Manchester City fans await Champions League ticket prices with baited breath
It's undeniable that Manchester City are looking much more at home in the Champions League than ever before. In fact, Manuel Pellegrini's side have passed a number of tests this season that the club would probably have flunked in previous years.
Victories away at Borussia Monchengladbach, Sevilla and Dynamo Kiev, combined with the performances in the two legs against Paris Saint-Germain, have proven to the fans there is no longer a mental block that holds the club back. Perhaps in isolation those displays could have been written off as a good day at the office, but by the semifinal stage it's clearly no coincidence.
Though while there was nothing lucky about City's victory over PSG on the pitch, off it the club certainly landed on its feet. Perhaps for the first time in the top European competition, the home fans forewent the usual cynicism and scepticism, setting a record crowd and providing one of the better Etihad atmospheres in the Champions League.
They still booed the UEFA anthem, though, and their relationship with the sport's European governing body won't have been improved by Wednesday's announcement that City will face a charge for setting off fireworks.
Yet, the club shouldn't see the atmosphere and attendance as vindication that the pricing structure for the match was correct. With some seats costing up to £60, supporters were rightly critical of the decision and the truth is, the club got lucky the team continued its good form in the competition.
Had the first leg not ended with City marginally in front courtesy of two away goals, the demand for tickets to the second leg clearly would have been far less. The "profile" of the tie, as a club statement put it, wouldn't be sufficient had Pellegrini's team mucked up in the French capital. It's little coincidence that thousands waited until after the game at the Parc Des Princes before committing to pay top prices.
That the fans enjoyed the atmosphere and the result on Tuesday doesn't mean they should put up and shut up about the entrance fee now or in future. With the revenue the club already brings in and with the extra that's to come with an incoming TV deal next season, the club had an opportunity to reward those who had stuck by them throughout years of trips to Macclesfield and Oldham with reasonable entry to a tie with one of the European elite.
Instead, they took the opportunity to squeeze as much money as they could and play on a fear of missing out -- a fear that was only realised by an excellent result in the first leg, which was played after the pricing structure was announced.
There are now many people making decisions on which games they will go to based purely on the cost of following a football team and on nights like Tuesday when the club wants a big atmosphere to help the team along, they need to do more than fluke a circumstance where thousands will go at the last minute.
A season ticket price freeze announced earlier in April doesn't particularly cut the mustard, either. This is a freeze to a figure that rose ahead of the current campaign, at a rate thousands weren't happy with, and there's the sense that it is solely delaying the inevitable of increases in years to come.
The club could have made a statement, given that ticket revenue will play a far less important role from next season onwards. Instead, they did the bare minimum in a move that seems more about avoiding bad press than treating fans well.
There is now the opportunity for City to put things right, however. The figure for the semifinal should reflect the "profile" of the tie, but equally it shouldn't price out the core fanbase in exchange for many who will go to a one-off game and pay through the nose for the experience; the so-called "day trippers".
Here is an opportunity to cement the Champions League as a tournament the fans can get behind, and City won't achieve that by giving the regular supporters a decision to make based on the price. It comes down to who the club wants in the stands; whether they're happy to risk swathes of empty seats for a quick buck from those that do turn up, and ultimately whether they care if it's a sellout crowd.
Thousands are now waiting for the semifinal ticket pricing structure with baited breath. The fear of missing out on potential final tickets won't be applicable if supporters have had to pay all their money in the rounds before to get there.
David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney