Shropshire Star

Liam Keen comment: Wolves must reconsider huge season ticket price rises

Football should be for the fans.

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The beautiful game is the lifeblood of many communities up and down the United Kingdom and in Wolverhampton, the football club is the rock among families’ foundations.

But the modern game has increasingly become about money and the hard-working supporters in a working class area such as Wolverhampton are struggling.

The current economic situation and the cost of living crisis has hit supporters hard, yet they have just been hit with an astronomical hike in season ticket renewal prices to watch the team they love.

A 17.6 per cent increase for adults in the North Bank and South Bank has caused anger, as they now need to shell out £735.

Fans in the Steve Bull stand will now pay £835, a 15.6 per cent rise, while adults in the Billy Wright upper will pay £875 on the ‘wings’ of that stand and £939 in the centre.

All of those figures have sparked fury among supporters, but the rises for children and families has left many speechless.

In the Billy Wright lower, which is Molineux’s official family enclosure, adults have seen a rise of 22.8 per cent to £780, under-21s an increase of 46.6 per cent to £560, while under-14s have been hit with an unbelievable 133.3 per cent rise from £105 to £245.

It gets worse. Under-14s in the Billy Wright upper ‘wings’ will now pay £290, a remarkable 176 per cent increase.

Meanwhile, one supporter got in touch with the Express & Star to say their disabled child has been moved categories from under-17 to under-21 for next season, and their wheelchair ticket in the North Bank has gone from £211 to £489, a 131.7 per cent rise. Understandably, this fact sparked outrage on social media.

By making these dramatic rises, Wolves are pricing out loyal supporters.

Fans who have had season tickets for 50 years are now unable to renew or scraping together what they can to keep supporting their team.

That is not football and Wolves have made an almighty error that they must reconsider.

Wolves chairman Jeff Shi penned a letter to supporters in the email about season ticket renewals and said the club were benchmarking their prices against teams ‘with similar fanbase sizes, stadium capacities and sporting achievements’.

He also added that the final decision was a ‘fair and reasonable balance based on our current position, past growth and future aspirations’.

From a business point of view, benchmarking makes sense, but this sudden and dramatic hike is tone deaf and inexplicable.

The benchmarking strategy description from Shi was also lacking several important details on who they compare themselves too and the geographical context, however in email responses to fans complaining about the prices, Shi explained Wolves ‘is in the mid-table bracket of the Premier League’.

He goes on to say the club needs to compete on season tickets as they are now running self-sufficiently.

Although that is all true, for Fosun to not be investing money and expecting fans to dig deep into their pockets, it is a travesty and a major misjudgment. It is also easily criticised when you consider the prices Villa fans are paying to see a side which has qualified for Champions League football.

Villa have made big 10 per cent and 15 per cent increases in the last two years, but have this year agreed to a five per cent rise.

That means the most expensive season ticket at Villa Park will be roughly £910 next season, while adults in the centre of the Billy Wright upper will pay £29 more.

On top of that, supporters who used the North Bank bar on matchdays will now have to take up a ‘Fan+ package’ to access it.

Overall, this has been a PR disaster from Wolves and the pressure is on, with supporters’ groups calling for a boycott.

But more importantly, the supporters who make this huge club so great are suffering.

Football is nothing without the supporters and the direction modern football has taken is sickening.

Wolves are not to blame for the state of the modern game, but they had an opportunity to be outliers and rally change, and failed.

The final feeling from a saga like this is one of sadness.

We have all grown up supporting our team and remember the first time we walked up from the concourse out to the stands with wide-eyed excitement.

But the reality is that many children may not have the same experience.

If local fans continue to be priced out, families will no longer flock to Molineux.

As a result, you will create a generation of Wolverhampton children that will instead buy the cheapest ‘big six’ shirt from their local shop and cease to support gold and black.

It is a sad and damning indictment of where the game has gone and just like Wolves seek to inspire change with VAR, they must now reconsider this blunder.