Anger as ticket costs ‘price out’ football fans

Already expensive, English football tickets are becoming even more unaffordable, a new study shows. Is it ruining the ‘beautiful game’ and is there anything fans can do about it?

Debating which is the world's best league is a beloved pastime of football fans. Some say the brilliance of Messi and Ronaldo gives Spain’s La Liga the edge, others argue it is Germany’s Bundesliga, where Bayern Munich passes starve opponents of the ball. If the debate were decided by how much fans are willing to pay to see a game, however, then England would be the clear champion.

Fans have been complaining of rising cost of tickets for some time, and, just two months ago, angry supporters marched on Football Association HQ in protest. Yet a new BBC study has further infuriated them. It found that in England, the price of the cheapest match day ticket was more than 15% higher than in 2011, meaning that prices have risen three times faster than the cost of living.

The study compared over 200 English and European clubs and found that England fans pay most to watch their teams. The most expensive single match ticket is £97 at Arsenal, which means on average fans pay £27 for each goal scored. Arsenal also has England’s most expensive season ticket at £2,000, though a season ticket for Manchester City, at just £299, is cheaper than at most lower-league clubs.

Football was traditionally a working-class game, with Manchester United started by railway workers in the 19th century and Millwall started by jam makers. Yet over the last 20 years, the Premier League has become hugely popular internationally, making winning all the more important. This has led to higher wages for players and extravagant transfer fees, with top clubs splurging a record £835m on star players this summer.

While the Premier League negotiated an astronomical television-rights deal worth three billion pounds this summer, fans are still footing the bill for football's excess with higher ticket prices, and many ordinary supporters have now been ‘priced out’ of the game.

Kicking off

A Manchester United advert shows generations of working class fans marching along cobbled streets to their team’s ground. Some say that today, these ordinary fans would struggle to afford to see even an occasional game. Cheaper tickets must be introduced, even if it means the reintroduction of terraces, rather than seats. The only alternative is that fans must boycott games until the Premier League learns to respect them.

But the Premier League says its ‘top priority’ is keeping grounds full, and with 95% of tickets sold and attendances larger than ever, their prices are clearly working. Even the Championship, the league below, reaches an annual attendance of 9.1m. So long as fans from across the world are willing to pay huge sums to watch English football, there is no problem.

You Decide

  1. Are football tickets too expensive or do the full stadiums show that prices are justified?
  2. Would football, and all sports, be better if only people from a particular town or city could play for the local team?

Activities

  1. Form pairs. One of you is a football fan angry about ticket prices, the other, a Premier League boss. Try to explain your point of view to the other person.
  2. Research the cost of going to a football match, to the theatre, to see a film and any other leisure activities in your home town. Make a graphic comparing the prices and decide which provides the best value for money.

Some People Say...

“Football fans are idiots for paying so much for tickets.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I don’t care about football.
If ordinary fans of a sport are being ‘priced-out’ of something they are passionate about, then that should be an issue for anyone who cares about fairness and opportunity. From an outside perspective, the Premier League’s success also shows the two sides of globalisation. Manchester United claims to have 659m fans worldwide, but that popularity has led to ticket prices that local fans cannot afford.
Are prices better in Europe?
Prices are mixed. A season ticket at Italian club AC Milan is Europe’s most expensive at £3,600. Yet the cheapest season ticket at Spanish football titan Barcelona is just £103, which is £70 cheaper than the cheapest season ticket for English fifth-tier team, Barnet.

Word Watch

Cost
The cost of living is calculated on how the price of everyday household goods and services has risen each year.
City
In 2009, Manchester City was bought by Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. He is thought to be worth £17bn and his huge wealth means City are not as reliant as others on ticket sales.
United
The club was originally founded as Newton Heath football club in 1978 by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company.
Summer
The most expensive purchase was United’s signing of Angel di Maria for a British record fee of £59m.
Terraces
A terrace is a standing area for supporters. After 96 fans were crushed to death in the Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield in 1989, terraces were banned, but there are increasing calls for them to be reintroduced. They would allow many more fans to watch the game than seating areas and would be cheaper.

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