Fifteen years ago, Leeds United took on Barcelona at Elland Road in the Champions League. United charged fans a mere £20. Adoring fans saw Lee Bowyer score a wonder goal at the Kop End.
Now after a soap opera you couldn’t make up nor would ever want to, Leeds are in the Championship playing newly-promoted Bristol City.
So, how much are Bristol City tickets? £42. Supposedly, Bristol City qualify as a Category A game for Leeds fans with tickets at the club’s top prices.
The Football Supporters Federation are understandably furious at the way Category A games are used to extort extra money from fans on a whim. Spokesman Michael Brunskill tells Loaded: “Football tickets are now way above the usual rate of inflation. This time around, category A pricing has blown up because of Bristol City fans but the same works in reverse. Often, Leeds fans are hit with category A prices when they go on the road as they’re seen as a big club.”
The category system aimed to maximise the amount of money smaller clubs make from the perceived bigger clubs. It’s the bane of many fans’ existence. Brunskill explains: “The categorisation of games often hits certain fan groups a lot harder.”
Leeds supporters in particular have felt the wrath of the eccentricity of categorisation. Their owner Massimo Cellino is unpredictable at best, and they’ve seen most of their home games dubbed as category A.
Independent fans body Leeds United Supporters Trust are furious. Michael Green told Loaded: “Recently, we’ve seen: long-standing season ticket holders told to move seats, a lack of communication over the changes to the auto-enrolment scheme for cup matches and an erratic nature of categories allocated to home games (Hull were B, but Bristol City A). That’s before we even take into account the infamous pie-tax issue.”
In the Premier League, categorisation meant that tickets for games like Arsenal vs Manchester City reached £97 – an increase that forgets the plight of the fans according to FSF’s Brunskill. As he states: “Just because Manchester City are owned by Sheikh Mansour, that doesn’t mean the fans are automatically wealthy as well. They were just the same before and they can get really stung by these differences.”
At least Arsenal v City is a proper category A game, as overpriced as it is. But while clubs are able to deem games as top-price category A at random, and the price of those games is beyond the reach of all except wannabe sheikhs, the disconnect goes on. As for Leeds v Bristol City costing £42? United won’t be selling many pies that day.
Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran