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Manchester United's Wayne Rooney lines up before their Champions League Group C soccer match against Rangers at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, September 14, 2010. (DARREN STAPLES)
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney lines up before their Champions League Group C soccer match against Rangers at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, September 14, 2010. (DARREN STAPLES)

A tale of two tickets Add to ...

With a fourth consecutive playoff-less season looming at BMO Field, Toronto FC fans will be disappointed to learn they are paying more to watch Chad Barrett and Julian de Guzman than the Old Trafford faithful shell out to watch Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and the rest of Manchester United's all-star squad.

The Toronto club may be a world away from the 18-time English champions on the pitch, but it beats the Red Devils handily in average cost per game (based on a top-price ticket), with a match at BMO coming in at an average of $90.78 compared to $79 at Manchester's Theatre of Dreams.

According to United's website, an adult season ticket for the best seat in the house, for 19 home dates at Old Trafford for the 2010-11 season (including two UEFA Champions League group stage matches), is £931, which converts to approximately $1,501 Canadian. Toronto FC, meanwhile, charged its fans a top price of $1,634 to renew season tickets for an 18-game package this season, which included 15 regular-season MLS games, Canadian championship matches against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact, and a Carlsberg Cup international exhibition contest.

Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief executive officer of club owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, doesn't feel the comparison between TFC and Man U is a valid one, however.

"It's difficult to compare the two, apples and oranges," Anselmi said of the North American-English leagues and the types of entertainment they provide.

"We set prices according to the market in North America. It's what it's about here, driven by supply and demand. There's also the relative financial health of Toronto v. Manchester [Man U's debt is reported to be more than $1.3-billion]"

TFC fans, still awaiting the franchise's first playoff run, will likely be more disenfranchised to learn that those season-ticket prices are going up again for next season. The Toronto side will boost its top season ticket price to $1,999 (taxes included) Tuesday, says Anselmi. That price will cover 22 games in club seats at midfield - an increase of four games over this season's ticket. The package also will include this year's MLS championship game, which will be played at Toronto's BMO Field on Nov. 21.

While the extra games somewhat offset the increased outlay of $300 for the top-level season ticket, fans may not necessarily want to be forced to pay more for their season tickets.

"We base our season ticket pricing on a number of things, including the demand here and the size of the stadium," Anselmi said. Toronto FC's home turf at BMO Field has a capacity of 22,000, with the season ticket base increasing from 16,000 to 18,000 for the 2011 season.

"At the end of the day, they [clubs in the English Premier League]have stadiums that hold 70,000 and 80,000 people. We don't. The economics are different.

"We compared with what other MLS clubs ask for season tickets and the demand. Do [hockey's]Toronto Maple Leafs make their ticket prices according to what's charged in the first division in Sweden?"

While that comparison may be outlandish (the NHL is arguably the world's best hockey league, after all), the comparison with Manchester United may be on the cheap side.

Most top English sides are charging the equivalent of hundreds of dollars less per season than Toronto. Most of the MLS cohort also is charging less at the gate.

The British website we-are-football.com cited the following in its review of prices for the 2010-11 winter season: According to the site, the most costly box offices for season tickets for the 2010-11 Premier League season - converted into Canadian dollars - are Arsenal ($2,928), Tottenham ($2,720) and Chelsea ($1,941).

After them come the balance of the 20-team Premier League, starting with Newcastle United ($1,572); Manchester United ($1,501); Fulham ($1,449); West Ham ($1,338) and Liverpool ($1,265).

The two clubs with the lowest season ticket prices in the Premier League are Wigan Athletic at $475 and Blackburn Rovers at $633.

While Toronto's pricing seems out of line with what most Premier League clubs are charging, the most outrageous season ticket prices for the 2011 season of soccer belonged to the big-city markets in North America. The Los Angeles Galaxy asked a whopping $3,750 (U.S.) for club seats for a 20-match package. New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire each charged about $3,000 for season tickets last season.

BY COMPARISON

The most expensive season ticket packages in the English Premier League, converted into Canadian dollars.

Arsenal $2,942

Chelsea $1,950

Tottenham $1,894

Newcastle $1,572

Manchester United $1,501

Fulham $1,449

Sunderland $1.362

West Ham $1,338

Liverpool $1,265

Everton $1,017

Wolverhampton $1,015

Stoke City $965

Birmingham $935

Aston Villa $886

Man City $830

West Bromwich $804

Blackpool $709

Bolton $643

Blackburn $633

Wigan $475

Source: sportingintelligence.com

Follow on Twitter: @paulattfield

 

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