‘We are Liverpool, this shouldn’t cost more’: Fury as ticket system exploited – at expense of fans

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By Cash Boyle – @cashboyle

On the latest episode of BT Sport’s Football Writers’ podcast, journalist Daniel Storey outlined the challenge for Liverpool FC – one synonymous with stratospheric success.

The current challenge, according to Storey, is for the club to remain mindful of its community values in the face of ‘super-club’ status. This precarious balance was tested on Thursday morning, when many will have risen to ‘lfctickets’ trending on Twitter.

LFC’s popularity is nothing new, with social media often a microcosmic representation of a global fanbase. Yet the typical topics were conspicuously absent – game analysis and transfer speculation had given way to collective ire as many were left disappointed by the ticket sale for members.

The members’ sale was an opportunity to buy tickets for the Premier League season ahead, taking place across July 16, 17 and 18 but didn’t include disabled members’ sales.

To be eligible, the person must have purchased a membership by Sunday July 14, with the specific day determined by the number of recorded games the previous season. The club website details nothing further, nor does it promise success. But it’s clear – to have any chance, you must buy a membership.

The full membership costs between £35.99 and £44.99 – depending on location – and promises a ‘comprehensive range of benefits’. These include access to a minimum of 10,000 tickets for each Premier League home game.

On Thursday morning, the feeling was one of ‘access denied’.

The difficulty with obtaining tickets long precedes the renaissance under Jürgen Klopp, with Liverpool fans unerringly loyal. But with success comes an even greater demand, and there are doubt’s over the club’s ability to meet it.

The club has always had fans at its core. Klopp is a manager who does not pay lip service to the importance of fans. He believes it, feels it, and ensures his players do the same.

That’s why there’s such clamour for tickets. If the Champions League win was founded upon a bedrock of robotic victory, the club wouldn’t touch as many as it does. Its emotional pull is the appeal, which is what makes the commercialisation of ticket sales so hard to stomach.

Queuing is not the issue. The wait is expected, embraced even, by fans who will happily run up their phone bill should some degree of success be likely. But many were left empty-handed after entering what appears to be something of a futile raffle.

Factions voiced their disappointment to club CEO Peter Moore, whose recent social media activity reflects concerted PR efforts stateside while the Reds are on their pre-season tour. Since Thursday, Moore has promoted training sessions for kids, new commercial partnerships, and a parade of the Champions League trophy in Chicago.

All honourable ventures, no doubt. Liverpool FC is a global brand and the less frequent opportunity to appreciate fans stateside must be taken, but to remain publicly silent on the ticket issue undermines that honour.

This is not an attempt to denigrate Moore, who has largely performed admirably. This is merely to highlight that appeasing fans is something aided hugely by transparency and communication. Huge favour could be curried by empathy alone. Silence leads to fan disillusionment.

Let’s assume the club are being honest about their ability to meet the demand. The owners expanded the ground within what was possible. In either iteration, Anfield could be filled twice over. The fans know that. The club never sells in excess of capacity.

The issue lies in who tickets are being sold to. There is a real argument that the club must police this better.

Does one single member buy 198 tickets for a single game? If so, should they be able to, particularly when the intention is to sell them on for four or five times the price.

Are Stubhub a paying member? Did they purchase a full membership before July 14? Based on the number of games listed below they must have attended at least 13 home games last season.

There’s a clear avenue for some ‘fans’ to operate for financial gain, with companies such as those above a happy facilitator.

And herein lies the problem – supporters understand the level of demand but resent some of its beneficiaries. No reasonable fan believes they have a divine right to attend every game but feel owed a duty of care.

A minimum expectation is that tickets should not be so easily allowed into such financially exploitative hands. Ultimately these operations continue to flourish because they are not policed strongly enough.

A greater expectation is that the club be more transparent in respect of likelihood of success. By July 18 the club would have known how many tickets were left for the last member sale.

Without knowing exact figures, it’s fair to assume that the number of members calling on Thursday morning far exceeded the tickets available. Should this have been the case, communicate that to the fans – allow them to continue with their day, disappointed, but without the compounded wastage of time.

It is impossible to please everyone, or to entirely control a demand intensified by success on the pitch. But the club must do more.

“We are Liverpool. This Means More.”

That doesn’t mean it should cost more.

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