Why subsidizing ticket prices to the Emirates Stadium is so much more than just a thank you

Alexander Hassenstein

Everyone in England complains about the ticket prices to games. Mostly the price for away games, but also for home games. No one complains about ticket prices in Germany. Okay, maybe a few do but they're a relatively small minority. Part of that is due to a sports culture that places great emphasis on the fan experience and the fan atmosphere; an incentive that keeps ticket costs low.

It's the reason the Südkurve at the Allianz Arena and the Südtribüne at the Westfalenstadion are two of most impressive supporter sections in world football. It's the reason why when Borussia Dortmund faced off against Arsenal FC at the Emirates Stadium on October 22nd of last year, the only noise you could hear was the singing, stamping and outright auditory assault coming from those clad in Black and Yellow; an assault that helped to propel die Schwarzgelben to a 2-1 away win over Arsenal.

Along comes the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds and the announcement that the price to attend the first leg of the Round of 16 at the Emirates Stadium would be €75 ($102) for Bayern Munich supporters.

So naturally on Wednesday when Bayern Munich front office announced they would subsidizing ticket prices to the away match for it's traveling supporters to the tune of €30, it certainly was with at least some eye towards producing and replicating that kind of torrid atmosphere. It's a nearly €90,000 outlay for the nearly 2000 fans who will be in attendance. They say it's a thank you gesture (which it is) but it's so much more then that, and so much more then just another competitive advantage.

But suppose Bayern Munich crash out in a disastrous 6-0 fashion or somesuch over both legs. Will the financial outlay for the Arsenal away leg cost them anything, even in the short term?

No.

See, human beings are bad at cost/benefit analysis. We all are. It's the reason deals like "Buy One, Get One Half-Off" work. You buy the first pair of pants for $40 and get the second for $20. What we don't think about is that most people wouldn't ordinarily buy two pairs of pants. They'd buy one pair and spend $40. Now $40 has transitioned into $60 and we're okay with it.

The same thing applies in this case. Supporters aren't going to spend €45 + ancillary. They are going to spend €75 + ancillary. They were going to spend €75 anyways and they're going to take that free €30 and spend it on merchandise and other forms of Bayern Munich support before, during, or after the match that they wouldn't otherwise do.

In the end, it won't cost the Bayern Munich front office anything other then a barely reduced profit margin. But it gives them all the credibility in the world.

It's the perception of them valuing the fan experience.

I've seen first hand the perception of valuing fan experience in Seattle. In 2010, the Seattle Sounders lost 4-0 to the LA Galaxy at home. The owners were so appalled at the dismal display that they credited all season ticket holders a game on their package the next year. That was nearly four years ago but to this day when I talk Sounders with someone who knows nothing about the team, they bring it up.They know because fans everywhere understand the fan experience. They show gratitude to a team even though they have no connection to the team, or even to the sport. It's something indelible that sticks in your memory for years and shapes your opinion of the team.

So when Bayern Munich becomes more of a household word around the world and those words reach the ears of someone who knows next to nothing about the team, that'll be the first thing they remember. They won't stop to think why but they'll remember that Bayern Munich takes care of it's fans. It's the kind of credibility people buy into immediately. It's the kind of credibility that hooks people looking for a team to call their own. It's the kind of credibility that hooks them better than "we play heavy metal football". It's the kind of credibility that people say you just can't buy. But Bayern Munich figured out a way to do so.

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