UEFA ticket policies in spotlight for European finals
GENEVA (AP) — Even Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp took a critical swipe at UEFA with ticket prices and ticket quotas again the subject of conflict ahead of the three upcoming European club competition finals.
UEFA’s decisions bring in million of dollars in revenue that directly benefit clubs, but rarely satisfy anxious fans hoping to be at the game.
On Wednesday, only a small proportion of Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers fans will be inside the stadium in Seville for the Europa League final. Only half of the 40,000 tickets were allocated to the two clubs’ large traveling support.
Liverpool fans have a better deal for the Champions League final against Real Madrid at Stade de France on May 28. UEFA gave each club about 20,000 of the 75,000 tickets available and funded discounts for thousands to lower the cheapest price to 60 euros ($63).
Still not good enough, said one official Liverpool fan group unhappy that this season UEFA will collect much more revenue from Champions League final tickets than when the same two teams met in 2018.
“They (UEFA) are not the saints of football, they never were,” Klopp said, adding he understood the fans’ stance “100,000%.”
It was unclear if the fan groups and Klopp — who later got a telephone call from UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin — understood exactly where ticket and corporate hospitality money at European finals goes, and who eventually gets the large majority of it.
(Spoiler alert: The money goes to hundreds of clubs around Europe, getting prize money and solidarity payments out of UEFA’s 3.5 billion euro ($3.7 billion) pot of commercial revenue from men’s club competitions).
Three intense games in 11 days will complete the men’s club season in Europe, with six passionately supported teams from six different UEFA member countries competing.
Liverpool vs. Real Madrid in the Champions League. Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Rangers in the Europa League. Feyenoord vs. Roma in the inaugural Europa Conference League.
Each club has a proud European past and most are overdue to write new history. The downside for UEFA is the supply of tickets cannot match the demand.
Stade de France in the northern Paris suburbs has space for 75,000 at marquee soccer games. That’s 10,000 more than the originally intended venue — UEFA took the final from St. Petersburg when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers each could have sold out the entire Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium in Seville, yet fans have it worse for the Europa Conference final in Albania. The National Arena in Tirana is limited to 20,000 on May 25, and Feyenoord and Roma each got only 4,000 tickets.
The clubs quota of 40% is low for a final, according to the Football Supporters Europe group, which works with UEFA on fan issues. The usual range is 52% to 58%.
Feyenoord expressed its disappointment and cautioned fans about buying from unofficial sellers.
PICKING THE VENUE?
The UEFA executive committee chooses stadiums for the finals at least one year in advance to secure host city cooperation and the hotel rooms needed.
Arranging a game only three weeks before the two finalists are known is “untenable,” Football Supporters Europe executive director Ronan Evain told The Associated Press.
UEFA is cautious not to over-estimate demand after some Europa League finals – including 2014 in Turin and 2015 in Warsaw, both involving Sevilla – were left with thousands of empty seats.
That caution was misplaced for the third-tier Europa Conference League, which was expected to have few storied clubs enter. North Macedonia bid to host with a 30,000-plus stadium in Skopje.
The Albanian soccer federation, like Azerbaijan for the 2019 Europa League final in Baku, was rewarded after investing in a new national stadium.
The combined 53% of tickets given to Liverpool and Real Madrid is in line with recent Champions League finals. It’s also about 3,000 more than each got for their 2018 final in Kyiv.
A bigger issue is 12,000 tickets going on open sale via UEFA’s website in April before the semifinals finished. The corresponding 8,500 on general sale for the match in Tirana outweighed the club quotas.
“A big chunk of those end up on ticket resale platforms that are bought by fans of the two clubs (at higher prices),” Evain said, adding it is an unfair element of the UEFA ticket policy.
Klopp and Liverpool fans were rankled by the quota for sponsors who, Čeferin noted, pay “100 or more million euros” each season.
“It’s part of a contractual obligation that we have,” Čeferin said last week, defending deals with brands like FedEx, Mastercard and PlayStation.
Real Madrid should get about 125 million euros ($131 million) from UEFA this season and Liverpool is set for a few million less. Europa League winners typically earn about 30-35 million euros ($31-37 million) from UEFA.
UEFA froze the cheapest Champions League final tickets at 70 euros ($74) through 2024, Evain said.
To reward fan loyalty during the pandemic, UEFA offered and paid for thousands of free tickets for each finalist. Liverpool and Real Madrid preferred discounts across cheaper categories so that more ticket holders would benefit.
“For us, not much will change if all tickets are 10 euros ($10.50), but it will change a lot for the clubs,” Čeferin said.
Since 2018, top-priced tickets rose from 450 euros ($473) to 690 euros ($725) — money that mostly goes to clubs because of a tightly drafted formula UEFA negotiated with the European Club Association, of which Liverpool is a prominent member.
UEFA has consistently made concessions to the ECA since its launch in 2008 to fend off threats of a breakaway Super League.
WHO GETS PAID?
Ticket and corporate hospitality money from the three finals feeds into total revenue from broadcast and sponsor deals across all UEFA men’s club competitions.
UEFA deducts competition organizing costs and solidarity payments to clubs around Europe who did not enter European competitions or were eliminated in qualifying rounds.
About 2.9 billion euros ($3 billion) is left as net revenue, split 93.5% to participating clubs and 6.5% to UEFA.
That money should soar again when all three men’s competitions add more teams and more games in 2024. Then, income from the three finals will be proportionately less.
“We would encourage them,” Evain said, “to reduce ticket prices.”
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