There are many reasons to temper the excitement at the news that up to 2000 fans will be allowed in the stadium next weekend when Chelsea take on Leeds United at Stamford Bridge, from the economical, to the logistical, to the still very real health and safety concerns as well.
But even if all those get satisfactorily addressed and at least mitigated to acceptable levels, we will still have Chelsea doubling down on those sour vibes, and setting the most expensive ticket prices throughout the Premier League for these tier-based exercises.
That’s only one of the complaints from the Chelsea Supporters Trust, but one that perhaps carries the most weight.
While the exact method of distribution (loterry, essentially) for such a limited number of tickets was always bound to displease many, setting prices at £75 for about 80 per cent of the available tickets (those in the West Stand Lower) and £35 for the 20 per cent in the Shed (with the actual total dependent on the number of hospitality tickets sold, which are included in the 2000 total) certainly rankled many.
It’s an extraordinary move from a club who have prided ourselves on freezing ticket prices for several years running.
One of the first lessons you learn in a basic economics class is that the combination of low supply and high demand for desirable and unique items — such as a limited number of tickets — will most likely drive prices through the (imaginary) roof. So one could argue that £75 is a price too low to charge for watching any Chelsea match, let alone a grudge match against Leeds United (case in point: all tickets for the Krasnodra match are just £35).
But such arguments would ignore that 1) clubs do not operate solely on the whims of the free market and 2) the pandemic has affected the ability of most potential “customers” to spend on non-essential items as their disposable income has dwindled or even disappeared. Chelsea are generating negligible income regardless of ticket price at just 2000 heads, so why price gauge?
Chelsea caved to similar fan pressure earlier in the calendar year, dropping FA Cup ticket prices to £30 after initially raising them due to the profile of the opposition (Liverpool) coming to town. And similarly, fan pressure played a huge role in the Premier League scrapping pay-per-view entirely (or at least for now and certainly in its current format).
We do not need to be reminded that Chelsea are a business, and as such, our main purpose is maximizing profit. But short-term gains can often represent long-term losses (both economic and PR-wise) in an industry where your “clients” are not just customers, but also assets and part of the club as a whole.