many other pundits and media commentators who slammed the ‘greed’ of these newly enriched clubs – and performed an abrupt U-turn. Indeed FSG wrote an open letter to fans; apologising, and announcing that ticket prices would be frozen for next season.

Unusually, it was a prompt and unequivocal climbdown. The three bosses of FSG, who personally signed the letter, admitted they had made a mistake – a rare moment of humility and willingness to listen to the stakeholders that underpin the club. Even better, other sports clubs will have taken note and hopefully adjusted their own approach on this vital reputational issue.

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