Before Barcelona beat Getafe 4-1 away from home last Saturday, Cesc Fabgregas said it would be a difficult game "because Getafe's fans always put pressure on us". Players flattering opposition supporters is nothing new, but Fabregas was simply not telling the truth: Getafe's fans make hardly any noise at all, for the simple reason that they seldom turn up.
Only 10,000 people attended Getafe's game with Barcelona, meaning there were 7,000 empty seats for a game concerning arguably the most exciting club in the world. Still, it was an improvement on Getafe's last home game, where only 8,000 turned up. That dire attendance was not for the visit of just any old team either, it was for Real Madrid. To illustrate how poor a showing that is, only 2,000 fewer fans turned out to watch Real Madrid's B team a day earlier. Getafe's attendances were even worse in 2011/12, with just 5,000 turning up to see their 3-1 defeat to Mallorca last April. You cannot really blame Getafe's fans however, given the ludicrous ticket prices they are subjected to: tickets for the Barcelona game ranged from €60 to €110.
Getafe have only existed in their current form since 1983 and have only been in Spain's top-flight since 2004, while their uneventful history is illustrated by the fact that the man who their stadium is named after, legendary Spain striker Alfonso Pérez, never played for them.
They therefore cannot be expected to have the same number of fans as neighbouring clubs Real and Atlético Madrid, or even Rayo Vallecano, who have been around for a lot longer.
Nonetheless, Getafe's promotion to the Primera División presented them with an opportunity to expand their fanbase. 170,000 people live in Getafe, while a further 3.3 million live in Madrid, just a 20 minute train ride away, so there was no shortage of potential Getafe fans to attract to watch top-flight football live. However, judging by their poor attendances, the club did not take the opportunity, and their high prices are to blame. Their cheapest season tickets cost €360, almost treble the equivalent at Barcelona, while the most expensive is €580. All this for a team who finished 11th last season and whose highest ever league position is 6th.
The man responsible for this situation and Getafe's current status is Ángel Torres Sánchez. Torres became the club's president in 2002 and within two years saw them promoted to the Primera División, where they have remained since, in a period in which far bigger clubs such as Villarreal, Real Zaragoza, Real Betis, Real Sociedad and Deportivo La Coruña have been relegated. Under his presidency they have also reached the final of the Copa del Rey twice and got to the quarter-finals of the UEFA cup.
Torres deserves a lot of credit for these achievements with a club so short on resources and stature. But he has also failed to build on the club's brand due to his own stubbornness with ticket prices. It could be argued that his high price policy is a wise decision given that Getafe have so few fans, but it is a huge obstacle to the club gaining any new supporters. It is also very short-sighted, because although a reduction in prices might lead to a drop in revenue initially, this would soon be recuperated if more fans regularly went to games, and revenue from merchandising, food and drink sales would also increase.
The club realise their small number of fans is a problem, and a year ago made a hilarious advert encouraging fans to donate their sperm so that more Getafe supporters would be born. While it was a good PR stunt, it had no effect on ticket sales because the ridiculous prices remained.
It has been suggested in some circles that Torres cares little about building a fan-base at Getafe and just wants to prove he can run a club successfully, with a view to becoming the next president of Real Madrid.
Only time will tell if that theory turns out to be correct, but it is worth mentioning that Getafe are not alone in having high prices and small crowds. The average attendance in La Liga so far this season is just 27,061, down by over 1,000 from last season and a further 1,000 from the season before. Yet, despite having the highest unemployment rate in Europe, tickets in La Liga are more expensive than anywhere else on the continent.
Add in the fact that kick-off times are only confirmed three weeks before games and that some matches this season have finished at 1am, it is little wonder Spaniards are less than enthusiastic about attending games.
The fact that clubs like Getafe are doing very little to solve the problem of empty seats is especially baffling considering that unsold tickets translates into lost revenue for clubs which currently have a combined debt of €3.5 billion. With this in mind, a headline used by one journalist two years ago is still as relevant as ever: "La Liga - Played by Geniuses, Run by Idiots."
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