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Bournemouth: Is £60 Just Too Much To Pay?

Thursday 4th July 2013
Bruce Halling gives his view on AFC Bournemouth's upcoming pre-season friendly with Real Madrid.

This week, AFC Bournemouth announced they would be hosting none other than Real Madrid in a pre-season friendly, in what will undoubtedly be an extremely lucrative fixture for the club. The announcement has had an extremely mixed reaction from the footballing world, with the news that ticket prices will be £60 for this fixture.

On the one hand, I can understand why the price is so high. This is essentially a once in a lifetime opportunity for Bournemouth. They aren't a club which will be playing Champions League football any time in the near future, so the opportunity to see their club play the Galacticos is one that hardcore and casual fans alike will be wanting to make the most of. I can relate in a way - last season, my team Southend made the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and secured a first ever trip to Wembley. It was a history-defining moment for the club and one that I was determined to be part of, a moment where you could look back in history and say 'I was there.' This is very much in the same mould for Bournemouth fans.

However, I think £60 is just far too much money to ask any fan to pay for a friendly. I think what needs to be taken into consideration is the fact that, regardless of opposition, friendlies are non-competitive fixtures where the outcome of the game is largely irrelevant and unimportant and the admission price for any such fixture should reflect that fact. You could buy the most expensive tickets for Premier League football at Old Trafford or Anfield and still be left with change out of the money you'd need to spend to get in at Bournemouth for this friendly, and indeed you could buy two tickets for a Premier League game at almost any ground in the country for less.

Just on a side note, my team Southend are hosting Queens Park Rangers in a pre-season friendly later this month, and I'm unsure whether £15 represents value for money, given that the same money would buy a ticket for the Capital One Cup First Round match, and that a league game isn't that much more expensive at £21. With that in mind, I can't begin to imagine what Bournemouth fans must think about the Real Madrid match in terms of value for money, given the fact they could buy tickets for three league games for the same price as this one friendly.

I find myself asking what Bournemouth are going to gain from this friendly in the long run, because the answer to this question could provide a lot more context to why this particular friendly is happening. Is this literally just a one-off for the club to try and get some extra exposure or is this part of something more long-term for the club? I could sort of understand the reasoning behind this if it emerges in the long term that there is some kind of link-up between the two clubs. Perhaps Real Madrid could send a couple of youngsters on loan to the Cherries every season?

With the club in the Championship, it wouldn't be something that would be entirely unrealistic in my view. The Championship is amongst the best second-tier football leagues that this planet has to offer, and there is a definite case to argue that second-tier English league football could do a lot more for a young player's development than reserve team football in Spain. I know it was under a completely different set of circumstances, but take a look at Matej Vydra. Twelve months ago, I can't say I'd ever heard of the guy. One season on loan at Watford, and he's now being looked at by Premier League clubs and certainly has the opportunity to break into the first team at Udinese. With that in mind, there are a lot worse things that could happen for some of Real Madrid's up-and-coming talent than a season on the south coast. Let's not forget that the club itself coud benefit immensely from such a link-up, too. Bournemouth are a side that like to play attractive, attacking football. It certainly wouldn't hurt to have a couple of junior Galacticos in the mix to really add a bit of flair and excitement to the team's play, would it?

However, I can't help but feel that the friendly is nothing more than a revenue-generating exercise that doesn't really appear to be targeted at the everyday football fan, but more at the corporate, 'prawn sandwich brigade' for the want of a better term. For sure, everyone would love to be able to see a club of the stature of Real Madrid play their local team, but who can genuinely afford £60 for a friendly in the current financial climate? Don't get me wrong, I completely understand and recognise that the most loyal and hardcore of fans will do whatever it takes - not pay the rent this month, try and manage on a minimal shopping budget for a few weeks, or beg, borrow and steal the cash if need be - but the question has to be asked about whether the club has really thought about their own fans before they arranged this friendly.

Real Madrid coming to town is of course a big treat, but I believe the price for many may just be too high, and it only serves to illustrate the great tragedy that is the dark financial side of modern-day football.
Bruce Halling
Bruce is a 24-year-old self-confessed Football League addict and author of the 'Road To The Promised Land' column. He is a passionate Southend United fan who has witnessed the Shrimpers' rise to the Championship as well as their more recent fall back to their current position in League Two. Though he doesn’t get to many games as a spectator, he has worked at Southend, Colchester United and now Queens Park Rangers as a steward, so is never too far away from the action on a matchday. Away from football, he is a Politics graduate and currently jobhunting. Follow Bruce on Twitter @brucehalling

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