Success Does Equal Demand: Real Madrid Tickets Are The Most Demanded of Champions League

The Champions League has been gaining popularity in the United States, but has long been the dominant sports tournament across Europe. Stadiums across the continent are routinely filled at capacity for these matches. With the amount of popularity, Champions League tickets are also in high demand on the secondary market.


Since 1955, there has been some iteration of this tournament. From 1955 to 1992, the tournament was a knockout style with just the champion club from each country allowed to participate. In 1992, however, the tournament evolved into its current form with a round-robin group stage — similar to the World Cup — while also allowing more than one team from a country. Of course, with more teams and more games comes more ticket sales.

 

For European ticket resellers like Ticketbis, the Champions League is one of the biggest events of the year. As for the actual impact of the tournament on the secondary market, Ticketbis CEO Ander Michelena said, "The Champions League is every year one of the most important events for our company. In Europe, football fans wants to attend matches even if their teams are not playing because of the high level of the championship. It's a great opportunity to see in live the best players of the world."

 

The opportunity to see the world’s best players is one of the reasons Real Madrid is the most demanded team on a yearly basis. According to Ticketbis, Real Madrid tickets make up for 14.63% of their total Champions League sales, the most of any time. Real Madrid has also been the most successful team in the tournament. The club has won 10 times since the inception of the tournament and has finished as a runner up another three. The next closest club is A.C. Milan, though they have not won the tournament since 2007. Real Madrid has also appeared in the two best-selling Champions League games on the secondary market, the 2014 Final against Atlético de Madrid and a 2013 Knockout Round game against Manchester United.

 

No team has appeared more times in top ten games than Barcelona, which has played in four of the top ten best-selling Champions League games over the past four years. Barcelona tickets make up for 13.51% of Ticketbis’ Champions League sales, with no other squad besides Real Madrid accounting for over 10%.

 

It’s no surprise that Spain accounts for the highest amount of sales by country: 35.44% of Champions League sales come from Spain, with England’s 22.39% the next highest. Germany, 17.79%, and Italy, 12.75%, are the only other countries above 10%.


This year’s tournament is already in the group stage with the next match-day on November 5. While sales data is not yet available, the most searched teams since the tournament started have been Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Arsenal and Chelsea. The Group Stage will run until December 9 and 10.

Justice For Jeff

Transient

In the ninth minute of Saturday’s game between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield, applause rang out all over the stadium. It wasn’t anything to do with what was happening on the pitch, but because a banner which simply said ‘Justice for Jeff’.   

The Jeff in question is Jeff Astle, who was one of the best strikers in the English leagues in the 60’s and 70’s. He represented England at the 1970 World Cup, and is regarded as one of the greatest West Brom players of all time. To those too young to have seen him play, he was best known for singing at the end of every episode of Fantasy Football League, a football comedy show which ran in the mid 90’s.

Jeff Astle died in 2002 at the age of 59. At the time, it was thought that he had died of Alzheimer’s disease, as his mental acuity had been failing for a number of years. The coroner had said he was convinced that the trauma Astle’s brain had suffered was the result of repeatedly heading footballs over his career.

Earlier this year, Dr Willie Stewart, one of the UK’S leading Neuropathologists, carried out a new examination of Astle’s brain and determined that he had actually died of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a disease associated with repetitive brain trauma.

‘When I spoke to Dr Stewart he confirmed that Jeff had CTE,’ said Astle’s widow Laraine

‘I asked him several things about Jeff’s brain and it was deeply upsetting to understand how badly damaged it was. Dr Stewart said to me that, had he not known Jeff was only 59 when he died, he would have thought his brain was that of someone at least 89 years old. I think that says it all"
 

Jeff Astle

Jeff Astle

Astle played in a time where they used to use balls that, while they were about the same weight as balls used today, had the major drawback of taking on water when it rained, a frequent occurrence in England, so become extremely heavy during games, and therefore more painful and potentially damaging with regards to heading the ball.

Many people are concerned that Astle isn’t an isolated case; a lot of players from the early to mid-20th Century have ended up suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases. Star players like Danny Blanchflower, Nat Lofthouse, Stan Cullis and Sir Alf Ramsay have all died from the disease, and other notable players like Dave Mackay and Jimmy Hill suffer from Alzheimer’s at present.

Following the death of Astle and the coroners assertion that heading footballs was the contributing factor to his death, the FA and the PFA (the players union) visited the Astle family and promised to conduct a joint 10-year study into the effects heading a football has on the brain.

It seems as though the FA went as far as identifying some young apprentice players as test subjects, but when those players then failed to make the grade as professionals, the FA just gave up and did nothing else. At least they’ve provided no evidence to the contrary. As Dawn Astle, the daughter of Jeff put it It's a good job the people looking at cancer and Alzheimer's don't just give up like that”

Earlier this year, the Astle family claimed that in over 12 years, rather than the regular contact they were promised, they had received a grand total of two letters from the FA. The first one was a letter from the FA’s legal team advising the Astle’s against taking legal action over Astle’s head injuries. The second was a letter offering the Astle family tickets for an upcoming England friendly, but it was made clear that the FA were only prepared to offer two tickets.

The PFA didn’t even do that much. In fact, the Astle family said earlier this year that they haven’t heard from the PFA since that 10-year study that never happened was announced.  

A few months ago, FA Chairman Greg Dyke visited the Astle family to apologise for the FA’s lack of contact and promised to look into reviving the aborted study with the PFA. Dawn Astle said:

I told him that we felt 12 years ago, when Dad's brain was examined, there was enough evidence for the FA to be considering 'have we got a problem here with our former players?'

"I said 'you didn't do anything, so me and my sister did.'"

What I really don’t get is why the PFA haven’t pursued this more strongly. The whole purpose of the PFA is look after the welfare of players, so it seems astonishing that with all of the anecdotal evidence that repeatedly heading the ball could lead to some serious health problems later in life, they haven’t done everything they can to try and establish whether or not there is any empirical evidence to back that up.

According to an article on their website, it seems as though in 2003 the PFA got as far as trying to get chronic neurological diseases in footballers officially recognised as an industrial illness, but couldn’t work out how to provide the empirical evidence needed. They then seemingly gave up until a few weeks ago, when the FA announced they were reviving their study. 

There has been some research done before into a link between heading the ball and neurological disease. Research done in Italy using the medical records of ex-players suggested that the risk of developing a neurological disease was significantly higher amongst ex-players.

Last year, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University conducted a study where they gave 37 amateur players a DTI (a type of MRI), which detects abnormality in the structure of the brain. The players also underwent memory and neurological function tests and filled in a questionnaire asking about how often they headed a ball. The study suggests that in the players who headed the ball more, their memory was more impaired and seemed to link repeatedly heading a ball with traumatic brain injury.

Lead researcher Dr Michael Lipton said: "Our study provides compelling preliminary evidence that brain changes resembling mild traumatic brain injury are associated with frequently heading a soccer ball over many years."

The small sample size of that study mean that the conclusions that can be drawn are limited; and it should be noted that the DTI scans were only done once, so there is definitely room for a study on a much larger group of players, who get scanned repeatedly so we can see the effect heading the ball repeatedly has over time. Hopefully, the FA/PFA funded study will fill that void in current research.   

It should be emphasised that rather than the rock-hard balls of the past, modern balls are made from a synthetic material, coated in polyurethane, with a latex bladder, so are much lighter and are waterproof, so they don’t get heavier in the rain. So, it seems as though the risks of developing a serious head injury like Jeff Astle did are much lower today.           

But, the truth is that nobody knows what effect, or even if there is an effect, heading the ball repeatedly over time has on the brain. Until we do, nobody who plays football can make an informed decision over whether or not to head the ball.

Jeff Astle has gates named him outside the Hawthorns, West Brom’s stadium. He is still a much-loved player from the club’s past. But, perhaps his biggest legacy may be that his untimely death may prove the catalyst to investigate the long-term ramifications of heading footballs so that new guidelines can be put in place, which may help safeguard the health of future players.