Your Ticket Please, Part II: MLS Ticket Prices Vs. Europe

In the 2nd of this 3-part series, we take a look at how the MLS' and Fire's ticket prices compare with teams from Europe

Ever wonder how the Fire's season ticket prices stack up with teams in Europe? Are we paying less than what supporters pay to see teams like Manchester United, Bayern Munich, or Juventus? In this second part, I'm going to compare the Fire's prices to those in Europe's "Big 4" leagues. Europe's "Big 4" leagues are traditionally understood to be the Spanish La Liga, the Italian Serie A, the English Premier League, and the German Bundesliga.

We do not think the fans are like cows to be milked. Football has got to be for everybody. - Uli Hoeness, Bayern Munich president

Most of the information in this segment was published in the Guardian in January of 2013. In researching the ticket prices, the January '13 numbers were very close if not identical, so I've decided the convenience of having a single point of reference outweighed any small changes. I also included two English Championship sides and two English Conference sides in the comparison; for those teams, the ticket information came directly from their websites. To make comparison simple, the chart below shows both the full season ticket price and an adjusted price to directly compare with MLS' 17-game home slate. Here is what I found:

Team

Min Price

Max Price

Notes

17 game price min

17 game price max

Chicago

$198.00

$2,700.00

17 games

$198.00

$2,700.00

Barcelona

$282.46

$1,041.09

19 games

$252.72

$931.50

Real Madrid

$290.28

$2,394.51

19 games

$259.72

$2,142.46

Valencia

$314.81

$1,929.79

19 games

$281.68

$1,726.65

Granada

$463.37

$1,328.78

19 games

$414.59

$1,188.91

Juventus

$477.24

$1,636.72

19 games

$427.00

$1,464.43

AC Milan

$218.12

$5,454.64

19 games

$195.16

$4,880.47

AS Roma

$246.00

$1,984.40

19 games

$220.11

$1,775.52

Sampdoria

$164.00

$1,364.48

19 games

$146.74

$1,220.85

Arsenal

$1,615.40

$3,206.20

19 games

$1,445.36

$2,868.71

Manchester United

$872.48

$1,558.00

19 games

$780.64

$1,394.00

Chelsea

$975.80

$2,050.00

19 games

$873.08

$1,834.21

Swansea

$703.56

$818.36

19 games

$629.50

$732.22

Nottingham Forrest

$667.48

$941.36

23 games

$493.35

$695.79

Yeovil Town

$531.36

$654.36

23 games

$392.74

$483.66

Grimsby Town

$619.92

$619.92

23 games

$458.20

$458.20

Woking

$451.00

$451.00

23 games

$333.35

$333.35

Bayern Munich

$109.88

$885.60

17 games

$109.88

$885.60

Borrusia Dortmund

$496.92

$1,349.72

17 games

$496.92

$1,349.72

Hanover 96

$123.00

$455.92

17 games

$123.00

$455.92

Stuttgart

$237.80

$995.48

17 games

$237.80

$995.48

So what immediately jumps out at you? How can Bayern Munich only charge $109.88 for a season ticket? Isn't that crazy? I guess that since the team has an extensive waiting list for season tickets, is fully debt-free, and is majority owned by supporters they can do that. The Bundesliga has a model for all of their associated teams that they cannot be majority owned by a single entity. This way it is possible for teams to be owned by their supporters or club members. This allows for fans to have more of a say in how much ticket prices will be and what direction the clubs go. It's also interesting that the Bundesliga teams, organized in this fashion, don't have clear competitive disadvantages against other teams in Europe; perhaps the absence of profit-taking ownership has its advantages?

Unsurprisingly, the EPL teams have the highest prices when it comes to lower-end tickets. Imagine paying $900 to sit in the skyway to watch the Fire play. Being the most popular and most heavily commercialized league in the world, teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United can charge what they want. At this point, it seems there will always be fans that are willing to pay a steep price to go to the games.

If you look at the Serie A and La Liga, they have some of the lowest prices as well as some of the highest. AC Milan, for example, has season tickets which range from $218.12 to $5,454.64 - an extreme difference. Meanwhile, Barcelona charges from $282.46 to a maximum of $1,041.09; again, though, Barcelona is entirely supporter-owned and average almost 100,000 spectators per game. This leads me into comparing the different leagues.

League

League Avg Min

League Avg Max

MLS

$297.47

$2,387.67

EPL

$767.44

$1,419.29

La Liga

$380.99

$1,313.20

Bundesliga

$339.84

$901.08

Serie A

$270.42

$2,713.84

As a younger league, one would figure that MLS tickets would be cheaper than the more established leagues. On the low end the MLS does, but for high-end seats MLS is one of the priciest. In my opinion, the prices that the MLS has right now on the low end are perfect for the league and its fans. On the high end, though, it's a different story. When I watch Siere A games, one of the things I notice is that of the games are played in front of a lot of empty seats. Could that be because the prices are too high? That's a question for another time - but I definitely would rather see the stands filled at every MLS stadium in 20 years than having to watch the Fire play in Columbus in a half empty stadium. Uli Hoeness said it the best in his BBC interview last may on why Bayern keep low ticket prices:

We do not think the fans are like cows to be milked. Football has got to be for everybody.

What do you think so far? Interesting to find out some of these prices? Do you think that the MLS will be able to keep season ticket prices low like the Bundesliga? In part 3 of the series I will focus on the benefits that cf97 has to offer and compare that to other teams in the MLS and a couple other teams from Europe.

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