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18th Jul 2019

Why LaLiga’s Basque clubs have capped away ticket prices at €25

Reuben Pinder

The initiative will only apply to matches involving two Basque teams

Derby matches are the lifeblood of football fandom. They are the games that fans first look for when the fixtures are announced for the upcoming season.

‘When have we got them?’ fans will ask. Often, they are not particularly enjoyable matches for fans, due to the nail-biting tension that pervades the stadium and the dreaded possibility of allowing your bitter rivals to claim bragging rights for a year.

However, atmospheres at derbies vary from country to country, from culture to culture. The atmosphere at a Merseyside derby is a far cry from a Superclasico in Buenos Aires, for example.

In Spain, and more specifically the Basque region in the north, derby matches are less full of vitriol. A shared identity throughout the region has fostered a sense of unity. They are not Spanish, they are Basque.

As part of a bid to encourage positive atmospheres at matches between Basque sides, all five teams – Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Eibar and Deportivo Alaves – have agreed to cap away ticket prices at a very reasonable €25 for the 2019/20 season after the clubs’ directors met at La Real’s Anoeta stadium on Wednesday morning.

Unlike the Premier League, LaLiga does not have a blanket cap on away ticket prices, and with longer distances to travel for away matches, only the most dedicated fans travel to away matches.

To add insult to injury, they are often placed high up in the Gods by the host club. That will change next season, among these five teams at least.

“It’s something that’s been considered for a while and was partly implemented three years ago, the last time all five of these Basque sides were in the top division,” explains Euan McTear, author of Eibar The Brave & Hijacking LaLiga.

“It’s an initiative that has been driven by the fans. They’ve been pushing for this and their efforts have paid off as the directors have come around.

“The reason these specific clubs are involved is that they’re all part of the Greater Basque Country and the distance between each of them is very short, just an hour or two. So these intercity derbies are the kinds of fixtures that many fans would travel to if the prices are reasonable. Thankfully, now they are.”

Eskozia La Brava, an Eibar fan club who have been pushing for this initiative from the very beginning, released a statement on Thursday morning, celebrating the reunification of all five clubs in the top division, and their decision to implement this pact.

The supporters group are not content with just a cap on ticket prices though. Included in the statement were two more demands relating to the match day experience.

They called on LaLiga to ensure that the infamously bad fixture scheduling (often, the exact date and time of a round of fixtures is not announced until 10 days before the match), doesn’t “ruin the party”.

For them, that means all having football matches take place at the weekend, something “inarguable until very recently”.

Their third and final demand is that “obstacles are not imposed on the access of materials (flags, banners, megaphones) to the stadiums”.

There will be 40 Basque derbies next season, the most famous being the clashes between Athletic and Real Sociedad. With this new agreement in place, they are set to be some of the liveliest fixtures on the calendar.