LONDON: Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has defended the laissez-faire policy on prices for away fans among increasingly vocal complaints that clubs are shooting themselves in the foot.

Arsenal are the latest club to come in for criticism after Manchester City returned more than 1,000 tickets from the proffered allocation for today’s Premier League game in north London after fans returned to pay the £62  price.

But Scudamore, while conceding in an interview on BBC Radio Five’s Sportweek that Arsenal might review their pricing strategy next season, offered the near-capacity level of PL grounds as a justification for the success of the market forces strategy.

He said: “The top of our aims is to put on a show. We want to see full stadia and what’s happened over last five or six years is that we have managed to achieve 90pc occupancy, it’s up to 95pc, so this season it could be an all-time high.

“Clubs are working hard to keep ticket prices so people keep coming through the gates. We have rules about allocations to away fans. It’s for individual clubs to make sure they get that right.

“[As for today] Manchester City fans are sending Arsenal a very clear message which the club have to deal with. They’ve chosen their pricing categories and, next season, will have to take that into account because they want a full stadium and we, at the Premier League, want to see every club take up their away allocation.

“Arsenal have clearly made a judgment and the Manchester City fans have done what they they feel they should and that’s what the market does.”

Complex balance

Scudamore refused to say that clubs should reduce prices for away fans while conceding that they should do as much to make tickets as affordable as possible within a complex financial balancing act.

He said: “I’m proud of what the clubs have done in the last five or six years to try to make sure their tickets pricing keeps grounds full. Yesterday Fulham let children in for a pounds and there’s all sorts of stuff going on around the league.

“The clubs are pedalling awfully hard to keep grounds as full as possible and meet financial fair play rules. They have to be able to attract talent in the world market – fans are first to say they want this and that – and therefore one of the few variables at a club’s disposal is ticket prices. It’s complex matrix wherever you are in professional football.”

Scudamore rejected a suggestion that clubs had priced some fans out of match attendance, saying: “There has been a shift in the demographic of the audience but when you look at the numbers – 95pc occupancy, more females in the ground, diversity 11pc up from much smaller level 10 years ago, under-16s in the grounds – it’s a myth that the entire Premier League audience is ageing, is white and is male.

“We may have lost a segment but we’ve picked up new audiences.”

Scudamore was also equivocal about the role of agents within the game, predicted that all English clubs, including Manchester City and Chelsea, would meet UEFA’s financial fair play strictures and ruled out the return of standing sections.

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