HULL CITY vice-chairman Ehab Allam last night described the Premier League’s new cap on away ticket prices as “politically motivated”, “short-sighted” and a potential boon for the black market.
The Premier League have announced that away supporters will pay a maximum £30 per game for the next three seasons.
All 20 top-flight clubs voted in favour of the scheme, which follows years of lobbying and protests by supporters’ groups. Next term will see the new three-year TV deal worth £8bn kick in.
Promotion-chasing Hull hope to be back among the elite next August but the East Riding club’s vice-chairman believes the new pricing scheme is a step in the wrong direction.
Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Allam said: “I can only foresee problems with a price cap, which goes completely against what a Premier League commissioned report suggested just a couple of years ago.
“The report looked into why the numbers of away fans were dropping away and it highlighted the way they were treated as the major factor.
“That, plus how facilities were poor, especially in comparison to those afforded home supporters. The report went on to specifically say it wasn’t about pricing.
“I see the price cap as short-sighted, politically-motivated and not in the interests of football. Politics, such as when a Government working group recently pushed fan ownership, should not be mixed with football at this level.
“What will happen next? The black market will flourish. At £30 per ticket, most clubs are going to be over-subscribed when it comes to fans applying for tickets.
“That will lead to an allocation process having to be set up. Or, for some of the big clubs, extended even further.
“That, in the long run, is likely to see some fans having to pay more than they pay at present under market forces because, after missing out in a ballot or similar, they will look to the black market.
“As a football club, why should we sell a ticket to someone for £30 and they then sell it on for £50 or £60? That can’t be right.
“Just as an example, when we played Liverpool last season we received complaints from Liverpool fans saying they couldn’t buy tickets because their fellow fans had bought tickets – many at concession prices – with the intention of boycotting the game (as part of a planned protest against pricing).
“That meant fans who legitimately wanted to watch the game could not do so, despite there being empty seats.”
Hull’s last season in the Premier League saw away fans charged different prices, dependent on the category of opposition.
Category A applied to the big clubs such as Arsenal and Manchester United, with adult ticket prices set at £50. Category B (such as Everton) saw fans pay £35 and Category C (Stoke, Burnley) £16.
City’s average attendance for 2014-15 was 23,557, a 94.5 per cent take-up of the 24,917 capacity for football fixtures at the KC Stadium once segregation has been taken into account.
Allam added: “This is all very, very short-sighted and counter-productive to what was trying to be achieved on the back of the Premier League report.
“Last season, the ‘Away Supporters’ Initiative’ saw clubs handed £200,000. Some opted to use it to subsidise away travel or take £5 off ticket prices, whereas we decided the money was best spent on improving the visiting fans’ match-day experience.
“We spent money on facilities, improved the stewarding and even bought shirts of the away team for our staff to wear to make our stadium more welcoming for the visitors.
“We also improved the matchday experience for away fans by bringing an ex-player from the visiting club to appear on the pitch at half-time and also tour the lounges.
“Because of this, we were voted the best away stadium in the Premier League last season. We were also top of the Trip Advisor ratings for best stadium to visit in the Premier League.”
The Premier League’s decision to cap away ticket prices has been broadly welcomed, most notably by supporters and the groups that had been pushing for change.
Allam, however, believes the best way forward would have been to encourage clubs to get things right in terms of both pricing and ensuring fans feel welcome.
The Tigers vice-chairman said: “Clubs should be encouraged – by a penalty system – to ensure crowds are close to capacity.
“If, for instance, a game is not televised and played at 3pm on a Saturday then the attendance should be at least 90 per cent of capacity, maybe 95 per cent. Anything less and the club will be penalised financially.
“Televised games or games in midweek would have a lower threshold, but the same principle with a penalty imposed.
“That would encourage clubs to improve their marketing, pricing structure and the standard of facilities. Get these right and supporters – both home and away –will want to come along.
“At Hull, it would put the onus on us to get things exactly right. If the prices were too high, we could miss the 90 per cent threshold. For me, this would encourage clubs to fine-tune their efforts much more than a mandatory price cap.”