Liverpool back down - but ticket prices will go up at Anfield
FSG hailed for gesture on prices, but new ticketing structure means some fans will still pay as much as £10 more
The owners of Liverpool FC have been hailed for their decision to abandon plans to increase tickets prices at Anfield to £77 following protests from fans.
The announcement came in a statement from the Fenway Sports Group that declared: "Message received," and contained an apology to fans, four days after 10,000 people walked out of the stadium midway through a match to register their anger.
The result of their protest "represents a remarkable triumph for supporters who decided enough was enough", says the Liverpool Echo.
It was a "victory for fan power", says Phil McNulty of the BBC. "To the credit of their owners, [Liverpool] have admitted they got it wrong, have acted decisively and moved quickly to appease the growing tide of discontent among their loyal fanbase."
The climb-down will "repair fractures" in the relationship with the fans, he adds.
It could also set a precedent for other clubs. "In their willingness to admit their own mistakes and put them right, they have also done the Premier League as a whole a great service," argues Tony Barrett of The Times.
"A standard has been set for others to aspire to. Yes, owners have a right to run their businesses as they see fit but they also have a moral obligation, not to mention a need for self-preservation, which means they should, whenever possible, recognise, understand and empathise with the traditions of football culture in this country."
The "Battle of Anfield" has been won, but there are plenty more to fight, says Brian Reade of the Daily Mirror. "When Premier League CEOs can share £8.3bn in TV revenues over the next three years, yet still refuse to cut ticket prices for away fans to £30, the war is far from won."
But is all as it seems? Have the club's owners pulled off a brilliant political coup that could see supporters pay more for some games than they do at present?
In its statement, Fenway Sports Group announced that match categorisation would be abandoned next season and tickets to all games would cost the same. "Regardless of the opposition fans will pay the same price for matchday tickets," said the club.
It also pledged "zero revenue growth from [general admission] ticketing" while simultaneously announcing plans for thousands of concession and even free tickets, the costs of which much be covered elsewhere.
Analysis of the new, more complex pricing structure shows many fans will still pay more.
A ticket in the Anfield Road stand for a category C game this season costs at least £41, they start at £45 for category B matches. From next season, tickets in the same parts of the stand will cost between £46 and £48, marginally cheaper than for a category A game this term.
The most expensive tickets in the Anfield Road stand will cost £53 next season. This season, those seats cost £52 for a category A game and £43 for a category C.
In the Centenary stand, tickets will cost less than they do for this season's six category A games, but will be more expensive than they are for the 13 other category A and B games this term.
But in the Kop, the club's spiritual home, prices will range from £37 to £43, cheaper than for most games this season.