The cost of football

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My two grandchildren both love football, and one of them takes it very seriously indeed. We all know the huge social and health benefits from taking part in sport and I have a great respect for all those parents who help to keep community sports clubs alive and kicking, as it were.

But children who love a sport also want to watch professionals playing, so it is very sad to learn that major clubs are effectively pricing out younger supporters. The BBC has published its annual report Price of Football 2017 and found that most ticket prices have remained steady. But in parallel it commissioned a survey of 18 to 24 year olds – all football fans – which showed that 82% said that the price of tickets was a barrier preventing them from going to more matches. OK, so I have jumped there from children to younger adults, because that’s the group that was surveyed, but the inference is that ticket price is a problem for young people in general.

A lot of clubs do offer special rates for children, teenagers and younger adults but the survey still found that over half said that they had stopped going altogether, or reduced the number they went to, in spite of the special rates.

As someone who hasn’t been to a football match since I was a student, I was interested to find out just how much tickets cost.  Checking some Premier and Championship League clubs at random I found that adult tickets in the Family section can cost £40, with a sliding scale for younger spectators varying from £24 to £10 for under 11s. Seats in other parts of the stadium cost correspondingly more.

So a parent taking two children, one under and one over 11, to see a match could fork out around £70 for an afternoon’s entertainment, and that is before the cost of travel and that essential programme.

Tim Farron, a keen football fan himself, has made some comments on this:

The expense of tickets is clearly deterring young fans from accessing elite level football. With all Premier League and Champions League games being broadcast on a pay to view basis, this is a real shame. It also has an impact on those who take up the sport. Playing football improves health and well-being, yet these prices are alienating a generation of people from the game.

Tim is, as we all know, supports Blackburn Rovers, which, like other main Football League clubs, does offer tickets at much more reasonable rates. The same small family could attend there for £34. Some even offer free tickets to under 11s. So it is not surprising that he adds:

But for those priced out of watching premier league games, there are plenty of great clubs in the lower divisions to follow including a team from Lancashire in league 1…

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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  • Sadly this is what happens when football clubs become businesses owned for profit rather than clubs run for the love of the sport. Young football fans looking for an enjoyable, involving and lower cost experience might be better to support their local non-league clubs but it is understandable that they want to see the highest level sometimes. I understand that continental countries football is much cheaper to attend with even the biggest French, German or Spanish clubs being much cheaper to attennd than the Premier League. The only light at the end of the tunnel might be that eventually, the big clubs will need to reduce prices in order to have full stadiums on TV.

  • Britain is a very expensive country with everything over priced and shoddy from utilities, to travel to entertainment. This is what happens when everyone in charge of anything behave like pigs at the trough and yet disposable income is suppressed. Football, simply reflects the shoddiness our glorious leaders faith in the magical powers of “the Market”. Capitalism is fundamentally amoral and our version of it is based on a ludicrous belief that it isn’t and thus we end up being ripped off all the time.

  • The clubs don’t care about empty seats because they get more for being on TV than they get for selling the seats and they are committed to televising a certain number of matches often at very inconvenient times for supporters. The economics of professional football are completely mad and fans are often treated as cash cows. £50 a shirt and extra for the letters and numbers on the back for example. My shirt cost £5 years ago and I won’t give it up. Up the Boro!

  • Richard Underhill 19th Nov '17 - 1:02pm

    Clubs promoted from the Championship to the Premier League need all-seater stadiums. Safe standing exists in other countries and lower leagues. It’s not cricket.
    Please also see Alan Shearer’s programme on heading. Children might be encouraged to play in a way which risks brain damage and early onset dementia.
    Alan Shearer played for Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and England, where he was captain. Premiership highlights are available free on BBC TV.

  • Peter Martin 19th Nov '17 - 1:34pm

    @ Mary Reid.

    I agree. Football, at the higher domestic levels, has become a contest between one club’s highly paid overseas imports and another’s. It would be nice to see at least a few local players in the squads of the top teams.

    Add in the growing influence of the betting companies in shirt and other sponsoring and it gets even worse. That shouldn’t be allowed any more than should the involvement of tobacco companies. I really shouldn’t go to matches any longer but I know I probably will in the next few weeks!

  • ” Capitalism is fundamentally amoral ”
    You want to try living under one of the other systems before being too harsh.
    Premier League football is a perfect example of a functioning market. The customers want their team to win, that means paying the best players what they demand and that means they have to pay up for a live match or a Sky subscription. The customers must be happy or they would insist their team won fewer cups and went down a few divisions to reduce their costs. Wouldn’t they?
    So those who want, pay and those who don’t, don’t. What could be fairer?
    Personally, I haven’t the slightest interest in watching 22 multi millionaires chasing a pig’s bladder and wouldn’t watch the World Cup Final if it was in the park across the road. Those paying 40 quid for ninety minutes entertainment must want to because they certainly don’t have to.

  • Palehorse.
    Criticisms of one thing doesn’t imply endorsement of another. To me arguments like yours tend to be akin to advocating being pelted with old tomatoes because they’re lighter that onions. Neither option is pleasant. I would argue that you regulate things better because people get greedy, not everyone is honest and relying on a gentleman’s word is asking to being ripped off. So I stand by it.

  • “So I stand by it.”
    And you are quite right to and I concede your argument that capitalism is amoral.
    My point was rather that all the others are as well, and societies based on capitalism can be constructed to offer free choice, for example as to which sport you wish to support. Societies based on communism, socialism, fascism and the rest all must end up as slave states.

  • Ed Shepherd 19th Nov '17 - 9:26pm

    Football clubs even at the top level will prefer to have a full stadium. It motivates players and gives the club credibility. Revenue from gate fees might be of decreasing importance to the extenet that clubs might need to consider drastically reducing some prices in the future. It might not happen that way but it would be welcome if it did.

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Nov '17 - 11:50pm

    Join those of us at non-league football – simple enough.

    Season tickets at some of the low-level clubs come in as low as £40 for adults. Non-league football attendance has shot up in recent seasons on the back of changing professional football.

    A far more interesting argument on football is developers being very predatory about small football grounds in high-cost areas. That’s a story for some real journalism.

    Palehorse – ‘The customers must be happy or they would insist their team won fewer cups and went down a few divisions to reduce their costs. Wouldn’t they?’

    No. You are working on the assumption there that football supporters all want/demand cup wins the top players etc. There are a great many of us who actually like to go and watch a game of football. To see sport, to see a 38+ game competition. Hence we don’t get all of a tizzy on the internet. No – football is not all about being in the top division, winning etc. You have hopelessly misjudged football and fans of you think that.

    Instead of looking down your nose, perhaps you might like to go, spend £6-8, and watch some amateurs paid weekly/fortnightly (on top of full-time jobs) and see what playing sport means to people who don’t get the media attention.

  • I suggest everyone adopt my home town team of little old Huddersfield Town as their ‘second club’. They have the lowest cost season tickets in the Premier League (and rewarded their long term season ticket holders with a £ 100 season ticket).

    Town have a Foundation set up by the Chairman five years ago which runs breakfast clubs for school children. To date they have provided over 800,000 breakfasts – and they get the players involved. A real community club.

    Huddersfield helping children rise and shine – Premier League
    Video for huddersfield town foundation christchurch school▶
    29 Oct 2017

  • Those of us involved in grassroots rugby and cricket know what real community sport with a positive ethos is all about.

    Football provides a steady stream of recruits escaping the poisonous and violent atmosphere that surrounds that game – such that the FA had to commission a video in a vain attempt to teach parents how to behave.

    If football withers and dies few will shed a tear.

  • Jackie,
    You are free to watch non-league football if you like. You are free not to care about cups either. And Mary Reid’s grandchildren are free to pay to watch the Premier clubs if they want to as well. My point was simply that those who want the best things in life should just shut up and pay for them instead of penning embittered op-eds for LDV. If Mary’s family find watching Chelsea expensive they should just watch Accrington Stanley instead.
    My objection to football is not snooty but there are many other sports out there with young British sportsmen and women achieving incredible things but they get little or no coverage on broadcast or newspaper reporting. The sports sections are page after page of millionaire managers shouting insults at each other or blaming the referees.

  • @ Palehorse “My point was simply that those who want the best things in life should just shut up and pay for them instead of penning embittered op-eds for LDV. If Mary’s family find watching Chelsea expensive they should just watch Accrington Stanley instead.”

    Well, of course…… and if Mary’s one adult/two children want to watch the mighty Stanley travelling from leafy Surrey costs a minimum of £ 96.70 advance return for a magical mystery tour by Virgin Rail from Euston (three changes en route) – well that’s just too bad.

    If they were waiting six weeks for their Universal Credit (as supported by Lib Dems in 2012) it might be a tad difficult – marginally alleviated by taking their own flask and sarnies. Up at 6.00 am, back at 10.00 pm takes a bit of gloss off it, but hey – thanks for your unembittered suggestion, Palehorse – though it’s not your most well informed contribution.

    I must declare an interest. Ever since 1965, when chopper Harris took out Mike Hellewell of HTAFC with a cynical tackle in an FA Cup match, I have harboured a dislike and suspicion of those metropolitan fancy pants called Chelsea.

    PS A pie costs £ 2.50 at the Accrington Wham Stadium – at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge it’s £ 4.80 (the greedy b*st**ds).

  • Palehorse.
    I think, you are basically Michael Palin in Life of Brian “Too right Centurion, great people the Roman’s”.

  • David Raw 20th Nov ’17 – 8:52am……PS A pie costs £ 2.50 at the Accrington Wham Stadium – at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge it’s £ 4.80 (the greedy b*st**ds)….

    C’m off it, David, How much does a Chelsea player cost compared to Accrington…

    Twenty odd years ago I was involved in a charity helping young, often homeless, Irish people in London. Chelsea were the major supporter of that work…

    BTW…My team scored 4 goals against HTFC…Go you ‘Cherries’..

  • Gordon Lishman 20th Nov '17 - 9:42am

    When Burnley went into the Premiership, all season ticket holders got a free year. And if you have a season ticket, you can take an under-10 free into the family stand – a favour being shared between 4 grand-children. Regrettably, one is already too old!

  • David,
    I realise you were just teasing and knew all along that “Accrington Stanley” was a portmanteau term for a cheaper alternative to millionaires football and probably just as entertaining.
    The grandchildren may not live in Surrey?
    They may well live in Accrington already for all I
    What’s universal credit got to do with it? Did you mean it should cover a Chelsea season ticket?

  • Gordon Lishman 20th Nov '17 - 9:48am

    David Raw: Euston to Accrington involves only one change normally – at Preston. I do it frequently from the next station on the line at Burnley and it’s 3 hours that way and 3,45 the other.

  • @ expats Please don’t intrude on private grief, matey. It’s not long since we beat Manchester United – so all is not lost.

    Back in May, 2011 waiting in hospital for a transplant, I well remember my lass on the phone talking me through the penalties in the play off semi final against a certain south coast bunch of Cherries. It was a good omen for the op. Seriously. we’ve both done well since and I wish them (and you) well.

    Gordon, always had a soft spot for Burnley. Ah for the days of Jimmy McIlroy and Ray Pointer. Pleased to see them doing well now.

  • @ Palehorse Accrington Stanly is a portmanteau ??????????????

    Oooooooooooooooh, how the other half live !!!!!!!!!!!

  • Accrington has special memories for me. Years before satnav I was going to a meeting, in the town and I asked an old lady for dirrctions
    She said “Go along here love and turn left where the Co-Op used to be before they pulled it down”.

  • Peter Watson 20th Nov '17 - 11:08am

    Unless the Lib Dems are planning to do something about the price of watching top flight football (and I’m not convinced that they should) then I’m not sure what is the point of this article and Tim Farron’s comments. It’s just a bit of a whinge, and the present situation looks like just the sort of market-based approach that Lib Dems have favoured in recent years.
    Ticket prices for the theatre, etc. often look pretty extortionate as well (and perhaps that and regional differences in opportunities to access state-subsidised performing arts would be a more worthwhile target), but outrage by politicians about the price of football (along with referring to their team) usually looks like an insincere attempt at the “common touch”, epitomised by David Cameron’s confusion over which blue and claret wearing team he supported.

  • Peter,
    I agree with every word. I too took it as “we share the pain of you football loving common people and I’m a supporter of Manchester Town just like you”.

  • Ed Shepherd 20th Nov '17 - 7:14pm

    These clubs have more meaning to people than do other local businesses. Support for a football club gets handed down over generations and it is understandable that many local people are reluctant to abandon their historic local club even if it is one owned by absentee landlords that caters to the prawn-sandwich exec seat brigade who have priced the locals out. They do things better across the channel but in England and Wales so many historic clubs turned into big businesses that left their traditional supporters behind. Their is a lot of emotion involved because of decades of history and folk memories of clubs that were part of local peoples lives where players would live among, work with and drink with the local supporters and local chldren had a real chance of playing theres. Maybe nothing will last forever and if the highest leagues go the way of all flesh, some big clubs might end up back in the hands of the fans again as the only way to stay in existence. It could be a long time though!

  • A pie costs £ 2.50 at the Accrington Wham Stadium – at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge it’s £ 4.80 (the greedy b*st**ds).

    What exactly is stopping people from either eating at home, or bringing sandwiches with them?

    That’s what I do whenever I know I’m going to be somewhere where the in-house food will be overpriced due to a captive market, whether it’s a cinema, a theatre, an airport, or a sporting centre.

  • Palehorse 20th Nov ’17 – 10:56am…………..Accrington has special memories for me. Years before satnav I was going to a meeting, in the town and I asked an old lady for dirrctions
    She said “Go along here love and turn left where the Co-Op used to be before they pulled it down”…………

    It works both ways….I used to organise “Joe’s Christmas Curry” for staff and we’d book different restaurants in different towns to vary things. We’d agree to meet in a pub near the venue in order to arrive together and, to guarantee space, I’d visit the place a couple of months before december…
    One year I arranged the venue in a nearby market town and remembered a nearby pub (Oddfellow’s Arms) and we agreed to meet around 7pm…

    We drove into town and I noticed people I knew wandering about…I parked the car and asked why they weren’t just waiting in the pub, “We can’t find it” came the reply…”Follow me”, said I and led them to the ‘Oddfellows’ only to find that, in the couple of months since my last visit, it had been pulled down and a Tesco was being built…

    I never lived that down!

  • Hot off the Press : Sensation :

    Tough gritty northern portmanteau Lancastrians beat soft southern chairboys to move into the top three promotion places :

    Accrington Stanley 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0

    Who says we never discuss serious matters in a courteous way on LDV ?

  • Little Jackie Paper 19th Nov ’17 – 11:50pm
    Join those of us at non-league football – simple enough.

    TCO 20th Nov ’17 – 4:20am
    Those of us involved in grassroots rugby and cricket know what real community sport with a positive ethos is all about.

    Whilst it is nice to be able to go and watch top-level sports live, what is even more important is access to sports, to permit participation – particularly for children giving them both a way to keep fit for life and a social outlet. Being actively involved in grassroots youth cycling, I agree with LJP and TCO.

    I suspect Mary’s grandchildren (both boys?) have contracted the football memo from their peers at Primary school and are in danger of seeing football as the only sport worthy of consideration.

    However, with a little effort, it can be cured by getting them involved in other sports, especially ones they can do well at, however, the only warning I give is that they might also get you more active:
    – Why sit on the side of the swimming pool while they have lessons, do a few lengths yourself.
    – Why sit and watch them running round the track when you could walk round the track.
    – Why sit and watch them playing basketball/vollyball when you could join in the bowls/walking football session next door.
    – Why sit in the car waiting whilst your 6-year-old cycles 2 miles through a nature reserve to a cafe for cake(!!!) and cycles back, when you could easy join them.

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