On the 20th February 1992 football would change forever, we didn’t know it at the time but following a decision by the clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from the Football League, the Premier League was formed. The game would move from the football pitch to the boardroom and the trading floors, taking advantage of the lucrative TV deals. Since then with the league’s ever growing popularity, money within the game has spiralled out of control. The most recent deal between Sky and BT announced to be £5.14 billion, that’s an average of £10.19 million per Premier League game. To stem the tide radical steps need to be taken to prevent the beautiful game becoming a business.
Ticket prices are ruining football! £5.14 billion from TV money alone and fans continue to be milked for every last penny. For the first time ever the average ticket price in the Premier League is now over £30. With the most expensive in the league a criminal £97 (Arsenal) and the cheapest at £22 (Leicester City). With the huge amounts of money from TV and sponsorship there is no excuse for such avarice from Premier League clubs. However it not just the Premier League, figures for Championship clubs don’t make much better reading with Sheffield Wednesday charging a league high £52. After all why should the fans suffer? The fans are what makes the game what it is.
A minority clubs however are doing it right, Bradford City are charging just £149 for a season ticket with a clear goal of making football affordable. The club now has over 18,000 season ticket holders, a 50% increase on last year and it also makes great fiscal sense. So if are Bradford able to offer such great value for money, what’s stopping other clubs?
Over the last three decades ticket prices have increased around 1000%. In the 1984-85 season a ticket to watch Manchester United would have cost £2.40, which with inflation would have cost £7.25. The problem is echoed by Liverpool supporters with Anfield’s cheapest tickets going for £4 (£9.60 with inflation) in the 1989-90 season but now £37 A leap of 825%, making the prospect of going to see a single match an impossible for the poorest of fans. It’s same issue for season ticket holders with Anfield’s cheapest going for £60 but now £710. A leap of 1083%.
In comparison, our European counterparts charge a fraction of the cost. In fact it’s cheaper to watch champions of Europe Barcelona (£17.16) than Conference sides Grimsby, Lincoln and Woking (£18.00). Even more staggering is that Bayern Munich’s cheapest season ticket costs just £104.48, that cheaper than every club in England from the Premier League down to the Conference.
I firmly believe that the rise in ticket prices has had a detrimental affect on the atmosphere inside the grounds. Football has traditionally been seen as the sport of the working classes across the world, yet many suggest it has been destroyed by the upper class. Roy Keane famously accused Manchester United fans at home games of caring more about prawn sandwiches than football. It wouldn’t be surprising if only those with a penchant for a prawn sandwich could afford to attend these games. I’m lulled into the promise that Anfield has a famous atmosphere, the reality is the fans sing the famous song and remain quiet for 90 minutes. The lack of teenager’s who make the most noise realistically are priced out of the game. As the prices have risen so has the demographic of the fans that go to matches. The number of 16 year olds going to matches now is around 10% compared to 22% in the mid 1980s.
Football needs to be given back to the people and communities but we all know that is not on the horizon whilst the TV & sponsorship juggernaut is in full flow. Last season Premier League grounds were 95.9% full, so why would club’s drop their ticket prices. Fans can continue to regularly protest in front of the Premier League HQ, but untill grounds start to empty then this situation will continue for the foreseeable future. We are more likely to see match day tickets surpassing the £100 barrier than we are to see them substantially drop in price.