Stay-away Juventus supporters make their point over ticket prices

juventus3 300x225 Stay away Juventus supporters make their point over ticket prices

Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus celebrates scoring the first goal during last night's Champions League match

Last night saw Juventus host a Champions League game for the first time in three years and yet the enduring image of a match which saw the home side draw a record setting eighth consecutive European game was swathes of empty seats throughout a stadium which has been consistently sold out for domestic ties since opening last September.

Indeed, just under 11,000 seats remained unoccupied in the 41,000 capacity stadium for what should have been a celebration of the club returning to Europe’s elite competition. The game ended 1-1 but it was a point being made by those in the stands that was far more noticeable as the problem was compounded by a distinct lack of support from those who did attend due to a fan protest regarding ticket pricing following huge increases throughout the stadium.

Widely applauded for the vision behind the decision to become the first of Italy’s leading club’s to move away from a council owned stadium and build their own home, there have been a number of issues surrounding the new ground, although they have largely not affected Juventus as they reap financial rewards simply unavailable to their Serie A rivals.

As Milan, Inter and the Roman clubs look for ways to follow their lead, the Serie A title winners have been gaining a clear edge in revenue. Despite posting record losses in their most recent accounts, match-day revenue is expected to increase from €12 million per season before the move to around €25-35 million.

To finance the building of the stadium Juventus sold naming rights to brokers SportFive for €75 million and also made a further profit of €20 million from the sale of land adjacent to the site, meaning the total cost of the project was as low as €60 million. The naming rights remain unsold but that is a problem for SportFive and the club has already received well over 50 per cent of the fees owed to them with the rest spread out over the length of the contract.

Third party ticket brokers have also proved problematic as they snapped up tickets from the club in anticipation of huge demand to watch the resurgent Old Lady. Unable to sell on a large number of these tickets at inflated prices, many empty seats could be seen last season despite a stream of proud ‘sold out’ announcements from the club. Again this did not harm Juventus as they had indeed sold the tickets and the only people left empty handed were the ticket brokers, something nobody will be losing any sleep over.

However, that has eased as a greater understanding of demand has seen those third parties buying fewer and fewer tickets yet, as they built up to last night’s encounter with the Ukrainian Champions, there was a very different atmosphere around the subject of ticket sales. The club made repeated pleas for fans to purchase seats, including wheeling a number of players in front of the media to make cringe inducing requests for support at the stadium.

It left the hard-core followers who attend matches on a weekly basis feeling cold as the club targeted the one-off audience who make trips to prestigious matches such as this and increased prices throughout the stadium, in some cases by almost 75 per cent. Charging €85 to see the Champions League debut of Antonio Conte’s Scudetto winners seems, to those on the outside, not a considerable cost but, to fans who live in Italy’s stark economic reality it is just too much for a game they can enjoy on television.

Of course nobody wants to see an empty stadium for such a high profile game but when considering a season ticket cost just over €300 for many of these supporters it is easy to understand their point of view whilst applauding the peaceful nature of their protest. It stands in stark contrast to the reaction which met many of those Europa League draws two seasons ago which saw the Ultra set fire to sections of the Stadio Olimpico as Gigi Delneri’s team crashed out at the Group Stage.

Things are currently very different on the pitch and with the next home game against Danish minnows FC Nordsjælland on November 7 the club has time to act in order to ensure the same atmosphere which is repeatedly cited as such a boost to players as they chase success at home and abroad. However, failure to address it could see a repeat of the poor attendances at the despised Stadio delle Alpi which Juventus hoped to have moved away from. Looking to break that unwelcome run of draws with what should be a straightforward victory, supporters will hope it is their own point that the club now pays attention to.

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