UEFA ticketing policies in the spotlight for European finals

Liverpool supporters cheer during the English FA Cup final soccer match between Chelsea and Liverpool, at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday, May 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

Liverpool supporters cheer during the English FA Cup final soccer match between Chelsea and Liverpool, at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday, May 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

PA

Even Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has dealt a critical blow to UEFA, with ticket prices and ticket quotas again in dispute ahead of the next three European club competition finals.

UEFA decisions bring in millions of dollars in revenue that directly benefits clubs, but rarely satisfies anxious fans hoping to be at the game.

Only a small portion of Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers fans will be inside Sevilla’s stadium for the Europa League final on Wednesday. Only half of the 40,000 tickets were allocated to the important travel assistance of the two clubs.

Liverpool fans have a better offer for the Champions League final against Real Madrid at the Stade de France on May 28. UEFA gave each club around 20,000 of the 75,000 tickets available and funded discounts for thousands to bring the cheapest price down to 60 euros ($63).

Still not good enough, say a group of official Liverpool supporters unhappy that this season UEFA are taking far more revenue from tickets to the Champions League final 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’ position “100,000 per cent”.

It was unclear whether fan groups and Klopp – who later received a phone call from UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin – understood exactly where the money for tickets and corporate hospitality goes to the finals. European Unions, and who ultimately obtains the vast majority.

(Spoiler alert: The money is going to hundreds of clubs across Europe, securing prize money and solidarity payments from the 3.5 billion euro ($3.7 billion) pot of revenue. UEFA commercials from men’s club competitions).

THE FINALS

Three intense matches in 11 days will close out the men’s club season in Europe, with six passionately supported teams from six different UEFA member countries competing.

Liverpool against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Eintracht Frankfurt v Rangers in the Europa League. Feyenoord against Roma in the first Europa Conference League.

Each club has a proud European past and most are overdue to write a new history. The downside for UEFA is that ticket supply cannot meet demand.

The Stade de France, in the northern suburbs of Paris, can accommodate 75,000 people during marquee football matches. That’s 10,000 more than originally planned – UEFA won the Saint Petersburg final when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers could each have sold the entire Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium in Sevilla, but fans have it even 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 have each secured just 4,000 tickets.

The 40% club quota 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 disappointment and warned fans against buying from unofficial sellers.

CHOOSE THE LOCATION?

The UEFA Executive Committee chooses the stadiums for the finals at least a year in advance to ensure the cooperation of the host city and the necessary hotel rooms.

To stage a game just three weeks before the two finalists are known is “untenable”, Football Supporters Europe executive director Ronan Evain told The Associated Press.

UEFA are careful not to overestimate demand after some Europa League finals – including 2014 in Turin and 2015 in Warsaw, both involving Sevilla – ended up with thousands of empty seats.

That caveat was out of place for the third-tier Europa Conference League, which was expected to host few legendary clubs. North Macedonia has offered to host a stadium with more than 30,000 spectators in Skopje.

The Albanian Football Federation, like Azerbaijan for the 2019 Europa League final in Baku, was rewarded after investing in a new national stadium.

TICKET QUOTAS

The combined 53% of tickets given away to Liverpool and Real Madrid is in line with recent Champions League finals. It’s also about 3,000 more than each for their 2018 final in Kyiv.

A bigger problem is the free sale of 12,000 tickets via the UEFA website in April before the end of the semi-finals. The 8,500 correspondents on general sale for the match in Tirana exceeded the club’s quotas.

“A lot of these end up on ticket resale platforms bought by fans of both clubs (at higher prices),” Evain said, adding that it was an unfair part of the deal. UEFA’s ticketing policy.

Klopp and Liverpool fans have been angered by the quota of sponsors who, Čeferin noted, pay “100 million euros or more” every 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 are expected to receive around 125 million euros ($131 million) from UEFA this season and Liverpool are expected to receive a few million less. Europa League winners usually earn around 30-35 million euros ($31-37 million) from UEFA.

TICKET PRICES

UEFA has frozen the cheapest tickets to the Champions League final at 70 euros ($74) until 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 have preferred discounts in cheaper categories so that more ticket holders benefit.

“For us it won’t change much if all the tickets are 10 euros ($10.50), but it will change a lot for the clubs,” Čeferin said.

Since 2018, the most expensive tickets have gone from 450 euros ($473) to 690 euros ($725) – money that mainly goes to clubs due to a well-drafted formula that UEFA negotiated with the club. 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 from a dissident Super League.

WHO IS PAID?

Money from tickets and corporate hospitality from the three finals goes towards total revenue from broadcast and sponsorship deals across all UEFA men’s club competitions.

UEFA deducts the costs of organizing competitions and solidarity payments to European clubs that have not taken part in European competitions or that have been eliminated in the qualifying rounds.

There remains approximately €2.9 billion ($3 billion) in net revenue, split 93.5% between participating clubs and 6.5% to UEFA.

This money is expected to skyrocket again when the three men’s competitions add more teams and more games in 2024. Then the revenue from the final three will be proportionately less.

“We would encourage them,” Evain said, “to reduce ticket prices.”

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