Fans band together at Stadium of Light to support Twenty’s Plenty

Sunderland WHU Michael Brunskill

FSF writer Isra Gabal reports on the Twenty's Plenty protests that took place outside of the Stadium of Light at the weekend...

The atmosphere in Sunderland’s new Fan Zone at the Stadium of Light on Saturday October 3rd was electric as West Ham United United and Sunderland fans banded together in a show of solidarity to discuss the price of tickets and to back the Twenty’s Plenty campaign.

Football fans up and down the country also put their rivalry to one side and came together to show their support for the Twenty’s Plenty campaign, with thousands of fans taking to social media to get behind the campaign and make their voices heard.

Twenty’s Plenty, a campaign started by the FSF in 2013 to protest the ever rising cost of football match ticket prices, is aimed especially at capping the cost of away match tickets at £20, as the day can end up costing fans hundreds of pounds.

Keef Miller, West Ham United fan, said: “I’m extremely happy with the way today’s event has gone and no matter where West Ham United were playing today, I would of been there to support the campaign as I think it’s important to be proactive and actually try to do something about away ticket prices.

“I paid £29 for today’s ticket, which I commend Sunderland for as it isn’t bad if you’re talking about just a ticket, but when you take into account that my train cost £98 as well as the price of drink and food, the costs pile up and it can sometimes end up costing near enough £200 which is ludicrous. That’s exactly why tickets really shouldn’t cost more than £20.

“I’ve been going to matches for over 10 years now and ticket prices have notably risen since I first started attending, so the Twenty’s Plenty campaign is actually very important and its things like this that make a difference. The planning of the event has been going on for a long while and a lot of thought and effort has gone into it, so we’re extremely happy with the media exposure we’ve got in the past week, as well as the immense support the campaign has had from fans across the country.”

He added: “Getting involved today has been made very easy by both Sunderland AFC and West Ham United United FC as the clubs have allowed us to bring our banners and show our outrage at prices, but what Swansea are doing for their away fans is something every club in the country should be doing, it’s no good letting us bring banners but then ignoring our requests.”

Swansea City announced their decision to subsidise all away ticket prices earlier in the year in a bid to make fan’s lives cheaper, pledging that their loyal fans will not pay more than £22 for all away fixtures in the Premier League this season when tickets are purchased through their membership scheme. The club’s subsidy is set to save its supporters £300,000 across the 2015/16 campaign.

Mhairi Donaghy, a West Ham United fan who travelled from Glasgow to Sunderland to support the Twenty’s Plenty campaign, said: “I fully back the campaign and truly believe when fans come together to protest things that aren’t right in the game, it works! We need to keep holding events like this to raise the campaign’s profile and to have our voices heard so protests don’t become ineffective.

“There’s a lot that’s wrong with the way football clubs are ran nowadays, but the price of tickets is one of the most important issues. The fact todays tickets cost £29 was a huge factor in my decision to come, I’ve been desperate to visit Sunderland for years now as I think it’s such a beautiful city so coming to today’s match means a lot to me as I get to realise a dream I’ve had for a long while. I’d definitely go to more matches and visit more cities if away match tickets are more affordable.

“As fans we’re there to support our team, so clubs shouldn’t make it hard for us to be able to do that. The more expensive the tickets, the less likely people are going to go to away matches because people simply can’t afford it, which isn’t fair as we want to be there to show our teams the support they need.”

Top flight tickets for Premier League matches in this country cost more than anywhere else in the world and since 2011 there has been a 15% rise in the cheapest Premier League tickets to between £15-£50, with some tickets costing as much as £70.

The decline in atmosphere at most away games and the huge broadcast revenue flowing into the game has been a serious driving force behind fan’s desire for action to be taken now.

Helen Tebbey, an avid West Ham United supporter who tries to attend as many away games as possible says the price of Saturday’s ticket was a huge influencing factor in her decision to attend the game and be present for the Twenty’s Plenty campaign.

She said: “If the ticket cost any more I don’t think it would have been possible for me to come here today. I heard about the Twenty’s Plenty event through a friend and decided it was important I came up to Sunderland to show my support.

“I paid £45 recently for a Manchester City game, which is absolutely ridiculous when you think about the overall expense of taking part in an away day, what makes it worse it how much money is in the game today but things are only getting more expensive for fans, when they should be getting less expensive. Most families with two or three children can’t enjoy the away day experience together as it’s just too expensive for them, so campaigns like Twenty’s Plenty are hugely important as they get the message out there.

“We need more events like this as they make supporting your team possible and it’s nice to see the people at the top taking notice and speaking out on behalf of fans.”

Slaven Bilić, West Ham United manager, has recently been commended by fans across social media for his support of the Twenty’s Plenty campaign and speaking out against the rising costs fans are facing, saying: "Football is the people’s sport, a sport for the masses. It shouldn’t be a privilege to go by yourself, with your mates, with your girlfriend, wife, or to take your kids to a football game. It should be there for everybody.”

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