By ECS Leadership

The ECS believes strongly that soccer should be accessible in our community on all levels. Local residents interested in attending professional matches (Sounders FC, Reign, Sounders Women and others), traveling for away matches, or playing in adult and youth leagues should have access to do so. The growth of the sport in our local area and our country is dependent upon improving the accessibility for people of all socioeconomic groups and all interest levels.

Our travel monkeys have been hard at work coordinating 2014 away travel with the front office personnel across the league since January. When we contacted the SJ front office at that time, we were told that the ticketing would be handled by the 49ers and they’d get back to us in a month. We finally received our ticketing information on March 5th, with prices of $45 and no group buy option which is done at most other MLS matches. That means that our traveling supporters would each have to pay a ticketmaster fee of about $8 for their order.  We were assured these were the least expensive tickets in the stadium, and SJ’s supporters would be paying $55 for their seats.

At that time ECS leadership began mulling over our possible reactions to this drastic price increase. While we certainly understand that this is a unique event to open the 49ers new stadium, we aren’t going to San Jose for a stadium tour. We’re going for a soccer match, the fair market value of which is nowhere near $45.  We decided it is time to take a stand and announced that we would be boycotting the match in San Jose. On March 10th we began a campaign via social media to express our viewpoint. We addressed the issue in long form via Sounder At Heart as well. In case there is any uncertainty, here is what we believe:

·         Soccer belongs to the fans and supporters. It should be accessible to everyone, whether a 20-something, a student or a blue-collar family of four, tickets should be affordable and available.

·         Soccer is growing in America because of the accessibility it currently offers that most other sports do not, specifically as it relates to ticket prices.

·         If pricing trends continue, the league will price out its most passionate supporters.

·         This issue is not limited to the Emerald City Supporters and Seattle Sounders. It impacts supporters and fans of clubs across the league all of whom have seen a steady increase in ticket prices for home and away matches.

·         If the soccer community nationwide continues to pay these prices without expressing our displeasure, the clubs and the league will continue to increase them.

·         Speaking up and taking a stand can make a difference. Supporter group ticket sales for home and away matches make up a significant portion of the incomes of the clubs and leagues. If we make a stand together against this increase, we can help ensure soccer remains accessible for the future.  We can protect the long term growth of the sport in America and ensure the league remains healthy and stable for a long time to come.

Our campaign reached the intended audiences, we received many responses from supporter groups around the league agreeing with our views and offering their own information on increased ticket prices. We have interacted directly with the SJ president, Dave Kaval. We received off the record responses from the MLS and SSFC front office. And yet, we saw no movement on ticket prices for the match at San Jose and our boycott still stands.

As we approached the Sounders match in Portland on April 5th, we noticed that ticket sales were not what they’ve been in the past. In communicating with our members, the leading factor for why they were not traveling was cost. With match tickets priced at $45 and bus packages at $85, an ECS member planning on attending all 4 Cascadia Away trips this season would spend $340.  Compare that to our season tickets for 17 matches, which cost $320 for a season ticket holder since 2009 ($468 for a new season ticket holder) and you’ll see the issue.  Supporters across the league are being priced out of the biggest matches of their clubs’ season.

The Timbers have different ticket prices this season for individual match tickets, “premier” and “standard”. Regardless of the section you’re buying tickets for, premier matches cost $10 more than standard matches. For traveling supporters the prices are $45 or $35, for the Timbers Army prices are $27.50 or $37.50.  Regardless of whether you’re a Sounder or a Timber, this hits you in the pocket book. We feel strongly that $45 (and $37.50, for that matter) is too much for a supporter to be asked to pay for a single match ticket. We expressed our opinion of the pricing and Timbers owner driving those prices in our pre-match protest banners. At the start of the 2nd half, we made a much more direct statement regarding the ticket prices and quality of the stadium with a banner reading “SAME SHIT STADIUM TWICE THE PRICE!”  It took about 15 minutes for stadium security to remove this banner.

ECS leadership was contacted on Tuesday April 8th with regards to the profanity on this banner.  We were told, “In response to your tifo last weekend with profanity directed toward Portland” we would face sanctions for the next Cascadia match on May 24th in Vancouver. For that match our away ticket allotment will be reduced by roughly 20%. We have accepted this sanction and offered no apology for our actions or our words. We believe strongly in our cause and we are willing to take the punishment required to make our point.

The Emerald City Supporters are committed to continuing this fight until we see the change we’re advocating. We know that our members will continue to fight this battle, as it’s inhibiting their ability to support the club they love. We hope that other supporter groups across the country will stand with us on this issue, if it doesn’t impact them today it will soon. We hope that everyone joins us in campaigning for the accessibility of soccer in America, whether in conversations with your own front office, spreading the word to friends and family, or engaging via social media. Working together, we can ensure the long term health and accessibility of the league and #SoccerForAll.