Spurs season ticket holders rage at six per cent price hike and end of senior concessions

Tottenham Hotspur will host Manchester City next month and the plan had been for the South Stand of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to be adorned by a huge tifo banner, made up of thousands of pieces of coloured cardboard spelling out the club’s motto, “Audere Est Facere”, with cockerels on either side.

The tifo was the idea of a group of fans, known as THFC Flags, who have worked to produce two similar tifos for previous home games. Against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League last season, they had one with a cockerel. For this season’s first home game against Manchester United, one had been made that read “Welcome to N17”.

These are not easy to plan: they need 17,500 pieces of coloured card, covering every seat in the South Stand. Designing and printing costs are between £10,000 and £12,000 ($12,800 to $15,300), a fee covered by crowdfunded fan donations. Two days before a game, five volunteers give up their day to start laying it out. The day before a game, 30 fan volunteers spend an eight-hour day getting every piece of card on the correct seat.

However, when City come to Tottenham next month, there will be no tifo. The organisers decided on Wednesday that, after Tottenham increased season ticket prices by six per cent and announced changes to senior concessions, they could not in good conscience proceed with it.

“It just didn’t feel right,” says Matt, part of the THFC Flags group, “in the context of loyal fans giving up their time and money to help us try to generate a positive atmosphere, while at the same time the club are ruining that atmosphere by pricing people out of the game.

“Everything we do relies on the loyalty of fans, getting the designs, the thousands of donations, and the people giving up eight-hour days. We have people travelling from around the country, people who don’t have tickets for the games and want to help out. We are reliant on fans who love the club. This escalation of ticket prices and reducing concessions takes advantage of fan loyalty.”

This is a very typical reaction from Spurs fans — The Athletic has spoken to many — who have been outraged by the club’s announcement on Wednesday lunchtime. Tottenham revealed the creation of a new “ticketing charter”, which did include small changes that fans had asked for, such as the removal of booking fees for season ticket purchases and the opening of “ticket share” (allowing fans to send tickets to family and friends) throughout the season.

The headline news, however, was unavoidable: season ticket prices would go up by six per cent, after only one increase of 1.5 per cent over the last five years. In a lengthy statement on their website, the club explained that “football is not immune to the rising costs of goods and services across the board”, and pointed to “a significant increase in matchday costs outside of our control such as utilities, rates and consumables”, as well as the “need to continue to operate on a sustainable basis”.

Many fans were expecting a small price increase for next season after the club’s lengthy ticketing review. The club had been in discussions with Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust (THST) and the fan advisory board about it, although ultimately, it is the trust that leads discussions with the club about ticketing and pricing.

THST pushed back on the details of the club’s initial offer and won some concessions but there was still shock at the eventual outcome. All decisions are kept under review but the chances of a reversal before the start of next season are slim.

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Some fans protested ticket price rises before the Manchester United game in August (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

“We’re completely dismayed by that six per cent increase,” says THST chair Martin Buhagiar. “We don’t think there’s any justification or need for a six per cent increase on season tickets. Tottenham Hotspur are one of the most profitable football clubs in the world. There must be another way for football clubs to generate what is a relatively small sum for them.”

For many fans, the fact that Tottenham make so much money through their new stadium makes the price increase much harder to swallow. The revenue from raising all season ticket prices by six per cent next season will make an extra £2.5million ($3.2m) to £3m per year. Not nothing, but not a lot in the context of a stadium that brings in more than £5m for every home game Spurs play there.

By the end of this month, Tottenham will have to release their accounts for the 2022-23 season and they are expected to show record revenues, which could well exceed the £500m mark. The matchday revenue — £106.1m for 2021-22, even without Champions League football — could rise above Manchester United to become the highest in the country. Fans are left wondering why, given the financial health of the club, the choice was made for a six per cent raise rather than a more palatable number.

Fans know that the vibrant atmosphere that they create at the stadium is not only integral to the success of the team on the pitch but also to the marketability of the club off it. Premier League football would not be such a valuable TV commodity if it was not for them, and yet they are having to pay more than ever before for the privilege of being part of the product.

There is even more ill feeling about the club’s new policy on senior concession tickets. The club argued on their website on Wednesday that “the number of senior concession season tickets has risen to four times the number at White Hart Lane”, an increase they say is “clearly not sustainable”.

So the club has decided to not make any new senior concession season tickets available starting from the 2025-26 season, meaning that anyone who turns 66 from then or someone of that age who wants to buy a new season ticket will be forced to pay full price.

On top of that, the club is reducing the concession offered to its existing senior season ticket holders — the 50 per cent discount will go down by five per cent a year to 25 per cent in 2029-30. For example, a senior season ticket behind the goal in the South Stand that cost £606 in 2024-25 will be £908 in 2029-30, without factoring in the fact that the full price of £1,211 is likely to continue to increase, too.

Fans are furious about this sustained hike in prices for elderly supporters.

“Targeting senior fans is unacceptable,” says Buhagiar. “It is an attack on our senior citizens when they’ve been attending Spurs matches for 20, 30, 40 years. Their loyalty should be rewarded. They’re being targeted for the wrong reasons, to generate more money, by a club that has such a high turnover. We have spoken to some supporters who’ve told us that going to Tottenham with their children and grandchildren is something they look forward to every week, and now they might be unable to do that. And that breaks our hearts.”

Fan group Return of the Shelf, which has 1,600 members, was furious at the club’s new policy. “Now the times are financially plentiful and the football club has become one of the richest in the world, the club feel it is the right time to come for our most loyal and vulnerable fans. It’s simply disgusting,” says a spokesperson for the group. “The line has been crossed and the fans have had enough. We are demanding the club backtrack.”

Alan Fisher has been going to watch Tottenham since 1967. He used to stand — and then sit — on the Shelf in the old White Hart Lane for 20 years. When the new stadium opened it was too expensive to sit by the pitch — not every part of the ground allows concessions — so he moved his season tickets into the new South Stand. His senior concession season ticket will soon start to increase in price. Fisher, 68, goes with his son and granddaughter and says that the emotional attachment of going to Tottenham has sustained him and his family, and benefits his mental health and well-being.

“It’s outrageous, ungracious and ungrateful,” Fisher says. “It is a message to the club’s most loyal and long-standing supporters that money comes first and loyalty is worthless. They are not going to value that loyalty one iota if it means that they can get more money for your seat.”

For Fisher, the club’s policy goes against what it means to be a fan. He will keep his season ticket but has already stopped going to away games and cup games because of the cost. “It’s a denial of the emotional attachment that fans have to the club,” he says. “Fans are long-suffering. We know what the bargain is, we know what we’ve let ourselves in for. And that’s fine, as long as the club does their best.

“I can deal with losing. I can deal with not winning cups, although I don’t like it — but what I can’t deal with is something like this.”

(Top photo: John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

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