This is the ticket availability for Spurs’ three Champions League matches at Wembley Stadium, as of 9.30 on Friday morning. Never red? I’ll make an exception this time. It could prove to be one of the most significant pictures in the illustrious history of Tottenham Hotspur.
As of about now, it means that almost every seat available at the moment has been sold, not for one game but for three, without knowing the identity of our opponents. The screenshot doesn’t actually mean that Wembley is sold out. Yet. The club say they have sold over 41,000 packages to season ticket holders and members. Some tickets are being held back for sale for individual matches only. Assume the away allocation will fill up but there’s Club Wembley, UEFA seats and the ring of shame, the executive boxes. But any remaining tickets will be snapped up by Spurs fans, of that there is no doubt. 75,000 Spurs at Wembley. It will bring the house down.
It’s an uplifting affirmation of the loyalty and passion of Spurs supporters. Any lingering sadness that these games could not played at White Hart Lane as part of the final season there was dispelled when out of the navy blue, the club announced a three-game package costing £70. Even then people on social media were complaining, until it was gently pointed out to them that it wasn’t £70 for one game, but three. No, I couldn’t believe it either.
The significance of this goes way beyond August’s credit card bill. The club’s future revolves around the new stadium. It has breath-taking potential. 61k capacity, stands close to the pitch, an end, in N17, ours not the taxpayers. One thing obstructs progress – the price of seats. Tottenham On My Mind has consistently and vehemently argued that accessible pricing will safeguard Spurs’ future, not just this generation but generations to come. Young people and families now excluded will be able to experience the unique pain and joy of being there. That picture proves it. For the first time, Spurs put that theory to the test. Not bloggers, supporters’ groups, fan activists or serial whingers, but hard evidence that the club cannot ignore.
Drop the price and keep supporters happy. You don’t have to be Brian Cox to solve that equation, yet in the last two decades the Spurs board have struggled to grasp the concept. In that time they have disgracefully exploited the peculiar football laws of supply and demand as distorted by the loyalty of supporters to charge some of the highest prices in the league.
In our People’s History of Tottenham Hotspur, Martin Cloake and I contend that a major theme of our history is how fan culture and identity is shaped by the interaction between the club and its supporters. Organised supporter protest has been a feature of Spurs’ fan culture since the early 1960s when Spurs fans demonstrated against the unfair allocation of cup final tickets. With Scholar, Sugar and Levy, Tottenham fans were one of the first to take protest from the fanzines and the streets into the AGM, the council chamber and the media.
Long aloof and unresponsive, gradually the board have shifted their approach. Partly this is down to economics. The PL luxuriates in a floatation tank filled with the effluence of sponsorship, commerce and distant ownership, isolated from what affects fans’ day-to-day lives, like being able to pay to get in, or racism, or financial probity.
Partly though this is due to fan pressure – from blogs, social media, individual complaints and the tireless efforts of the supporters’ trust. Partly it picks up the national mood. Slowly, too slowly for sure but something is happening none the less, supporter organisations are getting the message through that fans need to be treated with respect. Away tickets are now capped at £30, some teams like Watford and W Ham have introduced highly competitive price tiers. Dinosaurs such as Hull – no concessions for kids or pensioners – will be in for a shock, although in their case they seem to think they can manage without players as well as fans.
Spurs being Spurs tried their best to chuck away the goodwill achieved by the CL pricing by ramping up fan frustration as they watched the Ticketmaster Wheel of Doom move as quickly as Tom Huddlestone on the turn. Dismiss the mealy-mouthed platitudes on the official site about ‘unprecedented demand’ (ask the fans, we could have told you) and time checking memberships before allocating seats. It’s down to money – Ticketmaster did not provide enough server space and/or peoplepower. The less they spend out, the more profit they make. Either it’s their fault period and/or the contract they have with Spurs gives them too much leeway. Either way, the interests of fans come second.
So there you have it. Next year, keep prices reasonable, fill Wembley. It makes the club money, fine by me if fans are looked after too. Year after, fill the new White Hart Lane. Ten, twenty, forty years after that, it will still be full because those fans will have become fans for life. The people have spoken. Great idea. Make it a permanent part of being a Spurs and write the next chapter in the People’s History.