Paying the price

November 7, 2012




Ken Masters


 The sports media, supporters groups and even Members of Parliament have all responded to the findings.

BBC Sport Price of Football survey 2012 as reported on the BBC Sport web site gave this startling overall opinion:

“The average cost of the cheapest adult ticket in the top four divisions of English football has risen by 11.7% in the past 12 months – more than five times the rate of inflation.”

It shows that the average price of the cheapest matchday ticket in English league football has gone from £19.01 to £21.24; the study looked at prices for 166 clubs in 10 divisions across British football, including the Conference Premier and Women’s Super League. It recorded the prices for the most expensive, and cheapest, season tickets and adult match day tickets as well as the cost of a cup of tea, a pie, and a programme to calculate the cheapest possible day out at a match.

At Bristol Rovers we have been trying to hold price increases down and so I was surprised by the inflation figure in the BBC report. Checking out the BBC findings for accuracy and correct interpretation would be lengthy and time consuming. The very least I could do was to check the figures given in the report in relation to Bristol Rovers.

The cheapest adult season ticket at the Memorial Stadium is given as £260; this is true, it is the early bird price for the Blackthorn End. The most expensive Bristol Rovers season ticket is given in the report as £324; this is not true. The most expensive adult season ticket is £410. The £324 figure is the post early bird price at the Blackthorn End. I found one more mistake in the Bristol Rovers figures. The BBC finds the cheapest matchday ticket to be £18 but in fact the early bird price at the Blackthorn End is two pounds less than this at £16.

The prices that have been headlined by the press include the now famous £4 pie, the price fans at Kidderminster pay while the cheapest is in Scotland, where Alloa, Albion and Forfar charge just £1. The most expensive tea in British football can be found in Manchester, where both City and United charge £2.50. The cheapest costs 50p at Alloa and Brechin in Scottish Division Two. Alloa seems like a good place for and pie and a cup of tea at just £1.50.

So what does Parliament think then? I found this in a related Web article. An MP has suggested that football fans should switch their support to non league clubs because of the high cost of tickets in the Premier League. Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron has tabled a motion in the House of Commons on the back of the survey and he says that many football fans find prices ‘unaffordably high’.

Farron, who represents Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria, cites Chelsea and West Ham as examples of high pricing. He believes supporting non league teams, such as Barrow, “will boost community football whilst also bringing collective consumer pressure on the top teams to reduce their prices”. Good point Tim but I doubt West Ham fans will travel all the way up to Cumbria to take in dear old Barrow. Now lower league Leyton Orient; that is a possibility.

In the wake of the survey, the Football Supporters’ Federation warned that football clubs were risking alienating supporters unless they lowered ticket prices.

Football clubs are in danger of driving more and more fans away from the game unless they lower ticket prices, according to the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation. Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the FSF, said:

“We want football to be available to all income levels. Certainly at some clubs that is not the case.”

The FSF wants Premier League clubs to use the new £3bn TV deal to cut ticket prices from next season.

But Clarke admits that there will be little appetite for change as long as supporters continue to fill stadiums across the country and says fans are unlikely to switch to supporting a club with cheaper ticket prices. I assume you mean Premier League grounds Malcolm.

“If you think the prices are too high at your club, you are not going to suddenly start supporting someone else,” he said.

Not good news for the MP but I think Malcolm is spot on. Football fans are very loyal and tend to support one club for life. Just for the record, at £260 Bristol Rovers season ticket price is the least of all eight West Country League One and Two clubs and only Cheltenham better the lowest matchday price at £15; but I did find incorrect prices and we cannot assume that these were the only mistakes the BBC made.

Mind you, price is one thing and value for money is something else. If football does not deliver it may be the clubs and not the fans who finish up paying the price.


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