On Wednesday of this week, Kilmarnock traveled the twenty-five miles to Celtic Park to take on the so-far unbeaten champions Celtic. Even with the home side on a poor run of form it is a daunting prospect, but with Celtic sweeping all aside in the league, it was a monumental challenge for a relatively young Kilmarnock side. Two-hundred or so Killie fans made the trip, and those fans have to be commended.
Taking the inevitable drubbing out of the equation, the biggest obstacle in the way of away fans attending was the ticket price. A staggering £26 per head. In many countries, a trip to the Champions would be looked at as an enticing prospect, but not in Scotland. But why?
The aforementioned entry fee is of course a major barrier, and we’ll look at that first. For a match between two majorly unmatched sides (a match that was lets not forget, rearranged to a Wednesday evening), to ask £52 for two to attend is a disgrace. With the poor transport links to Glasgow’s East End taken into account, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to see away fans pay £35 for the privilege of attending Celtic Park. To put the price into perspective, a restaurant in Kilmarnock offers two main meals, two drinks and two cinema tickets for £25. A pound cheaper than it would cost one person to get into Celtic Park.
The atmosphere within Celtic Park itself doesn’t lend itself to an enjoyable experience either. The sectarianism and bile may have been eradicated from Celtic home games to a major extent, but the treatment away fans receive from the match day stewards in particular is shocking. The last time I looked, football was positioned firmly in the entertainment industry, and there’s nothing entertaining about being treated like common criminals for ninety minutes. If you take the risk of getting a train to the game, the journey itself is filled with uninformed opinions shouted at you, and on occasion, threats of violence. And that’s without taking into account the long walk you still have to make from the station to the ground. What can Celtic do to combat that I hear you ask?
For a club that is richer than most, would it be too much to ask for proper policing of transport links to the ground on match-days? Would it be too much to ask to drop prices to be more in line with the product on show? A product that Neil Lennon recently said was a “free game for most clubs”? And if a price reduction isn’t forthcoming, then can we at least be treated like human beings whist in the ground? Celtic would benefit from larger travelling supports if they took a few of the above points under consideration. Although you have to ask whether that is in part a calculated plan to keep the Celtic Park atmosphere relatively mute.
Celtic aren’t the only culprit of course, with Hearts also charging exorbitant amounts. Albeit, a trip to Tynecastle is an all-round more enjoyable experience. If you look at it objectively, the majority of Scottish Premiership clubs could do with reducing prices to get more fans through the gates. Scottish football proportionally is one of the most well attended leagues in Europe already, but it’s clear that there are even more fans waiting to be enticed back from the cinema and meal deals should the right offer be in place.
Looking at Kilmarnock briefly, the club secured a 2-2 draw with Ross County this weekend. Alexei Eremenko made his second debut, and was very impressive in a brief fifteen-minute cameo. New signing David Moberg Karlsson was ineligible because of a UEFA registration problem, and should be in the side that take on Dundee United in a fortnight’s time. A weekend off beckons for Killie, and that should allow Eremenko to gain even more fitness, and fully integrate himself into the squad. Kris Boyd looks like he’ll thrive under Losa’s service, and Kilmarnock should now be pushing on for a top-6 finish rather than fighting to avoid the play-off spot.