The best thing to happen in the world of football this week was Manchester City sending back 900 unsold tickets to Arsenal, it was a brilliant thing and credit to the City fans who would have travelled to The Emirates but on seeing the £62 ticket price refused. The media sat up and paid attention, granted some of them got the issue all wrong by talking about the price of football generally, but it made the news and this issue has to keep making the news for something to be done about it. The price of football generally isn’t the issue because most home fans have season tickets and you pay for your season ticket like you pay your car insurance or TV licence and the money goes to your club. The price of a pie is also irrelevant because if you can’t go 90 minutes without some dinner, that’s your problem, not football’s.
No, the specific issue is the treatment of away fans who are exploited and treated as a nuisance at too many grounds despite the fact that they are vital. If you have ever been to a match where there was no away support, for whatever reason, you will know the atmosphere is always funereal. Arsene Wenger can quack on about how his football club needs to charge what it does but the money coming in from away fans is at best tens of thousands and Arsenal are hauling in tens of millions.
It was £45 for Newcastle fans to get into Carrow Road on Saturday (with a £1 booking fee) and if, for the sake of argument, we say that is £10 too much and that there were 2,000 of us – Norwich fleeced us for £20,000 more than they should have done. To a Premier League club £20,000 is an irrelevant amount of money so there was no excuse for us to be charged that much.
No need to be charged that much for a game where nothing happened at all. I can’t remember going to a game where nothing happened at all before. Norwich hit the post, but Krul had it covered, the ball went near our goal after the ball bounced off the back of Grant Holt’s head and Obertan and Coloccini scooped a couple of shots over the bar but they were barely chances at all. Match of the Day would have been well within their rights not to show any of it. Gary Lineker could have said, “We are a highlights show – there were no highlights available, now here’s the League table.” Nobody would have complained.
Newcastle at Norwich is rarely a highlight of any season anyway; Newcastle haven’t won at Norwich since the 93/94 season when The Honourable Lord Beardsley and Andy Cole scored in a 2-1 win. A game where both sides were so intent on playing neat attacking football that there were, if memory serves, something like three fouls and five throw-ins in the entire game. I personally haven’t been since Mirandinha’s debut in 1987 which makes me feel very old. I met the guy who gave me a lift to that game for a pint on Saturday and he isn’t allowed to drink anymore for medical reasons which makes me feel very grateful.
So I say nothing happened and for most people who saw that game this is true. But for me it was magical; I haven’t seen Newcastle play live since the monumentally annoying 3-3 draw with West Brom at the end of the season before last. A year away travelling the world and now living in Norwich hasn’t stopped me seeing most of the games and nearly all the goals but being in with the tribe with all the sights and smells of Newcastle United was exhilarating. Yohan Cabaye came on and I felt, A, dizzy with joy and B. Sorry for Wifey who made a stand against the pricing by not going.
Better still I bumped into some lads I have known for years but haven’t seen for ages; fans who would still be on the long drive back to Newcastle long after I had gone to bed. These are the people the game has a duty to look after, not part-time Johnnies like me. So we need price capping on tickets for away fans and a cut-off point where games cannot be moved for television (pointless getting cut-price train fares if they’re going to be invalid by the time TV has its way). Thanks to the stand made by those Manchester City fans we are in a position to demand it now.