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FC at International Conference

The message that football clubs need to address the concerns of ordinary supporters gained a wider audience this week when FC United General Manager Andy Walsh was invited to address an international conference at FIFA House in Zurich.

Sepp Blatter and Franz Beckenbauer were just some of the powerful people in attendance at the 10th annual conference of The International Football Arena which included the discussion ’How harmful is the prawn sandwich brigade for football?’.

The panel for the debate included Guardian journalist David Conn, former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, Marc Michel-Amadry from luxury watch manufacturer EBEL and Andy Walsh.

The seminar involved a look at the history of FC United and the reasons for the establishment of the club. "There was general consensus that the game in England has priced out a large number of supporters," reported Andy Walsh.

"I made the point that clubs need to engage with fans and understand their concerns and that ticket prices for ordinary fans in England needed to be more in line with prices in Germany, Spain and Italy. The Premier League’s claim that revenue from the premium prices paid for corporate boxes and hospitality is used to subsidise cheaper prices for the majority is a little hollow when you consider the cost of attending matches in England for the majority of fans."

"The top of the English game is undoubtedly going through a boom period but if clubs do not address the issue then the long term future of the game will be in jeopardy. The Premier League’s boast that they have ’a great product’ and high attendances does not address the fundamental problem.

"The Premier League’s own statistics show that whilst gates are up fans are attending fewer games due to cost; more worryingly the average age of a fan in the Premier League is now 43.

"Parallels with the world outside football show that concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands is not always a good thing in football it would lead to the destruction of the game. Football is a sport that needs to run in a business like manner but there needs to be sensitivity to the games traditional roots and most importantly fair competition.

"In business, competitors look to grab a bigger and bigger market share and destroying competitors is a legitimate course of action in sport that approach is a danger and the football authorities need to protect the integrity of the sport with tighter regulation.

And Walsh added: "Sport relies on healthy competition and in other countries the ownership of clubs is better regulated, the FA must address this issue in England to ensure that the bigger clubs do not simply grab the lions’ share of the income destroying the rich history of English football in the process."

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First Posted ~ 10:08 Fri 21 Nov 2008
News ID ~ 1930
Last Updated ~ 12:34 Mon 21 May 2018