Liverpool intend to formulate a long-term ticket pricing strategy informed by supporters, with the process beginning at a fans forum that took place on Wednesday December 13.
The first meeting of the ticket pricing structure fans forum happened ahead of Liverpool’s home fixture against West Bromwich Albion, with supporters and senior club officials discussing a range of issues relating to ticket prices.
The key outcome was a commitment by all involved to continue contributing to a discourse that will see a range of pricing issues come under consideration in future meetings, with the next set to take place early in the New Year - ahead of the release of ticket prices for the 2018-19 season.
At the outset, Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore welcomed everyone to the forum and stressed how pleased he was that the new forums were being established, saying he hoped it would result in, “a process that everyone could be happy with.”
Citing his previous roles at Reebok, Microsoft, and more recently EA, Moore said he was familiar with developing products that maximised revenue which in turn is reinvested into research and developing new products.
He also outlined his belief that, in this respect, the squad at Liverpool is our product and the club is working hard on and off the pitch to maximise revenue opportunities that will be reinvested back into the squad.
The supporters on the forum made it clear that they don’t see support as a product, as they are not consumers - they support LFC regardless - and do not see it as transactional.
Described as “the start of a journey” by forum member Graham Smith, there was, nevertheless, an initial focus on the short term with the same forum member asking whether or not the club had set its budget for next season and whether ticket prices had also been set.
Billy Hogan, Liverpool’s managing director and chief commercial officer, confirmed that the club has not yet set its budget, stressing that the input from the ticket pricing forum would be taken into account before that process is complete, a clarification that the forum members welcomed, viewing such consultation as a necessity.
Beforehand, Billy Hogan presented the club’s position on ticket revenues to the 10 forum members present. He said: “Ticket pricing impacts overall club revenue and our goal on the commercial side is to drive as much revenue as possible in order to provide the resources for Jürgen Klopp and Michael Edwards to reinvest in the football side. This is all geared towards winning, which is what everyone wants.
“The reality at Liverpool is that demand for tickets exceeds supply. That creates its own question of how we should price tickets but we have never gone down that route. We have tried to strike a balance, looking at what people can afford to pay at the lower end and what people can afford to pay at the higher end.
“But we also want to compete and, in the case of this forum, I think that means looking at ways that we can collaboratively drive revenue while also addressing some of the issues that we are all aware of.”
The pricing forum members made it clear to the club management at the meeting that their aim was to see a real reduction in ticket prices allied with a gentle bias in favour of young, local supporters. James McKenna, the Supporters Trust/Spirit Of Shankly delegate, asked if the club would be willing to accept a reduction in revenue in order to facilitate a reduction in ticket prices.
Billy Hogan responded that such a scenario was not on the table, adding: “At some point, there has to be more revenue from ticketing, however that comes. The price of everything in football is going up so we have to look at all areas of revenue to continue to compete, but in case of ticketing the goal is to work together with this group collaboratively to find ways to address the issue and any increase does not necessarily need to come from general admission tickets.”
Phil Dutton, Liverpool’s head of ticketing and hospitality, suggested that one way forward would be for the club to become more creative in the way that it structures pricing. “Nothing should be off the table today in terms of ideas and we will see what we can agree on,” he said. “If people can pay to get into the game, they should. But by the same token, if people are struggling, we should look at what we can do. If that means giving consideration to stretching the pricing structure we should do that.”
Graham Smith then asked if the club had any plans to extend the £9 local fans initiative, which currently results in 500 tickets being made available for that scheme on each matchday. Phil Dutton responded by saying that the immediate priority with that particular initiative is to ensure that those tickets are “getting into the right hands.”
James McKenna said: “We know this can’t be done overnight. It is a long-term project with lots of issues that need to be addressed, none more so than getting more young people into the ground and that comes down to affordability.”
Supporting that point, forum member Paul Jones pointed out that it would cost him £118 if he signed up to the Auto Cup ticket scheme to take his nine-year-old son to a Champions League fixture at Anfield - a cost that he felt was excessive for a father and child - and he gives up his seat as a result, choosing to move to the adult and child section instead.
Other forum members also put forward the case for doing more to assist younger supporters with Harinder Singh, Joe Blott, Sarah Dowling, Jacob Jones, Jack Wycherley, Robert Bedson and Steven Davies all highlighting some of the issues that they feel younger fans face when it comes to ticket pricing.
Joe Blott said: “We have to take a long-term view that acknowledges that this is a business but which also acknowledges - and this is absolutely crucial - that people, especially young people, are being priced out. If we lose that generation of supporters we may never get them back.”
Jack Wycherley argued that one of the issues that needs to be addressed as a priority is the current situation which sees a limit placed on the number of children’s tickets that are available for each home game. Phil Dutton accepted that point but insisted a solution is not straightforward due to two significant factors: “revenue and the reluctance of supporters to give up their seats to allow more children and young people to come to games.”
Billy Hogan added: “We agree 100 per cent with getting more kids and young adults into the matches but it’s about where those tickets come from. One example is we could take seats out of the Members' sale and ring-fence them for younger supporters but how would the Members react to that?” Jack Wycherley maintained that as a Member he would be comfortable with such a development, even if it impacted negatively on himself.
James McKenna asked whether the club would consider attracting a partner to subsidise ticket prices. He said: “Revenue streams are up and we aren’t saying that is a bad thing in itself but give us a bit back. We have commercial arrangements with a number of businesses and they are called partners but we are described as customers. Where is our stake in this? For me, the solution is that we can’t pay more for tickets but we can help to drive revenues.”
Concluding the meeting, Billy Hogan welcomed all of the contributions and reiterated the club’s willingness to listen to all views. He also indicated that the next ticket pricing forum needs to take place at the earliest possible opportunity in the New Year in order to look more closely at some of the proposals and ideas and to further inform the budget setting process for next season.
“This was another positive forum in which several issues were discussed in a challenging but constructive atmosphere,” said Tony Barrett, Liverpool’s head of club and supporter liaison. “While there may not have been a consensus on all matters, there was a clear commitment from all involved to continue working together in the best interests of the club and its supporters.
“That bodes well for the future and, although there were no immediate solutions to the challenges faced, the frankness and thoughtfulness of the discussion ensure the ticket pricing structure fans forum got off to a good start. It is now crucial that this particular forum reconvenes in January prior to the club setting its budget for the 2018-19 season.”