Sevilla are to charge 2,450 travelling Manchester United fans £89 to attend the first leg of the Champions League Round on Feb. 21, making it the most expensive ticket for a non-final or semifinal game in United’s history. A further 200 tickets will be priced at £133.
The standard price ticket will eclipse the £77.50 that another Spanish club, Athletic Bilbao, charged United supporters in 2012 for a Europa League game and the £71 levied by Danish club Midtjylland last year in the same competition. (To compound the expense, United lost both games 2-1.)
After their side finished top of the group, fans welcomed the draw with Sevilla. The team, managed by Eduardo Berizzo, are fifth in La Liga with a goal difference of zero and are not considered as strong as others against whom United might have been drawn, including Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Moreover, Seville is one of Spain’s finest cities and United have never played there before in a competitive match. It has the hallmarks of being a great away trip, though fans will be wary of a heavy-handed approach from police, following issues faced by Liverpool supporters last month, as well as those of Spurs and Leicester in recent years.
But, while tickets should sell out, the price will be an issue; flights to the game in Andalusia will be cheaper. Even given the weakness of the pound, the cost for visiting fans to watch games in Spain is routinely the highest in European football.
Significant progress has been made regarding ticket prices in the Premier League by groups such as the Football Supporters Federation; it costs away fans no more than £30, which is some achievement given Arsenal were charging £64 in 2014.
There are further concessions for the young and elderly as the league appreciates what travelling fans add to a stadium atmosphere, even if they can be frustrated when kickoff times are moved to suit the demands of television. For home games, most clubs have barely increased prices this decade, as they’ve made more money from burgeoning TV rights or commercial deals.
Spanish clubs have also benefited from their largest-ever TV contracts and Sevilla are a well-regarded club, one of their country’s most successful in the last 11 years since they beat Middlesbrough to win the 2006 UEFA Cup, a competition they’ve won a record five times. Before that, Sevilla hadn’t won a trophy since their only Spanish league title in 1946.
Interest is high in the game against United from Spain’s fourth-biggest city, which has a population of 700,000. Sevilla have 41,872 season-ticket holders in their 42,714 capacity Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, a rise of 19 percent in three years that is close to a club record level set in 2006. The figure can go so close to capacity because travelling away fans are rare in Spain. It would take a Barcelona fan 11 hours to drive to Seville, for example.
Sevilla look after their supporters and tickets are not unreasonably priced: It costs €370 (£327) to sit behind the goal for every game including European matches, though some opt for a “league games only” season ticket. Either way, it’s under €20 per ticket, while seats at the side of the pitch average twice that.
The numbers are so reasonable that many fans don’t attend every game for which they’ve bought their season ticket: Sevilla’s average attendance in La Liga last season, when they finished fourth behind Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, was 32,739.
United fans, meanwhile, will be placed in a corner section of the ground and will be surrounded by home fans, who paid a fifth of what they shelled out. That’s not fair; it’s not their fault that they support a popular club. By way of comparison, followers of Liverpool and Leicester paid £54 and £51 respectively for a ticket earlier in 2017.
When ESPN FC asked United for comment, the club said they are powerless to act since, according to UEFA rules, it is up to the home clubs set ticket prices. Meanwhile, Duncan Drasdo of the Manchester United Supporters Trust, hit out at the cost imposed.
“Sevilla are proposing exorbitant price increases,” Drasdo told ESPN. “It is too early to know whether we can change this but we are already in contact with both Manchester United and Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and will be lobbying UEFA and other bodies, who may be able to influence this exploitative pricing.”
Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.