We, as Chelsea Football Club fans, are quite familiar with campaigns. Most of these involve some sort of (perceived) action or injustice against the club, our players, or our managers. So it's a welcome change of pace to get to talk a little bit about a campaign that's meant benefit us instead.
This weekend, fans from all Premier League and many Football League clubs (i.e. the top four tiers of English professional football) will unite in support of the The Football Supporters' Federation's (FSF) Twenty's Plenty campaign. This campaign's been around for over two years now, working to make and keep the game at the top level affordable, especially when it comes to traveling fans and the away support. It's part of the reason we're starting to see more teams, including Chelsea, subsidize away travel or ticket prices, for example. But progress has been slow, considering that the campaign's intended outcome, as the name implies, is to cap away ticket prices at £20. The Premier League remains the most expensive fan experience anywhere in Europe.
"Away fans are a vital part of the football culture in England and Wales - this weekend supporters will stand together against high prices. We have a great tradition of following our teams away from home with quite possibly the highest number of travelling fans in the world. This should not be endangered by high ticket prices."
"The timing is crucial as, in the coming weeks, top-flight clubs have a choice to make as they carve up the latest multi-billion pound media deal. Money has been pouring into the top of the game for the last two decades benefitting players, agents and owners - it's time fans felt the benefit of this too through cheaper tickets."
"It's not just in the Premier League that we see high prices, many Football League fixtures can be very expensive too. Some could carry a cost of £50+ for away fans, an extraordinary amount of money. We want to see more clubs follow the example set by Coventry City, who have committed to charging no away fan more than £20."
-Kevin Miles, FSF chief execetive; source: FSF
The protest will take the form of banners and chants, exactly as it has before at various grounds over the last couple years. Man City fans protesting about having to pay £62 to see their team at Arsenal comes to mind. This will be the first coordinated effort between supporters of various clubs however.
That said, other than acquiescing to supporters' pressure out of good will, the Premier League doesn't have much incentive to change. Stadiums are 95% sold out, the product on offer is fantastic, TV revenues keep piling up, world-wide audiences are increasing by the day.
"Keeping the grounds full is the No.1 priority for Premier League clubs, all of which have a variety of offers available throughout the season which make attending matches an option for a wide range of people."
"With stadium occupancy across the League at 95.9 per cent for the last two seasons in a row, and in excess of 90 per cent for the last 18 years, the fans are clearly enjoying the football, and standard of facilities, on offer."
-Premier League statement; source: Mirror
Will be interesting to see if this weekend's league-wide protests have any tangible effect. Sure, a full-on boycott would certainly speak louder, but there's no need for such drastic measures just yet. Hopefully we continue to see progress in this regard, and other teams follow the examples of Stoke City and Newcastle, who agreed to not charge more than £20 in their two matches against each other for the second straight season, or Swansea City who have capped away ticket prices at £22 in an initiative dubbed True to 22.
Having the outspoken support of people like West Ham manager Slaven Bilic should help, too.
"Football is not golf or polo for VIPs, for the elite. Football is the people's sport, it is a sport for the masses. It shouldn't be a privilege to be able to go by yourself, with your mates, your girlfriend, your wife or kids to a football game. It should be there for everybody."
"On the other hand you have the clubs and teams who are building new stadiums. They invest big money in those great stadiums, they want money back and put the ticket prices up."
"For me they should find a balance because the fans are very important for this sport. You see fans in every sport but football games are not just about the quality of the game, they are about the atmosphere at the ground - and that is created by the fans. So you need fans. Without the fans, it's useless. It shouldn't be a privilege for some people to take their kids - everybody should be able to do that."
-Slaven Bilic; source: KUMB
I don't think any fan will disagree with that.