Melbourne City trying to charge Melbourne Victory fans $55 to sit in the away end at AAMI Park is ridiculous, but sadly for the A-League it’s not like it hasn’t happened before.
There are a few issues to unpack around this news ahead of Saturday night’s Melbourne derby.
The first is that it’s patently absurd and demonstrably counterproductive to expect the A-League’s most passionate supporters to pay that kind of money to get into any game.
For the sake of the argument, an adult general admission ticket for the Big Bash version of the Melbourne derby at the MCG will set cricket fans back $22 with no booking fee.
And while plenty of Victory fans grumbled on social media about the exorbitant cost of tickets – and the fact they were $20 more expensive than the commensurate City tickets – it was only Fox Sports commentator Brenton Speed tweeting about it that brought the issue to wider attention.
Are $55 tickets in the away end for Melbourne derbies (be it city or victory home games) counter-productive? https://t.co/ST1ujnPr1y
— Brenton Speed (@BrentonSpeed) December 16, 2019
But there are a couple of factors that deserve acknowledgement before we all fly in off the deep end.
The first is that Melbourne Victory fans are not the only ones to suffer this treatment.
Melbourne City fans were quick to suggest that they too cop an increase in ticket prices whenever they’re the away fans at Marvel Stadium.
And I don’t recall any Victory fans tweeting in solidarity when Sydney FC supporters were charged $55 to be wedged into the away bay at Bankwest Stadium earlier this season.
What we need is not only an overarching body looking out for the interests of fans regardless of club allegiances – which is a role Football Supporters Australia aims to fulfil – but also a simple acknowledgement from fans of all A-League clubs that their circumstances are not unique.
And while it’s easy to sit here and point the finger at Melbourne City for high derby prices – and it’s worth pointing out they’re now offering cheaper tickets – any A-League chief executive will tell you the clubs don’t set the cost of tickets, or at least not exclusively.
That’s where all the carping and moaning from Victory and City fans about Western United’s proposed stadium at Tarneit becomes an act of self-sabotage.
Because the biggest reason we have such high ticket prices at A-League games is due to the stadiums themselves.
Not only are A-League clubs mere tenants in venues they pay to rent from the government, there’s also no eye-wateringly generous broadcast deal to help subsidise the cost of tickets.
And one of the reasons the NSW Government would have no concerns about the high cost of Sydney derby tickets at Bankwest Stadium, to use one example, is because it’s one of the easiest ways to pay back the cost of the stadium’s construction.
That’s why Western United should be applauded for their vision to build their own stadium, and why Sydney FC fans should be concerned by the latest government-sanctioned plans to rebuild the Sydney Football Stadium.
None of this would matter so much if only the A-League had some effective leadership.
Yet when you’re not paying for your ticket, these sort of problems seem to dwindle in importance.
But they are important – especially if we’re to believe the reports that the A-League won’t become fully independent until the current broadcast deal runs out in 2023.
Because the competition can’t just keep muddling along making the same mistakes and consigning every problem to the too-hard basket while attendances dwindle and only the diehards watch on TV.
Too-high ticket prices are a multi-faceted problem that require a league-wide response.
The Melbourne derby should be a showcase of everything that’s good about the A-League, but sadly much of the build-up has focused on one of the competition’s biggest concerns.