I was reading the responses and "conversation" on a now-deleted Reddit thread regarding ECS's difficult decision not to travel to San Jose to support our club at Levi's Stadium, because tickets cost over double what they were last season. So I thought I'd get this down somewhere.
This isn't a "we're too good to pay this money" issue. It's not a "we deserve to pay less than the local supporters" issue. It's not a "we think we're better than you, so we should pay less" issue. Regardless of what the troll brigade on Reddit and Twitter believe.
Accessibility is one of the most important issues in ensuring the growth of soccer in the US.
And while many of the people on Reddit and the internet are very happy to slam us for taking a stand here, the truth is that this is their fight, too. Tickets for many soccer matches just four years ago were under $20 a match. Because it was, season tickets were affordable for people in their 20s. People with children could go to a match for not much more than the price of a movie for everyone. In Seattle, the diversity of the crowd at a match is one of our biggest points of pride.
Fast-forward to 2014, and the price of tickets has gone up anywhere from 25% to 150%. The leap from Buck Shaw to Levi's is over 150% from 2013 to 2014. Yes, we know it's an opening event. Yes, we know it's a rare thing, not an everyday thing. But think about it...when they sell 60,000 tickets at $55+ per match, what do you think will happen to the average price of tickets in San Jose? And what then will happen to all the supporters in San Jose? You think those groups will continue to grow with prices leaping upwards? Prices are already going to rise due to a new stadium...what if all these $60 tickets being sold convinces SJ's FO that maybe they could go an extra $10 a ticket. Add almost $200 to a season ticket?
We're already seeing $45 prices in Portland, and $38 tickets in Vancouver. For a traveling supporter from Seattle, it will cost almost the price of their season ticket to just see the four away matches in Cascadia. And I will tell you truthfully that our FO is looking at what YVR and PDX are charging, and wondering why they're not charging that, too. How many people will travel to Seattle if they add another 60% to the price of a ticket? How does that help anyone except the FOs?
It is worth pointing out that ECS is one of the largest purchasers of MLS tickets in the US. That's not an exaggeration, and it's not bragging. This season, even without San Jose, we'll purchase over 3,000 tickets to MLS matches. Depending on how far we go in the playoffs or US Open Cup, that could be over 2,000 more. (And please, let's just avoid the whole "but Seattle won't..." humor.)
So 5,000 tickets just from ECS this year. The Timbers Army will match that, or thereabouts. Between two groups, we'll buy 10,000 tickets from various MLS clubs. Do you really think MLS doesn't care what we think? Toronto traveled 3,000 last year in ONE MATCH. KC traveled 400 to Seattle last weekend. Does this continue to happen if prices double? Instead of two away matches, do you now pick just one? What happens when supporters, affiliated or not, can no longer afford to buy tickets away? Lose the group rate? The supporter exemptions? What happens when supporters no longer travel away? What happens to the atmosphere?
In NY, supporters pay about $30 to travel to Philadelphia, NE, and DC. That INCLUDES a bus. To travel to PDX this season, Sounders supporters will pay $85 including bus. Two and a half times what NY pays to travel about the same distance to Philadelphia or DC. That seems reasonable? This isn't to slam NY...quite the contrary! The pricing in the East there seems more than reasonable. Here? Two and a half times the price. NY gets to see their rivals for $30. Seattle gets to pay $85. [Author Note: After talking with Robert Hak (@Adiamas), board member of @EmpireSC, he tells me that tickets with bus will cost about $50 this year for those trips. However, he also notes that ticket prices themselves are still in the $15-$30 range, and further acknowledges that other NY SGs may be paying $30 for those trips.]
I get that SJ is basically "cheap football pricing" to entice 49ers fans to see the new stadium, and in so doing, hopefully hook some folks who couldn't care less about soccer, and maybe sell some season tickets. But look at the fallacy there: In doing that, you're basically penalizing the Faultliners, Casbah, and 1906...forcing them to pay double for their loyalty. How is THAT fair? Further, Levi's holds more than SIX TIMES what Buck Shaw holds. With that much more space, more inventory, they're more than doubling the price? How does that even make sense?
The fact is that the SJ supporters, and we, have no alternative. If they want to support the club that they love, they have to pay that price. There is no choice. They're counting on the love of the supporters to just deal with it and pay all that extra money. Yes, new stadium...cool. We watched SEA-SJ matches at Buck Shaw. We watched them at Kezar. We'll watch them anywhere...and the new stadium? So what? If it draws another 50k who couldn't care less about the match, how is that helping anyone...except the 49ers who are pocketing an additional $20 a ticket? And why should any soccer fan care about that?
Here: MLS and the 49ers are taking advantage of the passion of supporters by gouging them for taking part in a grand opening. MLS wants all the supporters there, because it sells the product that is MLS to the tens of thousands who are just going to see the new stadium, and couldn't care less about soccer. The ones that DO care about soccer, and have been going for years, are being penalized for loving their club. This trend, common on the West Coast, is getting worse every year, and we're a few years from pricing out the very people who helped grow this sport into what it is today. And, as some of those people, we care very, very much about that.
Some might want to consider that all of this affects every fan who wants to go to a match very much. They may want to get past whatever perceived tone they think is there from ECS (because they have an axe to grind...), and realize that bitching at us for caring about this is effectively allying with the FO, and saying "sure...we'll pay whatever." Maybe it's not $55 for every match. But maybe it's $70 for LA at SJ...good time to break out the premium pricing and Levi's. Maybe it's the playoffs...not $60 a ticket any more...but $120. Then what? Who can afford that?
People spend more time arguing about the tone of the message (which is anger) and who we are (since no one likes us and we don't care...), and less about the problem. And that's a shame. Because this affects everyone. And if people truly care about soccer in the US, they should care about pricing the people who are growing this sport, spreading this gospel, out of the churches in which they worship.