Manchester City debuted its new “Tunnel Club” earlier this week, where fans can pay exorbitant ticket prices for access to the tunnel that leads from Ethiad Stadium’s dressing rooms to the pitch. Ticket prices in the Tunnel Club start at 299 pounds, which translates to about $385. Premium access seats run up to 15,000 pounds ($19,420) for an entire season. So yes, this is a huge advancement in the gentrification of European soccer.
While City is the first club in European to add such a feature to the game experience, they did not come up with the idea. City closely studied the Dallas Cowboys’ similar endeavor at AT&T Stadium before venturing into tunnel access themselves.
From the New York Times:
It is an idea City has imported from the United States — most notably from the Dallas Cowboys, whose AT&T Stadium boasts a similar facility. City sent a team to observe it a couple of years ago and tweaked its own so that it did not contravene the cultural mores of European soccer.
At AT&T Stadium, the players walk through the bars and the cheering crowds on their way to the field. That is anathema here; in soccer, the tunnel, like the dressing room, has always qualified as sacred space, the exclusive preserve of players and coaches. Instead, in Manchester, the players are viewed, as if in an aquarium, through walls of two-way glass.
Here’s the raucous environment at AT&T Stadium’s Miller Lite Club, where fans come practically face-to-face with players.
As you can see, Manchester City’s setup is much less intimate and makes the tunnel feel more like a zoo habitat. And at least zoos don’t have two-way glass.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 21, 2017
As is typical of luxury options at sporting events, you’re paying for more than just a sporting event. Those with Tunnel Club tickets also gain access to a fine-dining bar and restaurant with a five-course meal, extensive wine list and gin-tasting station. Then they receive a “tactical briefing” from members of the coaching staff, including a Q&A session.
Fans are no longer satisfied just watching a game from the stands, and City is preying on their desire to feel like they are actually part of the event. From the Times:
In a 2014 paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell, and his co-authors Amit Kumar and Lily Jampol found a significant difference in the amount of pleasure obtained in the purchasing of a thing — a material good — or an experience.
They found that “experiential purchases are more gratifying, on average, than material purchases.” Experiences, rather than things, “facilitate more social connections, are more tied to the self, and are experienced more on their own terms.” In other words, doing rather than buying things makes you happier.
There is a private area, by the side of the field, from which they can watch the teams warm up. During those moments, they not only have the best view in the house, they can also place their feet on the same artificial turf that lines the side of the field. It is a sensory nod to the overall impression: You are part of the action, you see what the players see, you feel what the players feel.
This could become a trend in the Premier League. Tottenham’s new stadium, which opens next year, will also have a tunnel club.