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Why-oh-why is football so expensive?

OPINION: Man City may not set the prices at Wembley, but they could dip into the billionaire treasure box and help their fans

11 April, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Empty seats in the Man City end for the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley

IF it hadn’t been Spurs, I would have been quite glad that Manchester City were sent home from their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday with another reason to look up the word “invincible” in the dictionary.

For more than a moment it felt good that the team which has spent more money than anybody else had been beaten by a side which has spent none. On new players, at least.

When you hear pundits seduced by City, you hardly ever hear a mention of how this quadruple challenge has been artificially constructed by money. The same goes, it seems, with their fans, who never once seem to concede the ugliness of their club’s gluttonous wealth.

I should be careful about speaking about City out of turn. I did so on Twitter on Saturday, and almost instantly regretted it. I photographed the large section of seats left empty by City at Wembley and suggested they were no longer bothered with the FA Cup, the tournament which got us all excited about football for the first time when we were four years old, the magical cup competition which is supposed to be the best in the world.

A snarky tweet, loaded with bitterness perhaps. My newish hometown were being beaten after three minutes despite the noisy and full Brighton end.

But what came back was an accusation of “poverty shaming”, that because City were playing so many matches at this stage of the season their fans – from the working-class end of Manchester – could not afford such minor matches as the FA Cup semi-final.

The most imaginative, my favourite: “Tune in tomorrow, as Richard will be travelling to homes around the North of England to publicly shame those who can’t afford a decent TV. One by one Richard will lead the quest to rid the UK of these working-class peasants who can’t be bothered to invest in a decent TV. #RichardLogic.”

Finally, somebody had worked out my true motive in life, the quest no less.

Thing is, football is expensive at the top, really expensive. And I wonder why… for half a second. Could it be that City, even with its impossibly rich owners, want some money back via their own ticket prices; that paying a quarter of a million pounds every week to some players inevitably triggers an upward tick in the cost of supporting the team?

City may not set the prices at Wembley but if they are aware that the fans can no longer afford to get to their matches, why don’t they dip into the billionaire treasure box and subsidise travel, hotels, the whole trip if you like?

I was told that was an unrealistic expectation.

Not as unrealistic as City vying for the league title, Champions League and, yes, the FA Cup too, would have seemed 10 years ago. If you spend it, they will come.

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