Red Sox owner backs down on tickets after fans' walkout

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Boston Red Sox owner apologizes to fans

Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the owners of one of the world's most famous soccer clubs, have apologized to fans after protests erupted over a proposed increase in ticket prices.

Last weekend thousands of fans of Liverpool Football Club staged a 77th minute walkout during a home game against Sunderland.

Supporters used the walkout to demonstrate their anger at the club's proposal to increase some match tickets to £77 ($111) for the 2016-17 season, at a time when top English football clubs are set to benefit from a record £5.136 billion television deal.

In a statement released on the Liverpool website on Wednesday, principal owner John W Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and president Mike Gordon apologized for "the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016-17 season."

"The three of us have been particularly troubled by the perception that we don't care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club's expense," the statement continued. "Quite the opposite is true."

As well as owning Liverpool, Fenway Sports Group's portfolio of companies also includes the Boston Red Sox.

Ticket prices for matches in England's top league are becoming an increasingly emotive issue, with many fans feeling priced out of their teams' games.

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On Wednesday, in a response to a question put to him in Parliament on the issue, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron waded into the debate, saying there was "a problem whereby some clubs put up prices very rapidly every year, even though so much of the money for football comes through sponsorship, equipment and other sources."

The 900-word statement from FSG – a direct address to fans – went on to note that, "A great many of you have objected strongly to the £77 price level of our most expensive GA (general admission) seats and expressed a clear expectation that the club should forego any increased revenue from raising prices on GA tickets in the current environment. Message received."

Major revisions have now been made to the club's ticketing plans for 2016-17, with the price of the most expensive general admission ticket now frozen at £59 – the level for 2015-16 – with the price of the most expensive season ticket also frozen at £869.

The new plans are set to be in effect until 2018. "For the next two seasons, LFC will not earn a single additional pound from increasing general admission ticket prices," the statement said.

Responding to the announcement, fans' groups Spirit Of Shankly and Spion Kop 1906 said that the announcement had to "be seen (as) a positive step in repairing the relationship between owners and supporters."

"If they had recognized what was being said by supporters about the impact of the original price rises… then much of the embarrassment and upset of the last four days would have been avoided," the statement continued. "It is a sobering lesson in listening to your supporters properly."

Founded in 1892, Liverpool is one of the world's most decorated football clubs. They have won the league 18 times and the European Cup – Europe's top club competition, now known as the UEFA Champions League – five times.