Sep 27 2010

MSK Zilina: Reasonable prices for Marseille & Spartak Moscow

Once again I’d like to welcome our excellent guest writer & MSK Zilina season ticket holder James Baxter onto the blog.  James has been doing a fantastic job of keeping us up to date with first hand news on Zilina’s first ever foray into the Champions League.  Here James has produced yet another fascinating article on how the club aim to make amends to fans after the shambolic organisation of ticket sales for the Chelsea game:

Since their ticket-pricing policy for the first Champions League group stage home game against Chelsea resulted in both a boycott by hundreds of regular fans and the presence in the stadium of large numbers of people who kept casting bewildering glances at anyone attempting to support the home side, MSK Zilina owner Jozef Antosik and his colleagues have obviously been doing some thinking. This week the club announced the prices for the next two home games in the competition, against Olympique Marseille and Spartak Moscow. MSK season-ticket and club-card holders have been offered a package for the two games. Seats behind the goals will cost just 20 Euros each, those in the East or West Stands are priced at 50 Euros.

These are, clearly, very reasonable prices. It seems that MSK have gone from showing an open contempt for their own fans – and not caring if they just disappeared for good – to telling them they love them really and badly need them to come back. One wonders what has brought about this change of heart. I would suggest five principle reasons :

Protests from Fans. The Zilina fans’ campaign following the announcement of prices for the Chelsea game was magnificent. The ‘we’re taking no shit’ stance the fans took probably surprised the club hierarchy.

Atmosphere Against Chelsea. Mr Antosik got his full-house, and earned a fair amount of cash in the process. But, whatever else the Zilina owner may be, he is passionate about his club and must have been disappointed that this feeling was clearly not shared by all those sitting in the home sections at the Chelsea match. The sight of blue Chelsea shirts in the home areas and the sound of clapping, even cheering, from those same areas after every Chelsea goal must have got to him. So must the thought that those who could have made it a less comfortable evening for the Londoners with their non-stop, partisan backing for Zilina were outside the ground protesting.

Slovak Media. Protests can only really work if they are widely reported and the Zilina fans’ effort certainly was. The Slovak media did a diligent, comprehensive job of covering it. Even Vecernik, Zilina’s local weekly, which doesn’t normally utter even a word of criticism of anyone in the town with money or influence, got in on the act. (There is one sorry exception, in the form of Slovakia’s English language newspaper, the Slovak Spectator. This publication didn’t deviate from what seems to be a policy of only covering anything outside Bratislava if it is somehow quaint and can be patronised, ie wooden cottages or traditional dances.)

Foreign Media. Good journalists are always on the hunt for a story. Ticket-prices of 50-400 Euros in a region where monthly salaries average 700 Euros at most are certainly a story. Pre-match interest among UK reporters in, for example, Zilina’s recent Corgon Liga form or how Bello would get on against Essien in midfield was polite at best. What they really wanted to hear about were those prices and the response to them. Mr Antosik might have felt he could cope with adverse media reaction to his ticketing policies within Slovakia but may not have realized that foreign reporters too would be prepared to ask a few difficult questions.

Jozef Antosik. The lead-up to the Chelsea game certainly showed Mr Antosik at his worst. Yet he is an intelligent man who must know deep-down (he’s not seriously admitting anything in public) that he has made a mistake. He probably realises too that, while Chelsea are very clear favourites to win this group, Marseille and Moscow are not unbeatable. Zilina could still have a good group stage but, for that to happen, they need their real fans behind them, creating the kind of racket that was so sadly missing against Chelsea.

It will now be interesting to see how the fans respond. It is likely that some will continue to punish the club for its treatment of them before the Chelsea game by maintaining their boycott. Initial statements from the Ultras group suggest they fall into this category. That is, of course, their right. For myself, I would prefer to give the club credit for what has clearly been a rethink and get behind the team. Whatever stance one takes, this whole episode does suggest that real protest works. The green and gold scarves at Old Trafford and the uncomplimentary banners at Anfield have, by comparison, achieved nothing because there has been no credible statement from the fans that they are prepared to withdraw their support – ‘custom’ as the clubs might have it – until change is effected.

One response so far

One Response to “MSK Zilina: Reasonable prices for Marseille & Spartak Moscow”

  1.   Alexanderon 28 Sep 2010 at 11:17 am

    Video of Zilina training in Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium yesterday –

    Would appreciate it if someone responds with links to the more interesting related stories in the Slovak media. (But I have already looked through SME, Denniksport and Pluska).
    I am especially interested in TV and video footage before and after tonight’s game.


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