29 May ~ At Christmas in 2008 I made a 380-mile round trip to see Leicester City against Hereford United. I paid £26 for my ticket and the same for my 18-year-old daughter, who was out of work at the time, for the privilege of watching a game of third-tier football. City also took £12.50 off me just to park the car for three hours. When I got home, I told myself that enough was enough. Now that "proper" football has priced me out of anything approaching regular attendance, I spend the bulk of my spare time following a non-League side home and away in the Blue Square Bet South. I still see my share of top-flight games, however, but never in England.

Generally, €20 (£17) will get you a decent seat at most grounds in mainland Europe. However, a trip to take in the recent Lens v Arles Championnat game in France threw up a fairly startling revelation – that the cost of going to this game was pretty much the same as taking in Dover playing away at Woking or Chelmsford at our regionalised sixth level.

If we Dover fans don't necessarily go along with that oh-so-witty visitors' chant that we're French and we know we are, the trip, designed to scratch the Saturday itch following the conclusion of our season, was surprising on a number of levels. For us, the distance between London and Lens is much of a muchness. If sharing out the cost of a Eurotunnel crossing, diesel and a couple of road tolls cost a little more than a trip to London, such considerations were negated by ample free parking, an absence of a congestion charge and a dual carriage way that took us pretty much straight from the tunnel exit to the Stade Bollaert. A seat behind the goal in a still state-of-the-art stadium that was a World Cup venue in 1998 costs a mere €10. Worryingly, a season ticket is £80 less than what I'm planning to pay to watch Dover Athletic in 2011-12.

Irrespective of the fact that both sides had already been relegated, the entertainment on offer was of a good standard. And if much of it came from a 28,000 crowd keen to express their contempt on a day when neighbours Lille clinched the Championnat title with a 2-2 draw in Paris, the game itself was half decent from a neutral perspective. With a lovely little twist of irony, the game was settled by a goal from a player still on Leicester City's books. If any English fans remember Yann Kermorgant, it will be for the disastrous penalty he took in the Cardiff v Leicester Championship play-off semi-final a year ago. This time, however, Kermorgant was arguably the best player on the pitch and he headed the only goal of game as Arles won on the road for the first, and indeed last, time this season.

It will still be Dover home and away for me next season. But I'll have the odd spare Saturday to fill. On those occasions, rather than going to say, Gillingham or Charlton, it's my bet that I head across or under the water. Having organised holidays around the fixture lists of Europe, I'm in a good position to confirm what most of us already know; that English fans are ripped off to a degree that is unprecedented elsewhere in Europe. Mark Winter

Comments (12)
Comment by drew_whitworth 2011-05-29 10:13:08

You are right, but the whole thing is deeper than football. I have recently been to Taipei, where a trip from one end of the city to the other on their clean, efficient Metro was £1 - in London you can't go two stops for less than £4 these days. I visited Brisbane, where free buses circle round the city centre on a regular basis. Put simply, in the UK we have long had a situation where what taxes the state does gather are invested mainly in warfare [don't let the right-wing press convince you that it's welfare, where we invest less than most] and there's no political capital to be gained by investing in infrastructure.

The price of match tickets - well, that is in the hands of the clubs. In the end, the only real protest, as you recognise, is to stop going.

Comment by shadsworth cloud 2011-05-29 10:49:00

Thats a good article, but I'm struggling a bit to understand your situation. Presumably you live in Dover which is why Lens is a good bet and why you have a season ticket for Dover FC. But then why would you be going to Leicester v Hereford? Not that its a crime, but just a curious use of a day-out...

English football could learn a lot from the continent but the first step is to acknowledge that we are not the worlds greatest league (i know that don't apply to Blue Square South).
I think a big part of our problem is that supporters are too gullible and too keen to swallow the "if you support club-x you'll happily fork out for a new shirt/season ticket/official duvet cover". Its up to us to Just Say No

Comment by ingoldale 2011-05-29 11:07:13

I agree that you can get a ticket at a Ligue 1 game for much less than in the Premiership it can still be expensive though. I was a PSG regular (I missed 4 home games) in 2009/10 and I found that you could only get cheap tickets behind the goal. The corners were still 35€ and to shit near the halfway line it was 100€ and upwards. This is not cheap. In fact, the pricing scale is very simlar to that of an English club and exists across France. The same applies for thier season tickets.

Comment by ingoldale 2011-05-29 11:14:54

Sorry, that should say sit. I had not intention of fouling near the halfway line.

Comment by Janik 2011-05-29 13:41:11

How on earth did you end up being charged £12.50 to park in Leicester? Most of the match day parking within a mile of the ground is £5 or less (£4 for the Tigers car park this season). Not free certainly, but not quite the level of sting you experienced.

Comment by StephL 2011-05-29 13:53:34

I recently went to AS Roma v Palermo, I paid 15 euros for my ticket...

Comment by Flynnie 2011-05-29 17:44:35

"in London you can't go two stops for less than £4 these days."

Familiar with the Oyster card?

Comment by fieryelephant 2011-05-31 06:28:32

Matchday prices can also reflect the experience you have. It's cheaper for me to watch a top-flight game here in Australia than it is to watch Aldershot when I'm back in the UK. Unfortunately this is because it's subsidised by various sponsorship which means you have to listen to endless advertising at unbearable volume before the game and at half-time. My Melbourne team also play a lot of games in a half-empty (if you're lucky) Australian rules stadium (where you're about 50m from the pitch), despite having a "proper" football stadium available. I suspect this is because the corporate facilities are better. I know which experience I would rather pay for...

Comment by jertzeeAFCW 2011-05-31 13:14:21

As someone that does an annual booze cruise you could pay for the whole day put in France if you stop off on the way home.....

Comment by drew_whitworth 2011-05-31 16:40:18

@Flynnie, yes I am. But most people who will come to London for a short visit, including people attending football matches, will not have one.

Comment by Jobi1 2011-06-01 23:22:00

I've noticed here in Italy that (I'm guessing like France from what i've read above) the cheapest tickets are a lot cheaper, but the most expensive tickets are a lot more expensive in comparison to England. At Milan last season for example the prices ranged from €14 to about €275 depending on where you chose to sit. I think that system is much better as it allows a much wider range of people to be able to afford to come to the games, where we always read complaints of traditional fans being priced out of the Premiership.

Still does seem slightly galling though that a season ticket behind the goals at the San Siro next season will cost €240 (about £210), which includes all league games, the first home game in the Coppa Italia, and all three Champions League group games. Even accounting for today's crappy exchange rate that's still cheaper than a season ticket behind the goal at York City.

Comment by Mark Winter 2011-06-13 16:18:47

In answer to Shadsworth Cloud, Leicester City are my 'big' team. A long story and although I was born in Dover, I have family from the East Midlands and Dad served in the Royal Leicesters in WWII. In answer to Janik, I paid for parking at the same time as I purchased seats from the ticket office, about a week or so in advance.

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