Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Arsenal ticket price row proves English game must learn from Germany

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on January 9, 2013

The Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal FC, where fans pay big money to watch games

It has been reported on The Guardian website today that up to 900 away end tickets have been returned by Manchester City to their hosts Arsenal ahead of the forthcoming Premier League clash between the two teams. The reason is suspected to be that, at £62 a ticket, it is simply either too expensive or a case of fans not wanting to pay such an extortionate amount of money out of principle. For fans of the English game this is simply not a surprise anymore; indeed the only surprise is that anybody still puts up with being ripped off.

Since the formation of the English Premier League in the 1992-93 season ticket prices have been rising at an alarming rate. Even in the last year, a survey published by the BBC revealed that the cost of the cheapest adult ticket in the top four divisions had risen by 11.7%. Of course it is Premier League clubs who will be largely responsible for the biggest of price hikes especially as the clubs are finding it more difficult to pay ever increasing wages to top stars, despite the fact that the Premier League is raking in more money than ever before due to increased television revenue. The advent of all-seater stadia was supposed to herald a new era of safety and comfort in English stadiums with the TV money a prime reason to help keep ticket prices as cheap as possible. In recent years, however, it seems that clubs will rip the fans off anyway, a situation which has arguably been a factor in increased calls for the re-introduction of standing areas in English football grounds. Fans simply cannot keep forking out at the current rate for match tickets along with all the usual necessities that going to a football stadium brings such as a match programme, food, drink and transport.

Watching Borussia Dortmund is a prime example of value for money

In recent months many English newspapers and football websites have made comparisons between the situation in England and that in Germany and how fans of Bundesliga clubs get such a bargain. Current German champions Borussia Dortmund, for example, charge as little as €190 for a season ticket which allows a fan to see seventeen home league games, an average of €11 a game. When one takes into account that the possession of a match ticket allows free travel on public transport to the stadium and the fact that one can drink beer whilst watching the match (something that ceased to be the case in England years ago where beer must be drank in designated areas away from the seating) and it is clear that fans in Germany have a much better deal. Even when clubs have tried to raise prices for big games in the Bundesliga fans have always been ready to vote with their feet, a most famous example was when fans of Borussia Dortmund boycotted a derby match against arch rivals Schalke 04 due to their hosts raising the ticket price to €20. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve been to watch many games as a fan of Eintracht Frankfurt, the most amazing deal was going to the Olympiastadion in Berlin to watch Eintracht play against Hertha BSC five years ago. The cost of a ticket? Only €9! And in a stadium which has hosted the FIFA World Cup final too.

Such a ticket price, which would work out at £7.30 at the current exchange rate, would be a dream to any English football fan in the current climate. The worst offenders in the English game tend to be clubs from the south of the country, the worst being Chelsea at £41 for the cheapest ticket, perhaps not surprising given that the cost of living is much higher than elsewhere in the country. Even Manchester United, who are the par excellence example in the commercialisation of the game throughout the Premier League era, still keep their cheapest ticket prices to a reasonable £30. Season ticket prices are an even more obvious example in how fans are having to dig deep in their pockets with Arsenal being the most expensive. There wouldn’t be much change given from £2000 if you were to get a season ticket at the Emirates stadium.

The fact is that Premier League clubs will always be prepared to charge what they want as long as people are prepared to keep paying the money. If fan movements in England had any importance, such as they do in Germany, then perhaps there would be no need for clubs to have to send batches of tickets back in the first place for such big games. After all it is the big games which fans want to see but the clubs should know where to draw the line and, in the name of fairness, stop testing the patience of loyal, hard-core fans whose bank balances suffer terribly in order to subsidize those of their heroes.

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UEFA: Manchester duo dumped out of Champions League

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 7, 2011

UEFA Champions League trophyThe two Manchester clubs have been sensationally dumped out of the UEFA Champions League following the final round of matches this evening.

Three-time European champions Manchester United are out of this year’s tournament having suffered a 2-1 defeat away to Swiss champions FC Basle 1893. United only needed a point to progress but found themselves two goals down with ten minutes of the match remaining, with Basle’s Marco Streller and Alexander Frei getting the goals, before Phil Jones pulled one back to make it an anxious finish for the Swiss side. United finished third in Group C behind Basle and group winners Benfica SL, who finished their campaign with a 1-0 win over Romanian champions Otelul Galati, and must now contend themselves with a place in the UEFA Europa League early next year.

Manchester City, meanwhile, needed a win against FC Bayern München and hope that Spanish side Villarreal CF would do them a favour by taking points from Italians Napoli SSC. Despite getting the win they needed, a 2-0 victory thanks to David Silva and Yaya Toure, City had to be satisfied with a third place finish in Group A finishing one point behind the Italians and three behind Bayern after the Neapolitans won by the same score line away in Spain. For all the money spent, City are still a work in progress and will hope to have learnt some of the lessons by the time the UEFA Europa League comes round again. City went out of that competition last season at the hands of Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv.

England: London pride dented by cream of Manchester

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on August 29, 2011

Manchester United 8-2 ArsenalPre-season expectations have been dampened in North London as both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC succumbed to heavy defeats by Manchester clubs City and United respectively with the two northern giants beginning to look the most likely candidates to fight it out for the English championship crown.

Tottenham Hotspur began the weekend at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League table but they had only played one game due to their opening home match of the season against Everton FC being called off due to the recent rioting that affected England’s capital city. Despite performing well in the UEFA Europa League qualifying stages, Spurs’ first match of the domestic campaign saw the White Hart Lane club lose 3-0 away at champions Manchester United while yesterday’s 5-1 hammering at the hands of Manchester City compounded the misery further for coach Harry Redknapp and his club whose ambitions to fight for the title already look shattered even at such an early stage of the season.

The only consolation for Tottenham was that their bitter rivals Arsenal FC have had just as traumatic an opening to the new season. Before yesterday’s soul-destroying 8-2 defeat to Manchester United, Arsenal had only picked up a point from their opening two Premier League games away at Newcastle United and at home to Liverpool. Despite the consolation of scoring their first Premier League goals of the season reality is surely hitting home for coach Arsene Wenger who increasingly looks ill-equipped to do anything about the situation.

Tottenham 1-5 Manchester CityIndeed it’s been a difficult summer for both Redknapp and Wenger, both of whom have had to deal with a deluge of questions regarding want away players such as Luka Modric, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Modric started for Spurs in yesterday’s defeat and it has emerged that the player himself had asked before the game not to be featured. With the transfer window due to finally close on Wednesday it is looking like Modric’s proposed departure to Chelsea would be best for everyone concerned. Arsenal’s enforced parting of Fabregas (FC Barcelona) and Nasri, who linked up well with Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko in his first game for Manchester City yesterday, have shown that Arsenal are yet to do anything about addressing their major weaknesses. The sad fact of the matter for Wenger, however, is that he has continually sold some of his club’s best players in recent years without finding adequate replacements. It was obvious to everybody last season that the club lacked quality at the back and a leader in the midfield and these concerns still remain in the air and is beginning to make many Arsenal fans doubt Wenger’s ability to carry on in the job.

At the top of the table the two Manchester clubs continue to go from strength to strength and they are the only clubs in the English Premier League to have a 100% record after three games. Manchester United got most of their pre-season targets and the likes of Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David de Gea are starting to fit in nicely at Old Trafford. Manchester City, meanwhile, have spent countless millions on propping up an already talented squad of players and with new signings Kun Aguero and Samir Nasri featuring so prominently already in their fledgling City careers then it is clear to see that the future looks bright for the Eastlands club. The two Manchester giants won the league (United) and the cup (City) between them last season, the first time this had occurred since 1955-56, and with the talent and the money at both clubs’ disposal then the immediate future looks bright for them and seemingly bleak for everybody else. Even Chelsea and Liverpool, who have both started off well with two wins and a draw in their opening three league games, still seem a bit off the pace but those clubs do at least have more reason to be optimistic than the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham at the moment in light of recent performances.

There are 35 games to go and fortunes can turn around quickly in football. However the minimum that both north London clubs want at the end of the season is to qualify for the UEFA Champions League but with decline seemingly setting in at Arsenal and the increased competition for the top four spots for the likes of Tottenham to worry about, things are definitely looking better if you’re a Mancunian rather than a Londoner at the moment.

Europe: Milan and United make statement against local foes

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 8, 2011
Milan Super Cup 2011

AC Milan celebrate their sixth Super Cup title

The weekend played host to two of the world’s most intense local derbies as the teams involved fought for the honours in their respective national Super Cup tournaments. Whereas the Italian Super Cup saw two clubs who are virtually equal in all respects face up to each other in the shape of league champions AC Milan and cup winners Internazionale, the same couldn’t be said in its English equivalent which saw record champions Manchester United meet up once again with local foes Manchester City with the latter finally demanding more respect from their more illustrious neighbours having won the FA Cup last season.

The National Stadium in the Chinese capital of Beijing, more commonly known as the Bird’s Nest stadium due to its design, played host to the Italian Super Cup for the second time in three years with Milanese neighbours AC Milan and Internazionale hoping to become the first club to win Italian football’s curtain raising fixture for the sixth time. AC Milan won their 18th Scudetto last season, thus equalling Inter’s number of title triumphs, but hadn’t won the Super Cup since 2004 whereas Internazionale, whose run of five straight Scudetti came to an end last season, were playing in their seventh consecutive Super Cup fixture having won either the domestic league or cup (if not both) every season since 2005.

In a contest which threatened to boil over at times, the Nerazzurri of Inter took the lead after 22 minutes thanks to a Wesley Sneijder free-kick in what could possibly be the Dutchman’s last appearance in an Inter shirt before a speculated move to one of the Manchester clubs becomes a reality. There would, however, be no fairy tale win with which Sneijder could seal his time at the San Siro as the Rossoneri came fighting back in the second half when both Zlatan Ibrahimović and Kevin-Prince Boateng got their names on the score sheet to give coach Massimiliano Allegri his second trophy at AC Milan since he took charge at the beginning of last season. For new Inter coach Gian Piero Gasperini, who joined the blue half of Milan from Genoa this season, it proved to be a disappointing start to life at the helm. He will now have some idea as to what will be required to keep his team at the top of the tree and he will need to put it into practice as soon as the league campaign kicks off in two weeks’ time if he is to knock AC Milan off their perch. The champions will begin their campaign away at Cagliari whilst Inter have a home tie against Lecce.

Manchester United Community Shield

United won the shield for the 19th time

Twenty four hours after the “Derby della Madonnina” had finished its English counterpart took place at Wembley Stadium. League champions Manchester United, who sealed a record breaking 19th championship last season, were hoping to claim the FA Community Shield for the fourth time in five seasons but faced opposition from “noisy neighbours” Manchester City who were appearing in this fixture for the first time in 38 years having finally won a trophy of their own last season in the form of the FA Cup. The two Manchester clubs had previously met in this fixture once before in 1956 when a Dennis Viollet goal sealed the win for United, a result which the Blues were hoping to reverse this time around. They gave themselves a great chance of doing just that when goals from Joleon Lescott and Edin Džeko late in the first half gave City a 2-0 half-time lead. However it was perhaps predictable that the champions would come back to win the game as only they seem capable of doing. Chris Smalling pulled one back seven minutes into the second half whilst Nani equalized six minutes later. United piled the pressure upon City and it seemed that the game would go into extra-time before Vincent Kompany’s defensive error allowed Nani to go through at goal and go around keeper Joe Hart to seal the 3-2 victory for the Red Devils with virtually the last kick of the game. Yet an ominous sign to the rest of the Premier League that no matter what changes Sir Alex Ferguson makes to his side that he always comes out smiling in the end.

Manchester United duly won a record extending 19th FA Community Shield and now face up to an away match at West Bromwich Albion in their defence of the Premier League title. Manchester City will want to bounce back from this defeat quickly with a home tie against newly=promoted Swansea City next Monday evening.

Festive Football Round-Up

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on December 28, 2009
Kenny Miller

Kenny Miller scores for Glasgow Rangers in their 4-1 win away at Hibernian FC

Should football pause for Christmas? Give me a break! Football in the UK is as much of a tradition as the Queen’s Speech, Mince Pies and Santa Claus and this weekend has been no exception. With further football to come in the next couple of days “Stoppage Time” takes a look back and looks forward to the action to come in our English and Scottish football festive round-up.

BOXING DAY

English Premier League leaders Chelsea got the ball rolling in their tough away tie at Birmingham City. Both sets of Blues had their chances to win but, in the end, perhaps a 0-0 draw was a fair result. The next game to finish was the important six pointer at the bottom of the table between West Ham and Portsmouth. The “Hammers” claimed a 2-0 home win over a Portsmouth side who had beaten Liverpool just seven days earlier. After the drama surrounding Mark Hughes’ sacking it was the football that took centre stage as Manchester City, under new coach Roberto Mancini, claimed a comfortable 2-0 win against Stoke City thanks to Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez. In the other games Liverpool got back to winning ways but only after their opponents Wolverhampton Wanderers had Stephen Ward sent off on 52 minutes. Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun scored the goals in a laboured 2-0 victory. Everton left it late to claim a point away at Sunderland. Marouane Fellaini scored with five minutes left on the clock to give Everton a share of the points after Darren Bent had given the Black Cats an early lead. The remaining three games finished as draws, a London derby between Fulham and Tottenham ended goalless whilst two clashes between North West clubs saw Burnley v Bolton and Wigan v Blackburn finish 1-1. In the Scottish Premier League Glasgow Celtic kept up their pursuit of champions and league leaders Glasgow Rangers with an 2-0 win at home to Hamilton. A last-minute strike from Niall McGinn made sure of the points as Celtic found it hard to finish their opponents off. Dundee United title hopes have dipped in the last couple of games. A 3-0 home defeat to Rangers was followed with a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Kilmarnock. Csaba Laszlo’s Hearts side kept up their recent upturn in form by beating Falkirk 1-0 away to lift them into fifth place. In the final match of the day newly promoted St. Johnstone claimed all three points in a 3-1 win at Motherwell. After struggling at the bottom of the table for many weeks the Saints now lie seventh in the SPL.

DECEMBER 27TH

Although only a few matches were played on this day they all had some significance at the top of the table. In Scotland Hibernian were hoping to keep up a title challenge by beating champions Rangers and after twelve seconds the Edinburgh side were in dreamland as Anthony Stokes gave the home side a dramatic lead. However the champions came back after a difficult first twenty minutes. Rangers’ Kenny Miller (pictured) equalised after 21 minutes and top scorer Kris Boyd gave them the lead eight minutes before half-time. Any hopes of a Hibs comeback after the break were dashed as Nacho Novo increased Rangers lead on 53 minutes and Miller got his second of the game after 66 minutes. With no further scoring Rangers boss Walter Smith was delighted that his charges had opened up a four point lead over nearest challengers Celtic with Hibernian a further four points behind. In the English Premier League Arsenal were finding it difficult to break down a dogged Aston Villa side who have high hopes of a top four finish. However the introduction of Cesc Febragas in the second half proved the difference as his 25 yard free-kick on 65 minutes was followed by his second nine minutes before time. In the act of scoring his second the Spaniard injured himself and had to come off but the impact had already been made. Vassiriki Diaby made it 3-0 for the Gunners in stoppage time and Aston Villa’s hopes of beating all of the Big Four this season were temporarily halted (they’d already beaten Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United so far). At the KC Stadium champions Manchester United, despite Wayne Rooney giving away a penalty, were too strong against their opponents Hull City. United had the lead at half-time thanks to a stoppage time Wayne Rooney strike. After the break the United star’s pass back was significant in United giving away a penalty, converted by Craig Fagan to restore parity on the hour mark. After that it was Rooney who made the telling difference in the latter stages of the match. Rooney’s low cross into the box on 73 minutes was turned into the net by Hull City defender Michael Dawson to give United a 2-1 lead and the game was sealed after Rooney set up Dimitar Berbatov for Uited’s third goal. The win lifted United up to second place, just two points behind Chelsea, but Arsenal are two points behind United with a game in hand.

DECEMBER 28TH

Today sees six games in the English Premier League with the most interesting being the West London derby between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge. Carlo Ancelotti’s men can’t afford too many more slip ups if they are to win their fourth championship title. Roy Hodgson’s Fulham go into the game unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions including a 3-0 demolition of Manchester United. The other fixtures are Tottenham v West Ham, Blackburn v Sunderland, Everton v Burnley, Stoke City v Birmingham City and the late kick-off at Molineux where Wolverhampton plays against Manchester City.

DECEMBER 29TH

In England Aston Villa will hope to get over their drubbing at Arsenal by attempting to the double over Liverpool who have failed to win two matches in a row in the Premier League since September. The other game sees Bolton Wanderers and Hull City in a match that will have importance in the bottom half of the table. In Scotland there is just one game as Aberdeen play Falkirk at Pittodrie.

DECEMBER 30TH

Two of the title contenders, Manchester United and Arsenal, will hope to increase their championship hopes with a win against Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth respectively. There are five matches in Scotland, the best of which involves champions Rangers at home to fourth place Dundee United. Celtic won’t want to lose points in what appears an easy game against second bottom Kilmarnock. The other games are St. Johnstone v Hibernian, Hamilton v St. Mirren and Hearts v Motherwell.