We recently received a question on Patreon that seemed worth digging into. How do FC Dallas season tickets differ from the top flight leagues in Europe? As the resident European, let’s take a look at how season tickets compare and contrast to Europe.
Firstly I wanted to take a look at a range of clubs and countries. It’s no use comparing to just a Real Madrid or a St. Mirren. They’re both clubs in Europe that ply their trade in their nation’s top division, but they’re extreme cases. I took 18 teams from nine countries across Europe. For the most part – like FC Dallas – they’re ‘middle of the road’ teams either in terms of stature or league position.
We have FC Red Bull Salzburg (Austiria), R.S.C. Anderlecht (Belgium), Crystal Palace, West Ham United, and Wolverhampton Wanderers of the Premier League, as well as my own Luton Town in the Championship since that’s often referred to as Europe’s fifth league (All England). Deportivo Alavés, Getafe CF, Levante UD (Spain), AS Saint-Étienne, FC Girondins de Bordeaux (France), Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Hertha Berlin (Germany), S.S.C. Napoli, U.C. Sampdoria, Udinese Calcio (Italy), SC Heerenveen (Netherlands), Aberdeen (Scotland), and last but not least FC Dallas. While the experience is the big difference, it’s also worth taking a look at a few things that drive that experience, namely the cost and demand.
We’ll start with an overview. The lowest and highest ticket prices in US Dollars – these are regular season tickets, not ‘premium’ memberships with added benefits or premium areas such as field seats. You can also see how many league games as well as other games are included in the ticket, in addition to attendance information. Hover over the entries to see a little more information in terms of added benefits as a season ticket holder, and if the club participates in an official reselling program as FC Dallas has with Flash Seats. You can also reorder the list by clicking the headers.
Here’s a table taking the midrange price in $ and putting it against the percentage of the capacity filled. I wanted to use the midrange simply because some stadiums have absurdly cheap cheap-seats, others put an exorbitant figure on their higher-end seats, and we also aren’t digging deep enough to find out which is proportionally closer to the mean or median price.
From this, we can get a rough idea of who is charging too much, who is filling their stadium, but I’d like to take the context of who needs to incentivize their fans and who doesn’t.
Luton fills 98% of Kenilworth Road each week, enough that throwing in a ton of perks wouldn’t make up the last two percent. Red Bull Salzburg, however, see two-thirds of their seats unoccupied, so their perks really have to add to the experience and help people get to games – a likely reason that the team is arranging for public transport to be free for fans on a game day.
Hovering over the teams on the first chart, you’ll see the season ticket holder benefits once again. The first thing you may notice is that there really aren’t many. A season ticket is just seen as a ticket in Europe, the loyalty reward is simply the ability to have your seat reserved at a lower price and maybe bump to the front of the queue on high-demand tickets.
On the line in the second graph with Alaves is where we start to see benefits used to entice fans. The gym membership, Heerenveen’s 50% off a jersey, and Bordeaux’s offer of 60% off a transit card.
When it comes to teams offering transportation as part of their season ticket, or just as a benefit to fans as Bayer Leverkusen do with their free shuttle from a local train station, it’s worth keeping in mind that the United States and Europe are vastly different in land-spread. Most European stadiums do not have parking for supporters where they’re on small plots of land – Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium is built on a 17-acre plot while FC Dallas’ Toyota Stadium sits on a 145-acre site.
While FC Dallas is moving to paid parking for non-season ticket holders, Red Bull Salzburg is one of the rare cases of having on-site parking for fans in Europe at all. Their parking lots total fewer spaces than just the red and gold lots at Toyota Stadium. At Luton, I’d have to park in the city center and walk a mile to the stadium. At Arsenal, thousands of fans park ten miles away in Stanmore and take the train to Holloway Road station.
Whether it’s just for season ticket holders or not, free parking is a big deal when you consider that the price of parking at the American Airlines Center ($34+) or Globe Life Park ($20) costs more than some FC Dallas tickets, and offsets the tolls on the Dallas North Tollway.
Another consideration is just good old fashioned free-market capitalism. While FC Dallas allows you to sell your tickets on Flash Seats for any amount someone is willing to pay, not all clubs have an authorized secondary sales platform with a few European leagues cracking down on reselling tickets altogether. Some that do permit a reselling service are limited to selling at or below face value, while other clubs will not let you receive cash, but rather vouchers for concessions and ticket sales.
In terms of benefits and experience, FC Dallas fans do seem to enjoy more than their European counterparts. There is one thing that does stick out for me, and this is MLS as a whole since FC Dallas is generally one of the most affordable teams in the league. With a growing league approaching its 25th year, is MLS pricing itself out of the running?
Take a look at this graph plotting cost per game on the high and low ends. FC Dallas is above average on both, albeit by a few pennies on the lower end. We can take into account cost of living, average income, etc. but is MLS really worth more than all those teams – and the quality of their opposition – to the lower left of FCD?
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