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Premier League still holds golden ticket for fans

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Matt Slater | 07:00 UK time, Friday, 13 August 2010

Flaky economy, massive public sector cuts and a chastening World Cup experience for the world's "best" domestic football league... it is hardly an optimum sales environment for the Premier League's box-office staff, is it?

And yet, broadly speaking, they have pulled it out of the bag again.

Having spent the last two days on the phone, I can exclusively reveal the English still like football and are willing to pay good money to go and watch it every other week. As discretionary spends go, a Premier League season ticket appears up there with a decent cup of coffee, bar of chocolate or lottery scratch card as the last luxury to give up.

OK, the situation isn't rosy everywhere - there are some winners and a few losers - but the general picture is sales have held up, as clubs have frozen prices and offered juicy discounts to "early birds", online customers and the young and old.

But first, the winners.

Take a bow Arsenal, Blackpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Spurs, the only Premier League clubs to have actually put up the "sold out" signs for season tickets.

Blackpool fans cheer on their teamBlackpool fans have snapped up season tickets ahead of the club's first Premier League campaign. Photo: Getty

The London trio continue to pack them in despite charging the highest prices in the country (the cheapest adult season ticket at the Emirates is £886, £695 at the Bridge and £680 at White Hart Lane).

All three also claim to have long waiting lists, so it seems there are more than enough wealthy people left in the capital to go around. But a word of caution. Waiting lists are not what they used to be, as Manchester United can confirm, but I will return to that later.

Blackpool's massive sales surge should come as no surprise. A first season in the top flight since 1971, 5,000 extra seats at Bloomfield Road and half a dozen new players to cheer on, there are plenty of reasons for the 'Pool's big win. But credit where credit is due, their 12,000 tickets sold is an annual rise of 140%.

Manchester City's sales bonanza is testament to the growing expectations up at 'Middle Eastlands'. Successive summers of serious spending in the transfer market have helped shift an extra 3,000 tickets. Nice work. But remember what they say about despair and hope, it is the latter that kills you.

City's numbers, of course, cannot be viewed without comparison to those of their cross-city rivals United. The most tempting narrative is one of Blues up, Reds down. Sadly, Premier League life is not that simple.

An entire prospectus could be written on the summer saga surrounding ticket sales at Old Trafford but the twitter version would be "they're down but not by much and it's all relative really".

That's no fun, though, so let's delve a little deeper into what has been happening at the Manchester branch of the Glazer business empire.

First, season tickets are still available at Old Trafford. I know this because I have just tried to buy some. Having downloaded a "season ticket invitation" brochure from the website, I called the ticket office and was immediately put through to a helpful sales assistant (not the case at every club, I can assure you).

Within minutes, we had discussed options on three sides of the ground, all in the second tier, for between £684 and £779. And that was "two together".

Hold on a minute, what happened to United's famous waiting list (said to number 24,000 at the end of last season)? Well, it has evaporated. And this is despite the first price freeze since the Glazers arrived in 2005 and what many supporters have described as the biggest sales push in memory.

To be fair to the club, though, this is not the first time season tickets have been placed on general sale. United also deny this year's marketing effort has been any bigger than previous years. And it must be remembered that the club has sold more season tickets than the capacity of 17 Premier League grounds.

That said, demand for tickets has undoubtedly fallen away at Old Trafford, which should make the next quarterly conference call for the club's bondholders slightly more interesting than usual and give the anti-Glazer movement something to ponder.

Man Utd fans register their unhappiness with the Glazer gamilyThe Glazer family have come under fire from some Manchester United fans. Photo: Getty

Another set of disaffected supporters with plenty to chew on is at Liverpool. The official line is "only a low percentage" of the club's season ticket-holders have not renewed but anecdotal evidence suggests there was a significant hole as of a month ago.

This can change quickly and nothing matches the boost of a new manager and players for drumming up sales. What might continue to hurt sales at Anfield, though, is the ongoing dissatisfaction with the club's owners, if for no other reason than they have just hiked prices by 7% for season tickets and 10% for single games.

Everton's figures are a little disappointing, too, but I am loath to criticise them too much as they were by far the most forthcoming with their numbers. So full marks for transparency and good luck with selling those 1,000 seats needed to reach last year's total of 26,000.

In fact, this idea of a late push to get up to last year's number is pretty typical. Blackburn, Bolton, Sunderland, West Ham and Wolves all declared themselves to be "comfortable", "about where we were" or "very close to being on par", while the two other promoted teams, Newcastle and West Brom, have both enjoyed the bump their elevated status should bring.

Numbers for Aston Villa, Fulham and Wigan have been harder to verify but the anecdotal evidence suggests it is a case of as you were at Villa Park (recent reports of a 40% slump were flatly denied), slightly up at Craven Cottage and approaching average at the DW.

Stoke City deserve a mention, too. They are "very close" to joining the ranks of the "sold out". Having passed 20,000 for the first time last season, they are a tad under 21,000.

So there you have it. Despite concerns over jobs and mortgages, a lack of really eye-catching new talent in the league and the colossal downer that was the World Cup, the Premier League is still a pretty easy sell.

That is not to say everything is hunky-dory, though. Overall attendances have declined for the last two seasons (occupancy, however, has remained solid at 92.4%) and the Bundesliga, with its safe terraces, cheap tickets and customer-friendly approach to mid-game refreshments, is now the best-attended football league in the world. It is also the most profitable.

The Premier League should also be concerned about its ageing demographics. According to the Football Supporters' Federation, only one in 10 fans at any given game is under the age of 24. Two decades of rising prices have transformed the profile of the average Premier League supporter.

So the short-term outlook remains relatively positive but there could be trouble in store the next time an economic downturn asks football fans if they can really afford their season tickets.

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  • Comment number 1.


  • Comment number 2.

    Interesting Blog.

    Shame that a lot of fans have been priced out of season tickets in the last few years but as long as demand remains high thats something we'll have to live with.

  • Comment number 3.

    Before we worry too much about Utd, consider the rest. Would ANY other club sell 75000+ every game - NO. I know a lot of Liverpool fans that dont think the new stadium (if ever built) will be full for more than 6 or 7 games a year.

    Yes, there are tickets remaining. Some will be disgruntled fans, more will be corporate entertainment being scaled down.

    I for one can't wait for the ruling where spending will be linked to income. Utd and Liverpool have always spent large, but at least its money earnt through success on the pitch...

  • Comment number 4.

    You have to be a bit of a muppet to pay that sort of money to watch the EPL.

    For instance, if you are a Stoke fan, what exactly is the excitement of losing to all the big teams bar one or two and then having to grind out wins against wigan/bolton et al to stay up.

    If you boycott the games and demand some controls which exists even in American sport then perhaps we might see chance for teams like Stoke, Sunderland, Newcastle to break through if they have a good crop of players.

    It is time to face facts - the big teams have effectively 'fixed' the league by spending so heavily and outrageously. Never mind the ick off time farc and costs.

    The ONLY way for change is to stop going. Believe me, change would occur very quickly if people did.

    Bundesliga, while not perfect, is the direction we need.

  • Comment number 5.

    'Occupancy, however, has remained solid at 92.4%'

    Out of interest, I'm guessing that refers to the percentage of seats with someone sat on them? I'm also guessing that that might be caused in part by 'big clubs' like Newcastle going down, and being replaced by 'small clubs' like Burnley with smaller stadiums

  • Comment number 6.

    only 1 in 10 fans being under 24? Is this just season ticket holders or all in attendance.

    End of the day its just a rip off watching these pre-madonnas on the pitch who dont care about the clubs and only their to grab as much money as they can. S.Ireland wanting a £2m pay-off, Joey Barton, Given wanting out if not playing, Milner wanting to be a bench warmer despite playing first team football and playing for England, Jones fulfilling his dream of playing for Stoke, the John Terry Man City/Chelsea saga (equals one massive pay rise) last season - who on earth looks up to these cretins?

    Hopefully the whole EPL will implode and we can go back to the days when a footballer can take a throw in without a hoad of tourist football fans behind him with their digital cameras out!

  • Comment number 7.

    As interesting as the season ticket statistics are, these days most clubs derive only a fraction of their gross revenues from fans who actually turn-up to watch matches.

    For example, Tottenham Hotspur's last Annual Report for the financial year ending 30th June 2009 saw total ticket sales for League and Cup matches at under 25% of the club's gross revenues of £113 million.

    Corporate sponsorship also accounted for around 25% of revenues while the lion's share came from Media & Broadcasting at around 40%.

    Full details of all 20 Premier League club's latest financial information available here:

  • Comment number 8.

    As long as ticket prices remain an unsustainable joke, these things will always happen.

    I'm not suprised that Chelsea and Spurs are selling as they are your classic bandwagon clubs. They do well so people follow.

    Arsenal supporters are extremely positive about their club, they have the mentality that the club can do no wrong, and it is probably this attitude that is spurring on sales which are quite frankly, disgusting prices.

    I know at Liverpool there is a concerted effort by the hardcores to boycott Liverpool products and services. Sadly this misguided effort is largely in vain as there is always someone to take your place. They'll be back to normal soon enough when there is new owners. They still have a massive following and if they did get a new stadium, they would fill it - as long as transport links are massively improved to the stadium.

    Man United have been filling out for years - they are the most supported club in England and right now are the most successful, so with this in mind and the price freeze, it is hard to understand why they are not selling full quota, especially as they are not as pricey as the London clubs. I'm not a Man U fan so I don't know, but maybe it is largely down to the owners like at Liverpool, and even though I don't think they've acted as disgracefully as the Liverpool owners have, the fact that there is no end in sight makes the situation very disgruntling for them.

  • Comment number 9.

    The Green & Gold anti-Glazer movement at Old Trafford HAS forced the owners to pursue a huge advertising campaign aimed straight at season tickets holders (past and present), One United members and E-members. Infact, anybody who has ever passed on their email address to the club has been targeted on numerous occassions this summer to try and sell them a season ticket. Despite the price freeze on season tickets, demand has dried up. Fans are taking note of the week in week out visible protests at Old Trafford and are deciding to hit the Glazers where it hurts... their back pockets.

    However, I don't believe this short fall in season ticket holders will impact on United's match revenue this season, as when the season kicks off, the fans just can't stay away from OT. Tickets will be put on general sale for games that previously wouldn't have been heard of (take the home match against Liverpool for example, I've had numerous emails asking me to "buy a ticket for this game") and fans will snap these up at the last minute. BUT, the fact that our famous season ticket waiting list has gone, and there are still some tickets to be sold, surely shows the owners that us fans are not lying down for them anymore... And as the green & gold continues, supporters will keep taking note.

    Old Trafford is one of the few stadiums in Europe that sells out every week. And because not many people are prepared to hand over £1.5billion to buy them out, the only way I can see the Glazers even thinking about giving in to the demands to sell the club is if those 76,000 seats start to empty. If season ticket numbers drop even lower for the 2011/12 season, then empty seats must be a real possibilitly, and that does not translate well to the millions watching on their TV sets. Yes, more money comes in from other sources such as merchandise and sponsorship, but a lack of visible home fans at the stadium could seriously tarnish the image of the club around the world for the owners. Publicity means a lot when managing a business, and a lack of home fans at the stadium could surely impact on this. I am not a season ticket holder, I have previously never had the chance to get my hands on one. However, now they are on general sale, I will not buy one. I love my club, I hate the sickening amount of debt that has been placed on the club and its over inflated price tag, if supporters not going to Old Trafford increases the chance of eventaully achieving the goal of the Glazers selling up and somebody else putting the club on a sound financial footing... Then I'm all for it.

  • Comment number 10.

    #6 - Pre-madonnas? Is that like a pedal stool or a damp squid?

  • Comment number 11.

    attending top flight football is no fun anymore - no drinking, no swearing, no standing, no fighting, gotta have a ticket, too many kids, prawn sandwiches (Mmmmm prawns) When Swansea were top flight in the 80's the terraces were genuinely a scary place to be, it was quite fantastic and not a place for the feint harted. Fans these days are the types that feed take sugar lumps along to feed to police horses. Football attendance was at its peak in the 30's the matches started after the factory closed so the young working class boys could go en masse' after work. The premiership is great to watch on TV but 50 squids to sit down still and behave yerself? No ta. bring back terraces. start with the new Anfield, then they WOULD get 70000 a week no worries. why should the Germans have all the fun?

  • Comment number 12.

    #10 - damp squid of course! A pedal stool - that would be plain cretinous

  • Comment number 13.

    Unfair criticism of Everton Mtt. You suggest we have sold 25000 season tickets. Fora ground that holds just under 40000 people, that is not bad at all.

    One of the main reasons that the move from goodison has been touted is due to the number of restricted viewing seats we have (which is in the thousands) and the accessibility of the ground. We do not have a great public transport infrastructure, or massive car parking facilities. This is what will put a lot more fans off purchasing their ticket.

    Also, Liverpool is not a greatly large city and the fact it draws so much season ticket sale between both clubs is commendable in itself. I'd like to see ratios of population to season ticket holders within certain cities and i'm sure we'd be amongst the elite.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm a Benfica fan living in Portugal and I have bought my season ticket for 175 Euros (145 Pounds). I will see good football, and hopefully have some emotion as well because Benfica will be fighting for the title. It is an absoulte rip-off season ticket prices in the PL. Only 5-6 clubs will have anything to fight for the last 3-4 months of the season. The other fan will fork out hundreds of pounds to see 8 or 9 games that are of no significance.

  • Comment number 15.

    Some interesting points also about the players who seem to be ruining not only clubs, but the entire premier league. The lunatics running the asylum is the phrase that springs to mind.

    Wages should be capped. £10k per week in the premiership with the option of clubs using 3 "Marquee" players who can be paid upto £20k a week.

    The rest could be formed as part of a bonus structure. Generous set bonuses for appearances, goals, assists, MOM etc. Therefore your better players, the ones who are performing will be earning proportional to their performances.

    Also your better players will earn through sponsorship deals. This will create some realism to the game, and enable players to keep striving to do better to earn their money.

    You'd still get Beckham, Rooney etc earning big money due to performance and sponsorship. But the likes of Jimmy Bullard, or worse still, Shola Ameobi will not be holding clubs to ransom and making amounts of money out of the game that are disproportionate to their contribution

  • Comment number 16.

    Are you trying to tell me that if I phone up Liverpool and ask for a season ticket, they will sell me one? Yeah good luck with that one. Nice thorough journalism.

  • Comment number 17.

    Do you remember during the World Cup all the concerns voiced over whether the locals could afford to see their own tournament...seems both sad and a bit ironic given our situation now doesn't it?

    Very interesting point made by #7 THFC6061 regarding how clubs' are becoming much less reliant on selling season tickets and more on TV rights. There were lots of empty seats at many grounds last season..which isn't good when trying to sell the league as a product worldwide based on the 'passionate match atmospheres' it's supposed to generate?

    A side point Matt - I thought UEFA's and the Premier League were introducing strict 'Financial Fairplay' rules regarding actual turnover and expenditure? If so, how can the likes of Man City afford to pay Zlatan Ibrahimovic half a million a week? They'd need to sell-out their stadium ten times over to meet those costs?

  • Comment number 18.

    people buy season tickets for 2 reasons; firstly cos it might be the only way one might get to see any games especially the juicy fixtures. Second you get priority when it comes to e.g. cup finals. If you can just turn up and pay like at Barca, Milan or Bayern why bother?. ManU and Pool fans, if you wanna put the willys up the owners, dont buy ANY season tickets - you can still just turn up and pay at the turnstile, if you all act together. see business types like surety, they like the cash upfront, not buying season tix wont harm the club, just the money men, they will soon be forced out cos thier forecasts wont tally and the loans will be called in

  • Comment number 19.

    # 16 - they will probably just give you one mate

  • Comment number 20.

    #13 - I agree that the stats of fans per population are more interesting. It is actually a fact that Scotland has the highest ratio in Europe, it's hard to believe due to the Old Firm dominance. However when you consider that Motherwell a town of just 30,000 average over 5000 fans every week.

  • Comment number 21.

    Fillipe24; can I ask you why you buy a season ticket? can you not just turn up and pay?

  • Comment number 22.

    If your club plays poor football most of the time, and loses/draws at the same rate, how can Prem teams get away with it?

    They are spending beyond their means so they can compete (and by compete, you mean not lose every game against the top 6 5-0).

    Football fans are being mugged.

    Paying 40+ quid a game, and not been guarentee'd entertainment (like a gig) is absolute rubbish.

    As for the fans, I'm all passion and heartache for my club, most clubs couldn't care how much you support your club, they care about cashflow. They also value profitable seats more than the cheap seats where the "real fans" sit.

    As for the players, "this was for the fans", is also rubbish. They love the cheers for the egos, but when it comes down to 'doing it for the fans', it's more like 'doing it for the sponsorship deals'.

    System needs to change for the fans, but the fans isn't what this sport is for, so no one will listen to them.

  • Comment number 23.

    Matt good article as usual. What percentage of season tickets per club have gone unsold?

    I do agree with some people here. The prices for tickets are now ridiculous and as an Arsenal fan I find it hard to think about paying that about. In the end I think it would cost about £100 a game if you took everything in including travel, a program, a drink and food.

    Young people would rather spend their money on a lot of other things which is why they are not so interested in season tickets. It's good to see that we still have a good strong waiting list.

  • Comment number 24.

    Interesting article. You're making a habit of this Matt. Keep up the good work.

    Do you want to know the two best words in this article that make it worth commenting on? 'Reactively moderated'.

    Anyway, season ticket sales are an interesting barometer though as has been pointed out, it would seem that season ticket revenue is probably a reducing percentage of overall turnover.

    However, would I be right in saying that season tickets effectively offer a discount on the cost of attending a game? Therefore, if fewer season tickets are sold but attendance remains the same then actual revenue will have gone up?

    In that scenario, income might be slightly deferred but it would be greater overall.

  • Comment number 25.

    my season ticket at arsenal is £1800. it's a good seat, but row 15 of the upper tier, so i need good eyes! but there are 45000 on a waiting list and it's a genuine list because you have to pay money to get on it. i know that if i ever give my seat up, i'll probably never get it back, so that's the pressure that keeps renewals so high.
    but at the end of the day, arsenal remains a great match day experience and that's why so many people go. ask yourself why that's not the case at bolton or blackburn!
    the fact remains that arsenal is my main hobby. if i played golf, with a few weekends away with the lads, it would cost me considerably more. plus it stops the wife from buying another bloody handbag!!

  • Comment number 26.

    Your statement about Liverpool's season tickets is totally inaccurate. I've been on the waiting list for over 12 years now without any hint whatsoever that I will ever get a season ticket without a new stadium being built (and even then I might not be high enough on the list). I think it is common knowledge (and even on the Liverpool website) that no new season tickets have been issued by the club since 1996! A liverpool season ticket is like hen's teeth. I would give my right arm for a one but I know I will never get one (unless I am incredibly lucky and somebody agrees to transfer theirs to me) until we get a new stadium. The fact that I could just ring up and choose a season ticket with 2 together if I was a a Man U fan makes me somewhat annoyed!

  • Comment number 27.


    Yes you can but if you go and see all the games it is cheaper to buy a season ticket. It works out at around 11 euros a game. If you went and payed at every game it would be more expensive.

  • Comment number 28.


    Birmingham City.


  • Comment number 29.

    You say 'Half a dozen new players to cheer on' for Blackpool.

    I was under the impression they'd only signed Marlon Harewood and some Israeli defender, whilst letting go of 7 players!

  • Comment number 30.

    #24 Mr Blueburns you silver tounged cavalier, you put it so much better than me. If fans agree to boycott season tickets and just turn up, then total revenue would be unchanged but the money men would not be able to get clubs in so much debt, cos the banks would not lend on the same terms when the cash is not already in the coffers. It would, e.g. force Waldorf & Stadler to sell now, cos RBS would not defer their loans any further after October.....but the fans could still go along & fill the stadium each week.

    Unfortunately the views of modern fans like our friend richroyston (who is no doubt considerably richer than me), would put the kaibosh on such activism.

    RR....You can buy a house in Bolton for not much more than your season ticket. main hobby? the wife? Golf? bloody handbag? is it Brucie & Tarby time?

    I'd be prepared to bet richroyston has another "main hobby" eh?

  • Comment number 31.

    You ok there, Squealy? You need me to call you a doctor or maybe send you some strepsils?

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm fine thanks plasticmanc. Just a little taken aback. I must just have missed the memo informing us that the Premier League now only had 19 teams.

  • Comment number 33.

    25. At 11:33am on 13 Aug 2010, richyroyston wrote:
    but at the end of the day, arsenal remains a great match day experience and that's why so many people go.

    I think in that one line you've managed to encapsulate all that is wrong with a high percentage of todays 'modern fan'.
    Its not a match day 'experience'.......its a life long tradition. You should be born into following your side, it should be part of your daily fabric, forever etched in your mind as you go about your business not something that makes for an interesting couple of hours or something that exceeds the golf in the entertainment stakes.

  • Comment number 34.

    #33 Ronnie-McFall-And-His-Syrup-of-Figs

    I think you've been a bit harsh on richroyston there. The phrase 'match day experience' was doubtless dreamt up by some marketing type but it does describe the catch all that people think about between leaving their house for the game and then returning home afterwards.

    That said, I remember going to Stamford Bridge prior to the birth of that phrase when watching football wasn't about being shown to your seat and the whole day being a controlled experience.

    It was about having a sing song on the train, generally leaping about like a lunatic on the Shed and if you didn't come home with a sore throat and with a couple of bruises from running into a hand rail while celebrating a goal, then something had gone wrong.

    Also, having a beer and a fag whilst standing on the terrace has long since gone.

    Ahh, nostalgia from this silver tounged cavalier.

    Going to a football match used to be on par with going to a good gig. Nowadays, the experience is more akin to going to the cinema.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi, interesting blog. I am a Sheffield United fan and I do not really care about the incessant whinging of the Man United fans who claim 'We've only got £30 million to spend this summer" boo hoo, we'd be lucky to have a 10th of that amount. Anyway, would it be possible to do a Football League (where proper footy is played) report on the same issue. Alternatively, where did you get these figures.

    Thanks, keep up the good work matey.

  • Comment number 36.

    #33 Ronnie-McFall-And-His-Syrup-of-Figs

    If this was the case then crowd numbers would be down! You would get the usual hardcore fans but most people I know are more casual fans

    Football is like any other industry now. You pay an amount of money for entertainment... if you feel you do not get enough entertainment for your money then you do not go again. Supply and demand... clubs will drop prices once people stop going to matches...

    I will go to the odd match.. normally a lower division match but the last few occasions the quality has been poor so I have not been back and prefer to be playing on a saturday afternoon than watching.

  • Comment number 37.

    # 8. Gavelaa
    I'm not suprised that Chelsea and Spurs are selling as they are your classic bandwagon clubs. They do well so people follow.

    Spurs are hardly 'your classic bandwagon club' after one League Cup win in the last 10 years and an impending Champions League play-off. I'm currently around 15,000th on the Spurs season ticket waiting list, and that didn't happen over night.

  • Comment number 38.

    Totally agree with #9. As a United fan I'm quite happy to see us not selling out at the moment - the debt needs to go.

    The other problem is that the people who were on the "waiting list" have now got used to going to the odd game and watching the rest on sky. They can't afford the tickets now they are available. My personal view is that waiting lists are always over hyped by clubs as the bigger they are, the more valuable a season ticket appears.

    And why bother shelling out for a season ticket if the ground isn't selling out anyway? You might save a few quid but its a lot of money to stump up if you can get in on a weekly basis. And for those games that you miss, in the past owning a season ticket was a great source of favours and/or cash from your mates. But if tickets are on sale anyway, again that value is eroded.

    A few years ago it used to be a real acheivement just to get into Old Trafford for a game. Once that magic feeling of being packed to the rafers with thousands locked out goes, sales will erode further which is why the Glazers are genuinely walking a tightrope and may eventually have to sell.

    However, one thing that hasn't been mentioned is the number of Arsenal/Chelsea/Spurs tickets that are bought by corporate firms rather than genuine fans. I know United and plenty of other clubs benefit from this but Arsenal are 20 mins in a cab from the City of London. There's plenty of prawn paninis available at the emirates...

  • Comment number 39.

    Good blog Matt

    The most important talking point here is what these 'pre-madonnas' are that yorkieyra talks about!

    @10 - boggedmaffus - Very subtle....its a shame most people on here (inc. yorkieyra) have no idea why what you posted is so funny!

  • Comment number 40.

    What happened to Birmingham City? You gave the information about all other 19 clubs! Surely it has increased after last seasons 12 game unbeaten run.

    p.s #10 = Legendary!

  • Comment number 41.

    @ #34: Mr BlueBurns...

    I couldn't have put that better myself. I now work in "the football industry" and every week I get more and more convinced the experience is more akin to a theatre than football.

    When I started going to Football matches, it was an experience. I was going to West Ham from about 1990 onwards. Now, being 6 I wasn't allowed in the South Bank, so we were over in the West Stand with its seats that gave you splinters. Even so, the atmosphere was always electric and it just made the whole "experienc" brilliant.

    When I was last there (which is now 18 months ago) it was silent when West Ham weren't on the ball. A half-hearted rendition of "Bubbles" and a flat atmosphere. Even the Bobby Moore lower was suspiciously quiet.

    The atmosphere on Green Street even seemed a little bit flat. No banter in the queue for the tube, no-one selling memorabilia.

    Football in the Premier League is becoming the domain of those who can afford the tickets and unfortunately those same people just aren't the sort to get up and cheer, sing, shout and generally have a good time.

    The only problem I see is that this epidemic of dull is spreading to the Championship. I bet a fiver that tomorrow at Swansea City it's flatter than pendine sands out there...

  • Comment number 42.

    #10 - Isn't it a damp squib? I think most squids would, as a minimum, prefer to be damp!

  • Comment number 43.

    Wasn't Debbie Harry pre-madonna?

  • Comment number 44.

    Sorry, I've been so dumb!!! I get back in my box!!!

  • Comment number 45.

    @43 - Whatbill - yeah, she must be the original 'pre-madonna'...her or Marilyn Monroe!

    I have this image of over-paid footballers finishing a game and dressing up as Madonna, before busrting into a rendition of 'Like a virgin' !!

  • Comment number 46.

    The next economic downturn ? We have not even begun this one, price rises imminent, VAT up in January, inflation to remain high.

    What your blog tells us is that the PL has reached the plateau, levelling off, or getting no worse is not a sign of future health for an industry where the bulk of the money goes out of the game.

    Your comments re the Bundesliga outperforming the PL in areas such as attendance(and oh they have got a national team too) suggests that as with the ecomonic outlook, in 5 years time, they will still be on an upward curve, whilst England will be on the decline, and may I say the sooner the Premier League is brought down and football is taken back from the "prawn sandwich fans, it will not be a day too soon.

  • Comment number 47.

    #36 Noorwich come on mate its the eve of the new season - football is not, never has been, and never will be just another industry. Abramovich would not buy like a billion quids worth of shares in British Gas with no hope of a financial return, ordinary firms would not be allowed to continue with debts that far outweigh thier capacity to repay them, customers would not keep on buying sub-standard products week in week out at vastly inflated prices and RBS would not be too scared to call in the debts of Nabisco for fear of upsetting lovers of family circle biccies. These things happen cos football is so perfect and sooooooo lovely and smashing.

    as for "if you feel you do not get enough entertainment for your money then you do not go again" well, errrr yes we do, and again and again, year after bloody year, overpriced replica away kit after overpriced replica away kit.

  • Comment number 48.

    Morning all, thanks for stopping by, here are some replies:

    AndSolksjaerswonit (3) - Fair comment. Nobody can deny that Man U are by some margin top of the pile when it comes to bums on seats. The average attendance at OT is 25% higher than the next best club (Arsenal) and the occupancy rate (percentage of total seats sold for each game) is 98.6%, third best in the league. So any examination of what has been happening at OT this summer must acknowledge that any decline in popularity is relative and starts from a very high base. I should also add that the first game of the season, Newcastle on Monday, is sold out (although this being Man U, there are rumours about the methods used to achieve this "sell-out" - I was unable to corroborate these rumours).

    gunsofnavarone (5) - "Occupancy", slightly misleadingly, refers to % of tickets sold for each game. This isn't quite the same as bums on seats, as fans of Arsenal, for example, could verify. The Gunners claim to sell out pretty much every league game (a league-leading occupancy rate of 99.3% last year) but anybody who went to the Emirates towards the end of last season could tell you that not all of those ticket-holders were turning up. As for the seasonal variation issue, occupancy is the stat the Premier League prefers precisely because it irons out some of that promotion/relegation variation. So total attendance has been down for the last two seasons (after years of growth) but league-wide occupancy has been steady at 92.4%, slightly down on 07/08's 92.8%. Wigan are bottom of the table in this regard with just 71.6% of their seats 'occupied'. Come on folks, you can watch PL football for about £13 a game at the DW!

    Yorkieyra (6) - The Premier League has already been on to me about that. It claims the Football Supporters' Federation has misread the results of the PL's own fans survey. The PL says the 1 in 10 number only relates to 'adults' (over 18s), so the number is a less startling 10% of adults at any game (season ticket-holders or otherwise) are 18-24. I've asked for better stats that include numbers for kids & I'm told we should get these pretty soon.

    THFC6061 (7) - I'm not sure that's strictly true. I don't have my copy of the most recent Deloitte report to hand but "matchday" revenues still represent a vital component for the turnovers of all the clubs. At Arsenal & Man U, for example, "matchday" is still bigger than the "broadcasting" and "commercial" revenue streams, although that may well change in coming seasons. But further down the league, you're right, "broadcasting" money (basically Sky & the growing amount from the overseas deal) is the biggest earner. But nobody should underestimate the importance of getting them through the turnstiles. If nothing else, empty seats look rubbish on telly.

    tomeffccam (13) - "Criticise" was the wrong word on my part. Sorry. But I do make that clear with my next sentence. I was really impressed with Everton's response to my question - they were the only club to give precise figures and admit what most of them would only hint at, namely that sales are a little bit down but not by much at all.

    redwinnie (16) - I think you're confusing the existence of a "waiting list" with actual season tickets sold. The club admitted that renewals were slightly down on last year and were in the process of working through the list to see who wants to pick up the slack. This is exactly what Man Utd have done too only to discover that the waiting list couldn't fill the breach, hence the decision to place 4,000 on general sale. Now Liverpool haven't taken this step yet and may not need to. But they have increased the number of tickets available on a match-by-match basis by 3,000. This suggests to me a fall-off in demand for season tickets. I also note that Liverpool's occupancy rate last season was a very average 94.2%, significantly down on Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea.

    JoC (17) - You're right, UEFA is bringing in Financial Fair Play rules...sadly the top clubs/leagues lobbied hard to delay their implementation so they don't come in until 2012 and even then they are phased in over six years.

    Nick_Hove_Actually (23)- Good question but one I can't answer properly as the clubs don't reveal this data. Most won't even tell you how many they sold last year or how many they could sell if demand was unlimited. But a good way of looking at it is to think about PL rules for how many tickets have to be available on match-by-match basis (minimum of 5%) and how many are given to away supporters (3,000 or 10%, whichever is greater).

    MrBlueBurns (24) - You're absolutely right. Clubs would make much more money if they could sell all the seats on a match-by-match basis as season tickets offer a huge discount over the course of the campaign. But the attraction of season tickets is that they represent guaranteed income. They bring an element of certainty. I suppose you could also argue that the clubs would need to employ more ticket-office staff if they did away with season tickets.


  • Comment number 49.

    And Birmingham City? Any chance you might acknowledge our existence at some stage Matt?

  • Comment number 50.

    Squealy (19) and Jose_Bianchi (40) - Sorry!!! No offence. I originally didn't attend to mention all of them but ended up doing it almost by accident. Sorry. Birmingham City told me they were "definitely up" on last year, having sold "about 15,000" normal and posh seats.

    billybong999 (26) - Please see my answer above to redwinnie but I think the situation at Liverpool is particularly opaque. Requests were made for figures but the only number we got was that last year's figure was about 23,000, excluding exec seats, and "that a low percentage are not renewing". Anecdotal evidence from supporters, however, said sales were down on the same point last year. Not by much, I grant you, and it could change, as I say in the blog.

  • Comment number 51.

    jamesb84 @ 41

    Quiet? at the Swans? vs Preston? 1st home game of the season? with the Jacks reputation? it cannae happen, this is the land of song man!

    Actually I know what u mean its not like the old days. I remember Swans v Panathinaikos, mid 80's at the Vetch, five goals, three sendings off and a pitch invasion, afterwards I got toppled by a well aimed truncheon and fell in sick. Now that WAS a 'match day experience'

  • Comment number 52.


    Try searching for "law of supply and demand" and "disposable income" in Wikipedia, and all will become clearer.

  • Comment number 53.

    "I didn't attend..."?!? Must be a Freudian slip, given the subject matter. Anyway, I am sorry, Bluenoses, won't happen again.

  • Comment number 54.

    Don't worry. We'll be watching.

  • Comment number 55.

    45. At 1:07pm on 13 Aug 2010, Mace9 wrote:
    @43 - Whatbill - yeah, she must be the original 'pre-madonna'...her or Marilyn Monroe!

    No, the original pre-madonnas were the Benedictine monks of the Monastery of San Sisto in Piacenza as they commisioned the original Sistine Madonna painted by Raphael c1513.

    Come on, must try harder!

  • Comment number 56.

    wow well done to stoke for selling over 20,000 season tickets for the first time lol.

    Norwich have sold over 20,000 in the championship and league one for the past 4 or 5 season.

  • Comment number 57.

    Is it Cindy Lauper? or did she come after

    whats a squib then?....anyone...plasticmanc....anyone?

    I think Stoke have got more fans than Norwich have nicer outfits tho

  • Comment number 58.

    they should do a best dressed team award

  • Comment number 59.


    In Harry Potter those unable to do magic who are born to magical parents are known as Squibs

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm a Blackburn season ticket holder and have been since 1984. I am surprised you haven't mentioned the price of our season tickets, starting at £150 for 16 games unreservedly seating in the darwen end, and just £209.00 for the entire season in the Blackburn end and riverside stands by far and away the cheapest in the league intact cheaper than most league 2 sides.

  • Comment number 61.

    "You're absolutely right. Clubs would make much more money if they could sell all the seats on a match-by-match basis as season tickets offer a huge discount over the course of the campaign."

    I can't speak for other clubs (though it'd be interesting to know) but at United a season-ticket offers no discount on ticket prices. You pay the same per match as a member would buying on a match-by-match basis. It didn't used to be this way, when I bought my first LMTB (league match ticket book) back in the early 70s you did get a discount, I think it worked out at a game-and-a-half discount as reward for your loyalty and for stumping up the cash in advance. The benefits of having a season ticket (it took me almost 20 years of having a lmtb before I could apply for my first proper season ticket) have been eroded. You can apply for away tickets (you'll get 1, maybe 2, per season if you apply for every away game), you can apply for cup final tickets (1 in 3 chance of getting a ticket), and you get to sit in the same seat every week. That's it. I really don't see the appeal in having a season-ticket anymore, esepecially when you know that your money is being used to pay the mortgage of a hideous american family rather than being used for the benefit of the football club.

    Even at a huge club like United there did used to be a bond between the club and supporters. Hell, some supporters at United even set up MUDA (the Manchester United Supporters Association) in order to generate extra cash for the club to build new stands and facilities. It was the same at many clubs, not only did the supporters provide income through buying STs and LMTBs at a time when they could pay on the gate for any game but they also worked, for free, at bringing in extra income for clubs.

    What we have now is supporters being treated as 'customers', we have matches being marketed as a 'product', we have our clubs being talked about as 'brands'. Even worse that some clubs are being used simply as a vehicle for debt. It's no surprise that many supporters are saying they no longer want a part of it, that they no longer feel a connection with their club.

    Having said that, ticket sales are still, for now, holding up surprisingly well at most clubs. But it is short-termism. With the foundation of many clubs support priced-out or disenfranchised, and with the average age of the support increasing at an alarming rate, it's surely only a matter of time before the bubble bursts. It's simply not sustainable. Not that the likes of the Glazers will care, they'll have long since made their money and moved onto their next project.

  • Comment number 62.

    #59, i think your wrong there as Norwich are the only team in Norfolk and thus have a whole county of support, also if they have more fans why can't they fill their stadium and have only once sold over 20,000 season tickets

  • Comment number 63.

    MUDA (the Manchester United *Development* Association). Sorry.

    Good blog btw Matt.

  • Comment number 64.

    jonahmona - a squib is/was "a small firework that burns with a hissing sound before exploding" - Oxford Compact Dictionary.

  • Comment number 65.

    You can use that if you want Mr Slater....the best dressed team award blog, I'll kick it off:

    1. Celtic
    2. Norwich City Football Club FC
    3. Ajax
    4. wolfeyhampton wanderers
    5. Dundee United
    6. the arse
    7. Dundee
    8. Kenfig Hill Druids (circa 1985)
    9. FC Barcelonia
    10. Steven Gerrard

  • Comment number 66.

    64. At 2:57pm on 13 Aug 2010, squealy wrote:
    jonahmona - a squib is/was "a small firework that burns with a hissing sound before exploding" - Oxford Compact Dictionary.

    Danka squealy, that fits as a euphemism for disappointment. I thought the previous answer was questionable cos firstly the expression would predate H.Potter; and secondly, it doesn't work as a simillee

    Paulo79; this is priceless....."Norwich are the only team in Norfolk and thus have a whole county of support"

    the whole county huh?

  • Comment number 67.

    Another thing clubs are doing is selling a membership card to fans. Arsenal have a red memebrship card costing £30 which entitles you to buy a ticket if it becomes available to red members. Apparently Arsenal have needed to put any tickets on general sale for years. So plenty of fans now pay to become a member so they might get a chance to get a ticket which they have to pay for.

  • Comment number 68.

    To add to the comment of my fellow Rover, we have once again sold around 19000 season tickets. An excellent number for a town of only 100000 people!

    That is the precise reason Blackburn Rovers fans get infruriated by taunts of 'no fans', 'don't deserve to be in the league' etc, we are the best supported club by population in the league.

    Fellow football fans should be able to decipher why big city clubs get more people through the gates than clubs from small towns.

    As a historic club at the heart of our community we certianly deserve our place at the top table.

  • Comment number 69.

    #66 My apologies

    A squib load, also known as a squib round, pop and no kick, or just a squib, is a firearms malfunction in which a fired projectile does not have enough force behind it to exit the barrel, and thus becomes stuck.
    Source: wikipedia

  • Comment number 70.

    #66 yes that's correct the whole county, where as stoke being in the midland have birmingham, villa, coventry, wolves, leicester, port vale etc etc.

    The tow closet clubs to norwich are 60 miles away in ipsh*t and peterborough hence our fan base is larger.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    Paulo79, Stoke is in Staffordshire. How many other clubs are there in Staffs? Staffs also has more people than Norfolk. Stoke have a higher record attendance than Norwich....this is all I based my comment on.

    Anyways I quite like Norwich City - they were 2nd on my best dressed team awards, remember? and I was outraged when they were denied thier rightful place at the table of european club competition after thier stirling Milk Cup triumph in 1985. I feel they could have easily matched Ipswich's european success of a few years before

  • Comment number 73.

    united fan here, and well done United fans dont get sucked in jus yet, hold firm! And i hope the liverpool fans do the same too! dotn really care what those there london clubs do, they are just tourist attractions!

  • Comment number 74.

    Don't suppose you've got any figures for the lower leagues have you? Average occupancy etc, or any idea of which clubs that have sold out? I'd be interested to see if it was just Premiership football that was attractive or football as a whole. I suppose the comparrison will be slightly skewed by clubs with big stadiums that won't be filled in lower leagues (thinking teams like Bradford) but if Premiership teams are attracting significantly more people even with higher prices that is quite an achievement.

    Some data on how many fans the relegated teams lost/kept would also be interesting.

  • Comment number 75.

    @48 re Manchester United - they are now selling season tickets without Newcastle game included so I suspect they have sold out but would still like to get as much cash up front to pay off some debt. There will be plenty of empty seats from season ticket holders who won't turn up for this one. Also there are loads on viagogo the site that lets you buy tickets from other fans who can't attend. Apparantely the Glazers favourite tactic at Tampa Bay was to buy the tickets themselves to give an impression of exclusivity. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they'd done this here and shoved them on viagogo.

    The general theme of football losing its touch on this thread is spot on. Im only 27 not a rich man by any means and have no chance of finding 700 every summer plus knowing I have to buy every cup game. The atmosphere at OT has been going down the toilet for years and every away ground you go to aside from one or two notable exceptions is quiet unless it's a huge game. I fear there is no way back and it'll end up like the big US sports.

  • Comment number 76.

    Just like to point out that Blackpool FC season ticket costs are, in my opinion,very reasonable when compared to our more illustrious premier teams

    The adult cost is £350, seniors £280, juniors £110, under 12's £75-ish. A whole lot cheaper than the most well to do clubs,who strange to say are mainly in the RED !

    Which goes to prove that you can buy success, but not profit..cheers!

  • Comment number 77.

    Blackpool's sales up 140%...

    And yet no mention of the phrase "glory hunters"!

  • Comment number 78.

    An interesting read Matt. Every year though it seems that journalists list season ticket prices and put Arsenal at the top. You compare Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea making Arsenal the dearest. We however not only get to watch Arsenal play (obviously worth paying a premium for) but using he prices you quote our season tickets are actually cheaper.

    That's because we get 7 cup games on our tickets (not including the league cup which is £20 at time maximum). So looking at it on a per match basis. Arsenal come out at £34.07 a match, Spurs at £36.57 and Chelsea at £35.78.

    How many other Premier League clubs include cup games?

    In fact I have a mate who has a Man United ticket and his works out about the same as mine on a per match basis after all the price hikes they have had recently. Arsenal's by the way haven't gone up since before we moved to the Grove. Mind you they were already high enough thanks.

  • Comment number 79.

    I've thought for a while that the EPL is on borrowed time and I think the limited transfer activity this summer is the beginning of the end. More clubs will struggle financially as finance comes up for renewal on significantly more expensive terms.
    From a personal perspective I am a United fan living in Manchester and did think about paying £800 for a season ticket this year. But in the end I decided it would be better to pay (in a year or two when the kids are old enough) £750 for a family ticket at Sale to watch top class rugby instead. Add to that it's a better environment for kids (no swearing, no abuse between fans - they often sit together), I can have a beer on the stand and don't get ripped off by the price of a program.
    I also think generally that people will move towards other sports due to higher prices and a lack of role models for kids in football these days (maybe this is why so few U24's now go to games?)

  • Comment number 80.

    because of all of these fans not renewing their season tickets in protest about the glazers, I have jumped the "10 year" waiting list and picked myself up a sweeeet season ticket in the stretford end...

  • Comment number 81.

    Norwich & Leeds as League 1 clubs last year both had higher average attendances than 6 of the teams in the premier league. But Stoke was not one of the 6 (Wigan, Portsmouth, Burnley, Bolton, Fulham & Hull).

  • Comment number 82.

    Billinthebailey (78) - Good point, well made. Still pricey, though, aren't they?

    Mattyblue (68) - Yes, Rovers have done a great job in a tough market. I think you added 3,000 season tickets last year when the club slashed prices. You're not quite up to that number again (just under 18,000) but you're very close. And I think your entry-level £209 ticket is cheaper than Accrington Stanley's!

  • Comment number 83.

    I'm on the season ticket waiting list at Arsenal and I'm in 38,564 position and I know there is at least 5,000 people after me on the list.

  • Comment number 84.

    An excellent blog and really quite informative but based upon some creditable research. Nearly most interesting (and missed by all of the girlie-types who just rant with passion about their clubs) is that the Bundesliga is the most profitable league in the world. The most interesting fact to emerge is that all Bundesliga clubs must been 51% owned by the fans without special dispensation from the League Management. Only two clubs have achieved this "dispensation" because they are owned by a local (and big) Corporate organisation that is representative of the fans.

    Wow! How cool is that? Just imagine, our clubs with fans having overall control. Yes, the PL (BTW, that's THE Premier League and the ONLY Premier League and it does not need an E in front of it.... unless it's the European Premier League. It is the same as the FA; it is THE FA and THE FA is the first FA which is English. Every other FA and every other PL needs further categorisation to be identified but there is only one FA and one PL. Moderators, please note this actual FACT!) generates more income through TV but it wastes so much on wages to players. Yet is the quality of Bundesliga games so far below the PL? All those that watch the Bundesliga will shout a resounding NO.

    Fact is that the PL is marginally better but how can you compare teams in the lower half of the PL to the quality of football in the Bundesliga?

    Next fact is that the PL has become a conondrum. Should it become the EPL (European Premier League). The European Champions League could become a similar competition to the FA Cup (which is actually how it started out when it was the European Cup).

    My main point is that the Bundesliga has given Fans their proper place in the administration of their clubs and that is to be saluted. Want proof? Well now, what was the score when England played Germany last in the World Cup? Yes, England can lament the Lampard "goal" but we were never, ever, going to win that game. Why?

    Well, it's because they were playing for a re-united Germany which has once again become a proper country. What is England but just one of four bits of the UK and who would feel motivated to play for that? England does not even have a parliament! But it does have the most income in its own PL. The PL is the biggest entity in football, worldwide. Ironically, England no longer exists. And yet all of the UK FA's need separation to survive.

    All-in-all, an interesting article that raises so many issues. Brilliant journalism. It's what the BBC should spend so much more time on.....after all, it is a BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation and, last I heard, England was once in Britain.

  • Comment number 85.

    dont believe anything this guy is saying city havent sold all there season tickets. what clowns do the bbc have working for them take a look at the official website they have them for sale. is this the sun or the bbc.

  • Comment number 86.

    @84 - Not all Bundesliga clubs are owned by the fans. The law states that no single party can control a majority of the club (i.e 51%.) Therefore any club can be routinely split three ways by mega-rich oligarchs if need be. The fans don't really have any control at the vast majority of Bundesliga clubs, its effectively the DFL (Deutsche Fussball Liga) and the DFB (the German FA.)

    Schalke who were posting incredible losses a few years ago (due to paying exorbitant player wages and financing a new stadium) were bailed out by Russian oil giants Gazprom. This means that Gazprom can pump as much money as they want into the club but they cannot have a controlling share.

    The laws in Germany safeguard against clubs being in the hands of one sole proprietor to ensure the link between the town and its sports club is kept intact and to avoid the club being asset stripped and moved elsewhere. It does not however safeguard against clubs losing money and posting huge debts. (c.f Kaiserlautern, Dortmund.)

    I also don't buy the reunified line. This is not 1990. Players like Mesut Ozil were born one year before the wall fell.

    The irony in all that, is that the majority of clubs east of the wall have mostly hit the skids post-reunification due to complete financial mismanagement and a lack of invested infrastructure by the German FA. Even Hansa Rostock, the only east German side to have a modicum of success in the Bundesliga were relegated to the third division last season. And only one player who was in the 23 man squad in South Africa came from the old east Germany - Toni Kroos.

    There is also a very virulent hooligan problem that still exists in the lower leagues (a coupling of ramshackle stadiums and cheap tickets) which occasionally boils over into the top-flight (like when Hertha fans rioted and invaded the pitch against Nuernberg last season in a bid to attack the players.)

    Whilst I agree the Germans operate a tighter ship than most in football, don't think for one minute that the domestic game itself is a bed of roses. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done.

  • Comment number 87.

    Far too many many supporters are priced out and this problem should have been addressed years ago. The big boys will fill up their grounds as usual, but the lesser clubs often have dissapointing attendances already.

    Football should be affordable to watch.

  • Comment number 88.

    I don't find the premier league interesting at all - who's gonna win this year? Man U or Chelsea.
    Exciting? I think not.

    The lower leagues are more exciting because who wins is actually a surprise. Although all the kids that go (cause the tickets are affordable) are irritating.

  • Comment number 89.

    Matt, is there a secondary market in season tickets for any of the clubs, as this might explain why a waiting list can evaporate?

    "Ticket touts", or whatever they call themselves, manage to buy and re-sell many kinds of tickets even when measures are taken to try and prevent it.

    One of the earlier posts said that people had to pay to get onto the Arsenal waiting list, but this might not deter someone who was confident of selling it on for a profit as a "corporate" seat. And, as somone else mentioned, a season-ticket "holder" has a better chance of getting Cup-Final type tickets (a resonable bet in recent years for Man Utd or Chelsea seats).

  • Comment number 90.

    Just revisiting this blog after the first series of EPL games, and what struck me as I watched highlights on MOTD was the huge swathes of empty seats at quite a few stadia, with Wigan's attendance particularly bad.

    I know Blackpool are not the most glamourous of opponents, but it was quite poor for the opening game of the season.

    Perhaps though, with ticket prices as high as they are, people have to choose their games more carfully.

    As an aside, and I'm aware of the vast gulf in quality, I bought a season ticket for Limerick FC in Ireland for 85 euros. 16 home games a season.


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