The festival of football that is the World Cup has come to an end and, as we embark on the start of another quad-annual period of mourning, we can at least bask in the warm afterglow International Football has been afforded and look forward to the embracing/annexing arms of mother Russia in 2018.
After what was arguably the most exciting World Cup ever, international teams will be desperate to make it to Russia – and potentially some parts of Ukraine – in four years’ time.
In the meantime, here in Europe we have of course the small matter of qualification for the Euro 2016 finals; which for Scotland will begin in September with an away tie against newly crowned World Champions Germany. The SFA has decided to cash in on the World Cup feelgood factor – despite the fact we weren’t actually there – by dramatically raising ticket prices for the Euro qualifying campaign.
I’ve been a member of the Scotland Supporters Club for the last three qualifying campaigns. Membership of the Supporters Club costs £55 and for this you are guaranteed a ticket for each of Scotland’s five qualifying home matches, access to away tickets, and a quite fetching Supporters Club t-shirt. Earlier this year I diligently paid my membership fee and waited patiently for the SFA to release their ticket prices and send out the ‘Dennis the Menace’ and ‘Gnasher’ badges. For the World Cup 2014 qualification campaign tickets in the West Stand cheap seats cost £125, this combined with the £55 supporters club membership fee meant I paid a total of £180 – a fair price for a campaign that yielded only four Hampden goals and where most games were played either mid-week or on Friday nights.
Tickets in the cheaper West Stand for this campaign have been upped from £125 to £190, combined with the membership fee of £55 this totals £245 for the same deal as described previously. For those who had memberships in other areas of the stadium the price has gone from £190 for the World Cup qualifiers to £250 for the Euro’s, meaning Scotland supporters outside of the West Stand will have to pay over £300 to maintain their membership and attend all of Scotland’s home games.
This dramatic price hike has raised concerns and consternation amongst Scotland Supporters Club Members, who are asked to renew their Memberships well before ticket prices are released. Few would have expected such an exponential rise from the previous campaign. And what are the SFA doing to address such concerns? Well, SFA of course.
Stewart Regan and his cronies have used quite frankly bizarre justifications for the rise in ticket prices. Firstly, we had the SFA spokesperson who babbled some nonsense about Irish season tickets, before going on to say German fans can expect cheap tickets because they have a strong domestic league and greater revenue streams. So basically, because what Germany have is good, it is also cheap. By that logic the worse we get the more we’re going to be expected to pay. As for the Irish ticket prices quite frankly I don’t care what other countries are doing, just because the average price of a pint in Dublin is £6 doesn’t mean we should be paying the same price here.
Regan himself then waded into the argument by comparing Scotland ticket prices to that of the English FA Cup Final, Scotland Rugby 6 Nations matches, and, strangest of all, a ticket to see French DJ David Guetta -to be fair that comparison is perhaps not too far of a stretch, David Guetta’s brand of cheesy-pop-dance-sh*te blaring out at halftime during Scotland’s penultimate game at Hampden, a two nil defeat to group winners Belgium, was about as close as we got to entertainment that evening. The comparison to an FA Cup Final ticket is baffling however; does Regan honestly believe attending one of the most viewed domestic finals in the world is comparable to watching Scotland play Gibraltar at Hampden?
While Regan was trying to talk me into going to David Guetta instead of Hampden he also cited the Commonwealth Games and moving matches to Celtic Park and Ibrox as further justification of the price rise. He even went as far to say we are paying more this time round because we are up against far more illustrious competition than we faced in the World Cup Qualifiers. During the last campaign we played Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Wales, this time we’re playing Germany, Poland, Ireland, Georgia, and Gibraltar, are these teams really more illustrious?
Regan’s argument carries even less weight when you learn that Scotland’s blockbuster home match against the Germans will take place on a Monday night. Most offensive of all however was the SFA spokesperson who quipped, “the same thing happened the last time –prices were raised – and the Scotland season ticket ended up selling out”. In other words, ‘they’ve paid it before so they’ll pay it again’. Quite simply Scotland fans are being penalised for their loyalty.
Loyalty, despite the fact we are facing a potentially unwelcome ‘nine-in-a-row’ – if Scotland do not qualify for Euro 2016 it will be the ninth consecutive major tournament they have failed to qualify for, have had to endure some painfully attritional football, poor performances, and countless false dawns. The nonchalant, arrogant, way the SFA have brushed off the ticket prices suggests it’s perfectly natural for them to dramatically hike up the prices from the last campaign. We paid far less for a competition that generates far more exposure, interest, and prestige than the European Championships and are supposed to accept this purely because of an assumption that we will all fall into line.
International football attracts a different type of football fan – ‘attract’ being the optimum word. I’ve certainly never seen any Axelle Despiegelaere look-a-likes in the South Stand at Pittodrie. With the exception of the occasional England fan biting someone’s ear, or impatient Chilean fans charging through security, the World Cup saw passionate, respectful support without segregation. I do enjoy the tribal nature of club football but when it comes to perpetuating a positive image of Scottish football around the globe the Tartan Army are invaluable. I would certainly rather the world seen the images from Trafalgar square last summer than the unsavoury chanting and fighting I’ve witnessed on far too many an occasion at Aberdeen vs Rangers games.
The point I’m making is the Tartan Army is a valued Scottish Football commodity. It might be cheesy, daft, tartan clad nonsense, but it’s fun and over the years the Tartan Army has become a national institution world-renowned for its frivolous support, humour, and good nature. This will continue regardless of how much fans are asked to pay, but in exchange we are entitled to a better standard of football and a little more humility for those responsible for raising ticket prices. Comparing our national game to a David Guetta concert makes about as much sense as advertising Doctor Who to football fans during the World Cup Final.
The top brass shouldn’t take the Tartan Army for granted, or, like Hampden itself, the fans will end up further and further away from the football. Telling fans to suck it up and pay is unbefitting and an unfair way to treat the finest fans in international football.
If we’re going to be blunt then how about this; qualify, just f*cking qualify, okay?
About the Author
Daniel James Lindsay is an aspiring comedian from Dingwall in the Highlands. Being from Dingwall, Daniel is a Ross County fan but also has inherited the Aberdeen supporter gene from his father. As a child Daniel idolised Aberdeen legend Eoin Jess and is still traumatised from watching Eoin break his leg in a Scottish cup game against Clydebank aged 9.
Daniel is a keen football coach who has ‘most of his badges’ and his highlight in football came when he was told to F*ck off in Gaelic while playing for Lewis side Ness FC. He was also almost hit by Premiership goalkeeper Brad Friedel after Daniel advised him ‘not to drop his pint’ after a game where Brad let in 3 soft goals. Daniel and his pal also managed to get a free whisky in a pub in Glasgow after claiming Daniel’s pal was the guy at Pittodire who tried to kick Fernando Ricksen in the head (he wasn’t)
Comedy wise Daniel has made it to the final of the ‘Old Speckled Hen Comedian of the Year 2010’ competition and Highlight’s New Act 2011 competition and has also won the Comedy Store’s ‘King Gong’ competition. He writes a blog www.freeforapound.blogspot.com