The events which unfolded at in Liverpool and Amsterdam last week need no introduction. Two magical comebacks in the Champions League semi-final by two of England’s biggest clubs. Scenes we are never likely to see again.
It would be easy to wax lyrical about Trent Alexander Arnold’s cheeky corner routine, or Lucas Moura’s last-ditch attempt which set Tottenham on their way to Madrid. These are the types of games which make people fall in love with football, and nights that live long in the memory of fans across the world.
One can only imagine how Liverpool’s local hero, who’s been at the club since the age of six, felt as his corner was tucked home by their unlikely saviour Divock Origi.
But what if the next generation aren’t taught to dream, in the same way we were?
Last year, BT Sport paid £1.18bn for the rights to UEFA’s club competitions, the Champions League and Europa League, a contract which runs until the summer of 2021. Until 2015, the Champions League was available to watch on ITV, making the best players in the world accessible to all. With contracts for BT sport reaching up to £60 a month, the mega-minds in the footballing world continue to price out those who matter most, the fans.
Most people can recall certain matches from their childhood, be it the first game they went to in person, or a memorable game they watched on TV as a kid. Nights that made us go to sleep dreaming of scoring a last-minute winner, or saving a sudden-death penalty. To be fair, a lot of us, myself included, would settle for just seeing our teams play in Europe, let alone be involved in moments like these.
As a child, the Champions League offered a long-awaited break from the boredom of the school week, you might have even been able to stay up past your bedtime if it went to penalties. It continues to offer a break from the doldrums of work today. But across the country, the bright lights of professional football are becoming increasingly inaccessible.
The highs and lows of football bring out the child in all of us, and that’s what it’s all about. Nights like Tuesday bring people together, the packed out courtyard of the Guild proves that, and the scenes witnessed in Concert Square will live long in the memory of those who were there. But that’s what football is, community. Or at least it should be.
The way we consume football is changing; we’re reliant on dodgy streams, which always conveniently cut out right as a vital goal’s scored, or waiting for clips to come through on Twitter, which seem to take an age. This means students are forced out, and away from work, in order to watch the game on via a reliable source. Ticket prices continue to sky-rocket, meaning attending games is becoming increasingly impractical for students and full-time workers alike. You’re rapidly being disconnected from what’s unfolding, right as you read this. And that’s not what football’s about.
Prior to Tottenham’s miracle at the Johan Cryuff stadium on Wednesday, it was announced that each side in the final would receive just 16,613 tickets for the final, played at the 68,000 seater Estadio Metropolitan in Madrid. To put that into perspective, Tottenham have 42,000 season ticket holders at their new ground.
To top it off, the cheapest tickets come in at £60 face value, with prices rising to an outrageous £513. Everyone else seems to have jumped in on the act too. Return flights from John Lennon Airport to Madrid? No less than £1,500. It’s not just UEFA, though…The FA Cup next weekend will see Manchester City and Watford fans paying up to £250 to see their teams play at Wembley.
A trip of a lifetime to Madrid for the Champions League final on the 1st June will see many students blowing away practically a full-term of student loan instalments. Football is constantly being driven away from the local community and towards the bank accounts of multi-millionaires and billionaires. If the sport continues on the path it has forged for itself, we risk losing out on a generation of young fans and future footballing stars. Nights like Tuesday at Anfield and Wednesday in Amsterdam deserve to be seen, so let them be seen.
In the words of the late Sir Bobby Robson:
What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city.
It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at the hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.
Featured Image Credit: https://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/research-projects/mediamarketsfootball-in-contemporary-europe/the-money/