The appalling rip-off merchants who have charge of West Ham have decided that Sunderland supporters should be mugged for £46 apiece for the dubious honour of a seat at Upton Park/Boleyn/pre-Olympic Plaza.
By contrast, the ticket part of the trip to Bolton on May 7 would knock you back only £20 or £28.
Instead of merely fulminating to no great effect about Sullivan and Gold, or Sullivan’s Gold, some SAFC supporters are already talking of voting their feet, that is by putting their feet nowhere near West Ham on what should otherwise be – for us – a carefree final day of an eventful but unmenacing season.
In fairness, more may be at stake for the hosts. Whether that justifies the hike from what would normally have been a £36 price, itself steep but for London hardly remarkable, is another matter.
The question is simple: should we boycott the match altogether?
This is what the London branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association has to say in its circular alerting members to the tickets going on sale:
Note the ticket prices for West Ham! This is the result of a recent categorisation change of the game – their normal admission price is £36 – and an approach was made to the Branch to consider asking members to boycott the game. Your Committee however feels this is a matter of personal choice and for many members games in London offer the only opportunities to follow the team. So it’s up to you!
Others, with longer journeys to face, are already making that choice
This is what our good friend Sobs said on behalf of the Durham branch:
“£46 may not be the highest we’ve paid this season (by a few quid) but at least at Chelsea we got a decent seat, a fairly spacious consourse for refreshments, and a decent view. At West Ham, we get cramped seats with a very low roof, a “bordering on the unsafe” cramped consourse, and a moderate view which will deteriorate when some fans decide to stand. That West Ham have made this a category A game because “it could be vital to our survival” (from their website ticket page) is scandalous. Will it cost any more to police, manage, or stage? No it won’t. Are we paying the first instalment on their move to the Olympic Stadium? Probably.”
Sobs sees calls for a boycott as expressing a noble sentiment, but says such action may not be feasible. Many people have already planned their traditional weekend away for the last away game of the season, he says.
Significantly, however, he reports that some branch members have signed up for the weekend trip while specifying that they do not wish to purchase match tickets.
As a protest, they will probably watch it in the pub – “not as a slight to Niall Quinn,” Sobs points out, “but to emphasise just why people choose to do so, and that it’s stupid ticket prices like this which force people to take up the TV option.”
Urging SAFC to make clear to West Ham how strongly people feel, Sobs adds: “Niall Quinn is campaiging hard to get fans back into our stadium, but clubs like West Ham are doing their best to either keep them out, or rip off those who decide to attend. This is the United Kingdom in 2011, the economic situation is not good, and we, the fans, just don’t have the money to splash around the way clubs expect us to. Football needs to come back into the real world and make the game accessible to real people again.”
It is, of course, a choice for each supporter to make. The reality is that given the huge loyalty Sunderland commands among its fans, especially those who follow the club away, our allocation will almost certainly sell out.
Which is a perfectly good reason for hoping that West Ham go down, a relegation this Sunderland supporter would not otherwise have wished on Hammers fans.