17 April ~ Earlier this season an elderly Aston Villa fan called the Radio 5 Live phone-in 6.06 with Eamonn Holmes and Dion Dublin to highlight that she is now struggling to meet the admission prices. This was greeted with a little bit of sympathy, but Holmes also suggested that if you want the best you have to pay for it – overlooking that he was talking to a Villa fan and it is no longer 1981. Holmes went on to say that ticket prices in football could be justified if you compared them to what you would pay at a theme park. I doubt that was much comfort. This lady didn't sound like the kind of person who would enjoy a ride on Nemesis or Congo River Rapids.

Holmes is half right, in that admission prices for theme parks have become excessive, but a comparison with football prices is a bad example. You spend more than two hours at a theme park; you have guaranteed thrills there; you don't go to a theme park every other week; you can stand up there without having a steward telling you to sit down or be ejected; you won't go home from a theme park feeling devastated and pissed off; and going to theme parks is not a fundamental part of your family's cultural heritage.

Instead of comparing one rip-off to another, Holmes could have cited other forms of entertainment that offer reasonable value for money. For example, West End theatre: prices for the best seats might be expensive, but they also start at around £10 or £20, which is fairly affordable. A mere £5 is enough to get you into the Royal Albert Hall to watch the Proms.

Compare this to the £59 away fans will have to pay at Stamford Bridge for a Grade A game (that is, against Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool). To watch the same clubs play Arsenal at the Emirates the cheapest seat is around £55, while it costs £53 to sit in the away end at Loftus Road. That ticket to the theme park is starting to look like value for money.

Holmes's comments are in line with the prevalent thinking that going to a top-level football match is some sort of privilege. That is a big change in perception. To the pre-Premier League fan, supporting your team in person was a way of life, something done without worrying about the cost. We certainly did not view it in the same way as an expensive trip to the opera or a day out to Flamingo Land. Matthew Bazell

Matthew is the author of Theatre of Silence: The Lost Soul of Football

Comments (58)
Comment by Coral 2012-04-17 11:18:11

Think you can get the equivalent of a season ticket to Mudamme Tusauds stuff for something like £200. It would cover you for Alton Towers, Wax works, Warwick Castle and Thorpe Park. I have often joked with friends that if I lived in Alton I could get a season ticket there and go every saturday. However I think after week 6 you would get bored of it. As you say, charging £40 for a theme park is reasonable because it is a once a year expenditure, not 38 times a year.

Theme Parks also seem aware they cost a lot. I have been to Alton Towers something like 8 times in the past 8 years and have not once paid full price. There are 2 for 1 offers aplenty, can't remember the last time I had that going to Arsenal.

Comment by donedmundo 2012-04-17 11:22:26

The thing with commentators and ex players is that they never pay to go to football matches. They have no understanding that £40 or £50 can be a lot of money to ordinary people. You sometimes hear them say 'That goal, alone, was worth the entrance money.' How would they know? They haven't paid. Comparisons (with other entertainment) are odious as Shakespeare almost said.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2012-04-17 12:03:19

A couple of weeks back, ten minutes before kick-off, I was queuing up to buy my 20 (TWENTY) pound ticket to watch some Tier 3 (THREE) football, when I got into a reverse bidding war with two punters who both had tickets to spare. Punter A said he'd flog me a twenty-quid ticket for a fiver. Punter B offered me one for four. HA! Buyers' market! I went with Punter B - having first knocked him down to three, of course. A bit churlish, maybe, but I think I made my point. Anyway, I went in and took my pick of the best seats in the ground. Yes, needless to say the place was two thirds empty. CONCLUSION - ticket prices are completely out of kilter with the prevailing market. Only the fanatical, the obsessed and the deranged would pay twenty pounds for such a mundane spectacle as Tier Three football.

In fact, in hindsight, such was the quality of the "entertainment" (I use the term loosely) that even three quid was a bit of a rip-off.

Comment by Leon Tricker 2012-04-17 12:33:58

For the Premier League a better comparison than 'theme park' would be 'circus.'

The problem with big prices at the top is they filter down. I paid £11 to watch Havant & Waterlooville in a Blue Square South match on Saturday. It seems to be the going rate for that level, but at nearby Fratton Park this season you could watch a Championship match for around £20 at some games.

For me the comparisons with other forms of 'entertainment' are inappropriate. Football was never meant to compete with the theatre etc on price. And you were supposed to be able to turn up on the day and pay on the door, on a whim.

Football isn't 'entertainment'. It's 'sport'.

Comment by trickydicky 2012-04-17 13:11:29

Football was supposed to be entertainment for the common man, at £50 a pop it clearly no longer is. But what the comman man is anymore is a moot point. Can you imagine Matt Busby or Jock Stein passionately exorting their players to "go out and entertain the middle classes", no, me neither.

I find this is a common theme in this country, just about everything is overpriced. As an example, in Europe, if something was locally grown and sold at a local market, it would be very cheap, for obvious reasons. Whereas in this country it would be twic the price of a supermarket, because it would be marketed as 'organic' and aimed at the Range Rover brigade. Wine as well, local wine in Europe is cheap british wine for some reason, though it is crap, is very expensive.

To get back on point, a standing ticket at the recent Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich Bundesliga title decider between the reigning German champions and current Champions League Semi Finalists would have set you back 15 euros. The Bundesliga has the highest attendances in Europe, Wigan, Blackburn and several others are usually about half full. Its not rocket science.

Comment by jameswba 2012-04-17 13:16:24

Good article enhanced by the comments. Another reason that football shouldn't be compared with, say, West End theatre, Opera or theme-park is that more people tend to go to those as an occasional treat and/or they have a good idea that they will enjoy themselves, or (with theatre/opera) at least that it's quality will be high.

With football, you go knowing that there's a fair chance that a display of the direst ineptitude will be put before you. What would be the theatrical/operatic/theme-park equivalent of the appalling 0-0 you paid 45 quid to see?

Paul, 'Only the fanatical, the obsessed and the deranged would pay twenty pounds for such a mundane spectacle as Tier Three football.' Given that you were in the ticket queue, you clearly place yourself in that category(?)

Comment by pashley 2012-04-17 13:24:44

Going to watch the Swans at Bolton on saturday. Paying £15 for my ticket and £5 each for my 16 year old son and his mate. Sweet.

Comment by Coral 2012-04-17 13:25:02

"What would be the theatrical/operatic/theme-park equivalent of the appalling 0-0 you paid 45 quid to see?"

Great point and if it was rubbish at the theatre you can bet people would be out asking for their money back. Which is what an Everton friend of mine considered going when he went to watch Leicester v Everton at the Walkers when it was announced it would be Steve Watson up front on his own.

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2012-04-17 13:54:41

An awful lot of people paying these sums have always done so, have been going since they were little. Cultural heritage, as you say.

But they don't bring their kids every week. So said kids don't grow up with a notion of going to the football as something you'd spend your money on all the time.

So, twenty or thirty years' time, when the dads who've been every week are retired (or dead), why should their children pay a fortune to watch football? Why would any club, large or small, expect their current business model to be sustainable under such conditions?

Comment by jonmid 2012-04-17 14:07:59

This may sound like a stupid question but how can ticket prices be reduced to a reasonable level because as tempest says this helping the clubs in the long term at all

Comment by Lincoln 2012-04-17 14:28:56

Interesting point tempestinaflathat. Many of my friends in Lincoln don't go to watch a Lincoln game because of the price. £18 to watch some fairly dire stuff, with £4 for a hot dog and tea at £2. Why do that when they have a £40 subscription to Sky which shows them more games at a higher level? As you say the tradition of going a game will start to die, I even think twice about games and I have grown up going to them.

That said, attendances to the Championship have never been higher and the Premiership is bursting at the seems. How does that reconcile with the high price?

Comment by Leon Tricker 2012-04-17 14:43:55

The other thing about the theatre or the cinema (incidentally, what happened to the cinema being a cheap night out?!) or whatever is you can read reviews of what you are going to see/experience in advance so you can make an informed choice of where to spend your money.

Can't do that with sport. If I could, would I have made a rational decisison to be a Pompey fan?!

Great point by tempestinaflathat:
"But they don't bring their kids every week. So said kids don't grow up with a notion of going to the football as something you'd spend your money on all the time."

And on this by Lincoln:
"...with £4 for a hot dog and tea at £2."

What also winds me up about going to matches is that everywhere you go the beer and food at the ground will be more or less the same. The same rancid, mass produced burgers/pies as every other ground in the country it seems. A similar range of beers, and no local ales (in my experience.)

I appreciate the answer to this is to find out the good places to go in towns you don't normally visit, and maybe this helps the local economy. But come on clubs - a bit more effort on your part and maybe I'll spend some cash on food/drink. Which in turn might enable you to reduce ticket prices. I rarely buy a match programme due to price, either.

Comment by Janik 2012-04-17 14:58:23

"Football was supposed to be entertainment for the common man"

The Cambridge University and public school types who developed and codified the sport back in the 19th century might be suprised to hear this.
I think it was the other way around; the common man decided football his entertainment. And the rich chaps running the show had no problems with liberating his money from him, if that was what he wanted. Babe Ruth's comments about player wages, on seeing a 50,000 crowd at Highbury back in the day and then discovering the players were paid a very restrictive maximum wage, shows just where the money was going even then.

Comment by Janik 2012-04-17 15:07:12

In response to jonmid's question of how can ticket prices be reduced to reasonable levels, I think how the professional players broke the minimum wage is instructive. By getting organised, specifically by forming themselves into a Union (which, essentially, was Babe Ruth's advice). Without co-ordinated action by fans in refusing to pay these prices, they won't go down. And yes, that means not watching your club for a while. Without boycotts then it will be very easy to ignore the fans voices (cf., The Fivers ongoing riff about Liverpool fans marching from a pub they were going to be in anyway to a football ground they were going to go to anyway).

The stupid thing is, at Premiership level at least, gate receipts are a minor part of the income stream compared to TV revenue.

Comment by Adam Wilson 2012-04-17 15:18:39

Two points.
Firsly, as has been said, attendances continue to grow, or at least have been staggeringly high for 15-20 years now, despite the ticket rises. Check the doom and gloom predictions of the death of football from the early 80s as crowds plummetted year-on-year (FACT - 3 Div One clubs had average attendances of under 10,000 in 1988).
Secondly, I was just the other day shouted down on a Foresr wedsite for questioning why Derby were being ridiculed for offering cheap tickets when the apparently superior Forest were charging high prices - as if this were a badge of honour. I made the point that for £26 I enjoyed a morning's swimming and then pub lunch with my two children (as a mundane comparison with the theatre / theme park) which was very favourable to the cost of taking them to watch another 0-1 home defeat this year.
And thirdly (?) I do remember that when I paid under a tenner to stand in the Trent End, the result was far less relevant to the act of just going. Now when there is a far greater financial investment I want to see goals. Which leads to more booing when they don't arrive, which, to bring things back round, is the sort of thing that really gets the goat of Messers Hanson, Green and Holmes.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-04-17 16:23:24

Which Adam, goes back to the article in WSC this month about fans being more impatient and demanding more particularly at Arsenal where they have paid more so expect more. At Lincoln we have had to hand over £18 to watch us boringly (as in our style) fight against relegation. If you don't go you are not a real fan we are told, but why pay that amount for something that I ultimately don't enjoy?

Food wise, £2 for a small tea that, without exaggeration, really is the worst tea I have ever drunk is really just indicative of the rip off of football in general. I have complained to the chairman before and it has been dismissed as a jokey remark by me. But I am serious, if you are charging £2 for tea which is far above the 80p for similar amounts in town it makes you question the whole pricing system right up to the ticket pricer

Comment by santos_l_halper 2012-04-17 16:49:05

One important fact that seems to have gone unnoticed by respondents to this article is that Eamonn Holmes is a bell-end.

Comment by trickydicky 2012-04-17 17:01:03

People have said stuff like attendances are on the rise, and the Premier League is at bursting point, and so on. And I suppose, they are right. Compared to the 80's, when 10,000 would echo round stadiums that could stand 50 odd thousand, attendance's are much improved. And some Premier League clubs are probably booked up to eternity, Arsenal, Man Utd, and Chelsea. But that is because going to watch them has become a sort of tourist attraction/treat for wealthy families, kind of like going to LA and going to watch the Lakers. And no doubt they could charge twice as much and still be full. But what of the rest, Newcastle, Everton and Liverpool get by on blind passion but there are enough teams who hardly ever fill their stadiums. And judging by what can be seen on the tele of the lower league's, a lot of teams never do. But I think I have lost my point.

Comment by geobra 2012-04-17 17:30:48

Having been out of the UK since 1987, I too have often wondered why fans continue to roll up in such huge numbers despite the rip-off prices. And I can only conclude that it is because football is a drug. People pay more than £50 for 90 minutes of often eminently forgettable football, but they would never fork out that amount for, say, a classic book. If fans want the prices to come down, the only way is a concerted boycott, as someone has suggested.

I feel lucky that right up until I left England, I could, if I felt like it, nip up to Charing Cross from Sidcup, get the tube to Arsenal, and walk in through the turnstiles without suffering financial meltdown even on my meagre teacher's salary.

Italy proves, though, that reasonable prices don't automatically translate into increased gates. My season ticket for AlbinoLeffe in Serie B, cost me 50 euros for the whole season, in other words more or less the price of Lincoln's cup of tea per game, but there are just 1,402 of us. As for Atalanta in Serie A, I paid 130 euros, approximately 7 euros per game, and I'm one of 9,658 season ticket holders in a 25,000 capacity stadium.

It is true that I receive a discount owing to my age, but even those paying full price pay about 100 euros for AlbinoLeffe and 200 for Atalanta. It is also true that my Atalanta ticket entitles me to stand on an open terrace often in the rain and is the cheapest in the house. But it's still surely better value than anything I would find in England.

One final point. Was the football I watched before I left England ten times worse than the glittering spectacle I'm told the Premier League offers today? I don't think so. We got much better value for money in those days.

Comment by geobra 2012-04-17 17:39:45

Just to clarify, I was using (midweek) games at Highbury as an example - I was never actually an Arsenal supporter.

And if I came back to the UK, I'd stick to non-league, even though it too is over-priced these days. Probably I'd complete the circle and return to my first love, Woking.

Comment by Paul S 2012-04-17 18:46:03

The real problem is that by over-pricing itself people are finding other things to do. Last year I ruptured the ligament in my knee playing judo. Unable to little else except watch sport, I went to Romford greyhound stadium one Saturday morning and found it was free. Since then I have been greyhound racing dozens of times (not every one of them was free!), as well as going horse racing. The most I have paid to get in was £12 at Newmarket - and this is one of the top tracks in the UK.

Sorry football, but when I can get a days racing for a tenner you really aren't good value anymore. Even if I allow for losing every single bet (I only bet £2 a race), on a 14 race card at Romford I've only lost £28 - still less than the cheapest ticket at West Ham.

Football has priced itself out and it won't feel it now, but in ten years time when they wonder where all the fans have gone.

Comment by shadsworth cloud 2012-04-17 19:44:23

Its interesting that on this board where you might expect the fanatical supporters to congregate, there is so much dismay about ticket prices.
My own take on this goes back to the late 90's when manchester city (then a struggling 2nd tier team) drew liverpool in the cup. There was dismay that city were charging £40 for a ticket. Much talk about boycotts, petitions, protests etc. In the event the ground was sold out and the powers that be at the club simply said "How can it be over-priced? we sold all the tickets"
That level of complacency is what has started to hit clubs now, and we find that they cannot shift tickets anyhow no matter how much they discount. Blackburn Rovers who play barely a mile from my front door are offering tickets for the last 2 Premiership home games of a relegation-threatened season for £15 for the pair. Myself? I'll find some other club to give my money to

Comment by Leon Tricker 2012-04-17 19:46:49

Re. Janik's point about organised boycotts being the only way of forcing a change in ticket prices. I agree, but as you say this will mean people giving up going to a few games. And I don't think there are enough people willing to do this.

People will back a cause, but aren't prepared to make a sacrifuce for it.

On a tea related note, I only paid £1.00 for a cuppa at Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday. It did, however, have a hair in it. So swings 'n' roundabouts...

Comment by Sundeporino 2012-04-17 22:20:24

I agree with Santos above.

Comment by Valentino Mazzola 2012-04-17 23:55:28

Not exactly surprising comments from Holmes, and although I've no issue with his love for Old Trafford he wouldn't be the type to darken the door of a local IL team, and IIRC was one of the instigators behind the risible Belfast United idea.

I'm interested in those with enough disposable income who started going when the prices rocketed - love to hear what their perspective is.

Comment by Adam Wilson 2012-04-18 00:24:43

I wondered if we had any consensus on what is not 'too much'? It would seem that £15 is considered excessive for non-League football as is £40 for the Premier League.
Is there a difference between paying to see your club as opposed to attending as a casual fan? Is the price comparison with the cinema / theatre / theme park useful or relevant? As has been pointed out above, all other forms of entertainment, even at £25 a football ticket, are very good value indeed.
[as a point of reference my home-town team Whitstable in the lower Ryman league charge £8 and the facilities are about the same as Braintree (£16) in the Conference].
Am I am skinflint or a just sane to suggest that paying £10 to watch my local team Colchester as a neutral is about right? And even then I'm not sure that that is low enough for the experience of sitting in a third full stadium listening to the adjacent A12 watching Division 3 football.

Comment by Janik 2012-04-18 00:36:55

I'm suprised no-one has called trickydicky up on Man United being booked up 'til eternity. I thought they were really struggling to sell all their season tickets, for example. There was certainly no longer a waiting list.
Less sure on Arsenal and Chelsea (we don't have someone reporting on their sales bumpf in the way EIM does on Man United), but I thought I'd heard that tickets were purchasable for most games, sometimes even on the day of the match.

The thing is, from a maximised revenue point of view, that is what the clubs would want. Or at least the Chelsea and Arsenal handful of spare tickets thing, not the Man United can't sell all the season tickets situation. 99% full means you've priced just high enough to still sell almost all the tickets. Always 100% full and maybe you could push the price out a bit further and still sold those seats...

Comment by jameswba 2012-04-18 06:38:57

I was going to call trickydicky up on his Dortmund vs Wigan/Blackburn comparison. I don't dispute at all that the Bundesliga offers better value to the fan than the Premier League, or that Dortmund in particular is a truly spectacular place to watch the game.

But Wigan and Blackburn are two clubs who have recently made several special offers on tickets. Their problem is that they are small(ish)-town clubs in areas that have suffered economically. They have limited fan-bases and (in Wigan's case) little tradition of top-flight football. Wigan is a rugby town and sees a weekly exodus of many of the football fans it does have to Anfield/Goodison/Old Trafford/the Etihad. I'm not convinced any debate around this issue should cite them as representative of your typical Premier League club.

On the other hand, Norwich are interesting to me because they have been working on building their support for many years, unlike some PL clubs who've just woken up to the problem. When I lived in Norwich (during the 96/97 season), they did tickets for UEA students for 5 pounds anywhere in the ground (I paid 11-15 at the Hawthorns) and tickets for unemployed people for certain games at 1 pound a time. Two or three years later than that, there was a price comparison between them and WBA in the Grorty Dick fanzine, taking as its starting point the fact that Norwich had just attracted 16,000 to a midweek match against Stockport, while the equivalent game at Albion had pulled in 9,000. The reasons were nothing to do with on-field performance - we were both mediocre second-tier sides - Norwich were simply looking after their fans better.

Norwich are one club who didn't seem to see the 'boom' years as the chance to rip the locals off. They were rewarded with full-houses through their recent bad years and now probably need to extend the ground.

Or, looked at another way, Shadsworth Cloud's point about Blackburn makes sense. They (and others) were too complacent for too long. They're trying to make concessions now but it's perhaps a bit too late.

Comment by Coral 2012-04-18 10:03:06

Norwich were particularly shrewd as they offered 3 year season tickets that covered going into the Premiership so saw the attendances rise during the Championship years. But then Norwich are as much an exception as Wigan and Blackburn. It is a city of around 130k people where they are the only team for 40 miles. This goes for towns like Great Yarmouth and East Dereham where the closest football is Norwich. There is a total lack of choice.

However they have done well to get the attendances back up from 16k when they were in division 1 after the 95 relegation. A lot of the credit might be with the old Chief Exec who is now working up in Scotland, Neil Doncaster.

Comment by jameswba 2012-04-18 10:43:27

Coral, you're right that Norwich are also an exception - a different kind of exception, though. But I think they could have been complacent about their status as the only league club for miles around and just thought 'people will always support us'. They weren't ; they got on with looking after their fanbase and building it up. I remember that year there as a student - they did dome special offers and got nearly 20,000 for a game against Grimsby. Similar-sized clubs (eg Ipswich, WBA) weren't thinking anywhere near as creatively, or matching Norwich for crowds.

Comment by Coral 2012-04-18 11:22:46

That's a fair point. I have great memories of being at UEA 2000-03 and being able to go to almost all the reserve games in that time for £1 as a student member. As a child growing up I went to the reserves for a similar price. It was good football as the pressure was off so no hoffing it long and there were quite a few stars making their return. I also have seen quite a few coming through, Ruel Fox stands out. Perhaps that is the answer, forgo top flight first team football for reserve team at a snip of the price and leaves my Saturdays free for watching on TV.

Comment by geobra 2012-04-18 11:30:40

Perhaps someone can put me right on this, but I presume that fans like me who used to look at the paper on a Tuesday morning and pick a game to watch that evening are now a dying breed, at least outside the non-league game. That is a loss to the game, because it shuts out those who simply like watching football.

It's the same in Italy, except that the problem here is not the cost of the tickets but the labyrinthine procedures you must go through to get one. A friend of mine turned up an hour before an AlbinoLeffe game in February and joined 60 others in the queue for a ticket. He was still in the queue when the whistle blew for half time, at which point he went home and AlbinoLeffe lost a potential casual fan for ever. And the total attendance at the game was 2456, of whom just over 1000 'paid at the gate'.

When not watching professional games for which I have paid in advance through my two season tickets, I now content myself with games at the lowest levels of the pyramid. They are 10 minutes walk from my flat, they cost nothing and I enjoy them. But I wouldn't have been seen dead watching them 15 years ago.

Comment by Spadams96 2012-04-18 11:38:04

Eamonn Holmes has managed here to be completely wrong (default setting) and completely right at the same time.

Wrong in saying that there is any value in paying £50 to watch a game of football but right in comparing it to a theme park, not because of what's on offer but because he's managed to get inside the minds of your Ian Ayres, David Gills etc etc.

Maybe it's because Holmes is from Belfast and so he knows that every single week thousands of people pour out of here and across the water to Old Trafford, Anfield and elsewhere.

Next time the camera pans around OT before the start of a United home game, have a look how many whoppers wearing jester hats and half-and-half United-opposition scarves wave at the camera. These are your theme park daytrippers, many from Ireland but also from all over the world. They'll probably spend as much in the club shop in one weekend as a season ticket holder did when he renewed.

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2012-04-18 11:40:59

Fulham are an interesting case study for this too, after all it is the only ground in the league to have a 'neutral section'.
But five seasons ago you could pick up season tickets for less than £300. That's just over £15 a game for Premier League standards and as such, attracted a lot of relocated fans of provincial teams who wanted to watch good football.
The prices have edged up so that the same ticket is now £400, but it has developed some loyalty in so much as even the smallest games (v Wigan at home) now sell out at the Cottage and Al Fayed looking to extend the capacity of the ground by 5k to 30k.
Of course there are several advantages that Fulham have over other teams a) beautiful stadium, b) inoffensive team, c) based in London with its massive population base.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2012-04-18 13:26:27

Glad somebody mentioned Fulham. it gives me an excuse to recount a recent experience I had with their ticket office.

Back in January, I attempted to buy a ticket for an FA Cup game at Craven Cottage. I was told I couldn't buy one, because I wasn't a member. I explained that I wasn't actually a Fulham fan, I just wanted to watch a game of football, as a "neutral". They said they couldn't help me - rules are rules. Apparently their "neutral area" had been re-allocated to the away team for that game, and so the only way I could get in was by being a member of Fulham FC.

I asked them how home ticket sales were going, and if they had many tickets left. "Oh yes, sir - plenty!".

Now there's a surprise eh?

Comment by jertzeeAFCW 2012-04-18 13:40:58

Geobra says "When not watching professional games for which I have paid in advance through my two season tickets, I now content myself with games at the lowest levels of the pyramid. They are 10 minutes walk from my flat, they cost nothing and I enjoy them. But I wouldn't have been seen dead watching them 15 years ago"

I am the same. I am a season ticket holder at AFC Wimbledon (£260 for this season to stand) but occassionally pop down to my local Combined counties LEague club as I can get in for half price (£3) when I show my season ticket (works for any other clubs ST).
Often the "entertainment" is better than watching MOTD althought the skill level may not be.

I foten wondered who would go to these matches once all the old spectators died off....I know the answer now. People like me who got pissed off with not being able to just turn up aat a ground and get in, and it costing less than a tenner.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2012-04-18 13:41:38

Some great comments here, which is surely a reflection on the quality of the original piece. Nice one Matthew - I think I'll go out and buy the book right away!

I'm going to throw a quick grenade into the discussion here: if you want to blame anybody for the high price of matchday tickets, don't blame the clubs - blame the season ticket holders. If clubs drop the price of matchday tickets, they would also have to drop the price of season tickets too, which would mean giving up a large amount of easily-come-by, nailed-on no-quibble income from all those fully-paid-up nutters who, for reasons best known to themselves, are happy to continue paying way over the odds for their fortnightly fix of live football.

(That’s assuming of course that all your season ticket holders actually turn up every fortnight: many of them hand over their money at the start of the season and then make just the odd appearance now and then - a practice which surely defies all logic....)

These days, for the vast majority of clubs a season ticket doesn't really save you any money and you don't need one to guarantee you a seat - they never sell all their seats anyway. Nothing like it. So why do people pay so much for their season tickets? In fact, take a step back - why do so many people buy season tickets at all? They never used to. I suspect it's partly convenience (ie not having to buy a ticket before each game), partly misguided loyalty, partly habit, and partly status. Let's face it, the stalwarts do enjoy being able to phone up 606 and start their pathetic banal rant off with "I've been a season ticket holder for fourteen years now and blah blah blah....".

Season ticket holders - they're ruining the game for the rest of us. When I were a lad, virtually NOBODY had a season ticket - we all just pitched up, paid our pittance of an admission price and went in. We didn't even get a ticket for our trouble. Yes, there was actually no such thing as a "ticket"!

Ah, those were the days....

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2012-04-18 14:48:54

Paul - re: Fulham - I guess you ran across that problem because they were playing another London team (albeit only Charlton). They sometimes require a booking history to ensure you're not an opposition fan in the wrong end.
I guess that's why they were not put on General Sale (still got 20k there though which is good going against a L1 side), unlike this weekend's game against Wigan in case you were at all interested. It would also give you a purchase history for next time.

Comment by Coral 2012-04-18 15:31:43

I am one of those relocated Fulham members. I started watching them within a week of moving to London and it is my port of call for a football fix. They have had a numerous drives to get more fans to come and watch them. As for the specific point of fans in the wrong end, it is something that annoys me. At a Man Utd game I saw two Japanese lads thrown out for cheering a Man Utd goal in the home end. Hardly crime of the centuary and I always think those who attack someone based on this should be the ones ejected. However at a Roma game same issue happened but this time a man of 50 punched the young Roma fan for celebrating a Roma goal in a Fulham end. This was just as the final whistle blew so my memory of leaving that game was stepping around 5 middle aged men literally rolling on the floor holding each other. The only relevance of that story is to say Fulham have pulled in lots of nationalities not only with their Uefa cup run which brought in Italians and Germans etc to the ground but also the international games which may then get them to return. I just love the image of men in tweed jackets fighting.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2012-04-18 16:20:32

Eff-Bax - "only Charlton"? ONLY CHARLTON???

How very dare you? ;-)

Comment by geobra 2012-04-18 16:24:43

Paul Rowland is absolutely right about season tickets. In the days when all clubs had terraces and standing enclosures, season tickets were generally available only in seated areas.

He's also right about the fact that 'pay on the day' fans didn't even get a ticket. This led many people to suspect that official attendances and the number of people actually in the ground were often not the same, especially in the case of a club in South East London with what was then a huge ground. Even their own fans joked about it. So perhaps issuing everybody with a ticket does serve a purpose.

Comment by MinkaBeaver 2012-04-19 00:40:15

Some great points - and English supporters do get fleeced - but a really key reason for rising ticket prices being matched by improved attendances has been ignored.


You simply can't compare the standard of spectator facilities now with those of the 1980s, when ticket prices were cheap. Better stadiums encourage people other than just working men aged 16-50 to attend games. No longer do people attend football matches wondering if they'll make it home in one piece (or at all).

It's much rarer to wade through ankle-deep urine, have your view obscured if you're under 6ft tall or be unable to move through the crush. At the middle-tiers of the professional game, that alone encourages more women and casual fans to attend.

Comment by jameswba 2012-04-19 07:28:49

MinkaBeaver, no, but the Taylor Report did expressly say that ticket prices were not to rise excessively in order to pay for these swish new facilities. In fact, clubs got grants for a lot of the improvements.

The Fulham discussion is an interesting one and raises a couple of points :

1. Clubs at the higher levels gear their whole operation towards ST holders these days. What happened at Rangers might suggest that, at some clubs, this happens for more sinister reasons than we'd originally thought. Also, at WBA, when we had 9,000 ST holders in what's now the Championship, it was said that, on average, 500 per game didn't turn up, ie about 5-6%. That probably increases for night matches, games switched for TV etc, so clubs want to ensure that an ST still 'pays', even if you miss 3 or 4 games per season. At some clubs, I've even heard that some ST holders lobby for 'casual' prices not to be reduced, on the grounds that 'we didn't know there'd be such reductions when we bought our STs'.

2. Having a 'purchase history'. This recalls sth Roger Titford (I think) wrote in the mag a few years back. Is it possible, or practical, to attend a higher level game 'anonymously' anymore? Presumably, you could pay cash at the ticket-office to see, say, Wigan v Fulham without having to register your details, but I'd reckon the number of tickets sold this way in the PL today is absolutely miniscule. As Mr Titford wrote, our clubs know exactly who we are and what our attendance habits are.

Geobra, My football-watching habits also mirror yours quite closely, right down to living abroad and having an ST (sorry Paul) with adopted hometwown club and to strolling out of the flat of a Sunday to watch a lower league game (Slovakia has the most fantastic culture of Sunday village football).

But - and sorry for banging on so tediously about this - Norwich is one place where looking in the paper on Tuesday and finding a game to go to that evening just isn't that practical, esp when you're without a car. The year I lived there, I took trips to Diss Town and King's Lynn, but they required a bit of planning - I guess Coral would confirm this. That's where I think Norwich City were so forward-thinking - they really did have a built-in monopoly on local support, but they still nurtured their fan-base.

Comment by MinkaBeaver 2012-04-19 09:00:59

Some great points, James.

I don't live in the UK, but every time I've booked/looked to purchase a Premier League ticket as a casual fan has required me to register with a club online. Once they have your details, they bombard you.

Unfortunately the Taylor Reports had no control over pricing. It was a recommendation, but unlikely to ever convince clubs who very quickly cottoned-on to the profitability of bond schemes (eg Arsenal, West Ham).

Comment by Coral 2012-04-19 10:25:09

"Once they have your details, they bombard you."

Tottenham, Arsenal (when they were doing badly, not at the moment), West Ham, and Derby send me an e-mail every week. Until recently I used to have an e-mail that flashed in my inbox under the name of Kevin Nolan and got excited only to find it was a marketing gimick. They know they need to work hard to push the casual tickets but it seems to work. Although West Ham comes from a game I attended in 2007 against Everton and I was in the away end and Upton Park.

Comment by sbloxham 2012-04-19 11:20:38


"...In the days when all clubs had terraces and standing enclosures, season tickets were generally available only in seated areas..."

You're very wrong! I found and showed my son, my season tickets for Watford from the 80's. These were for the Vicarage road 'stand' and were paper books containing tickets that had to be removed - that really shocked him.

But what absolutely floored him were that the season ticket books also contained vouchers for cup games (FA, Milk/League and, for one season *only*, UEFA) and that if the club didn't progress far in the competitions (the usual story for Watford) refunds were made against the next season's ticket. It's enough to make any football club's present business manager weep.

I also love the theme park ticket analogy. My family was lucky to receive a Legoland annual pass which I upgraded to a Merlin pass giving 'free' entry to a number of attractions. I say 'free', but once drinks, food, ice creams and souvenirs/gifts were bought the bloody things cost me a fortune.

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2012-04-19 11:37:33

Sorry Paul - didn't think you were a Charlton fan as you were trying to attend the game as a 'neutral'. But does that means you were upset at the policy to stop Charlton fans getting in as neutrals actually working?

Comment by geobra 2012-04-19 14:32:56

@ sbloxham

Not defending myself, but I did say 'generally'.

I remember the books. At West Ham the matches were even numbered in random order. Perhaps there was a good reason for this, but I don't know what it was.

Comment by KEITHCCC 2012-04-19 15:05:13

I've never understood why people need food and drink at a football's not as though you're in the ground all day is it?

Comment by s10_yellow 2012-04-20 10:02:42

Some interesting points made above about the Norwich ticket policy. I agree that to a certain extent we do benefit from a large catchment area but jameswba is right that it was shrewd marketing in the late 90s that really helped push the fanbase (at 22 I'm very much of the Kids for a Quid generation myself) plus some good timing in that we rebuilt the South Stand in 2003-4, the season we won Division One - after a few months of very limited capacity, it opened in January of that year with us top of the league, and unsurprisingly all the new season tickets sold out. Since then we've managed to keep a fairly consistent level of 20-22k season ticket holders even through four years of Championship dross. Our season tickets weren't particularly cheap but the pioneering interest-free monthly payment scheme which we were the first club in the country to offer made it easily affordable. We're almost a victim of our own success now as there just isn't enough capacity - it helps that the club has a high PL profile but I fear that if we wait too long to expand capacity that local kids who can't actually come to a game might lose interest. We'll see.

Please don't give the credit to Neil Doncaster, though - it happened despite him, not because of him! Our late 90s/early 00s marketing was masterminded by Andrew Cullen, who I believe is unfortunately now at Franchise FC.

Comment by jameswba 2012-04-20 11:19:14

s10_yellow, I was so taken with Norwich's other various late 90s initiatives that I omitted kids-for-a-quid. But you're right. In 97/98, the year after my time at UEA, I went back to Carrow Road to see WBA. Both sides were mid-table mediocrity, it was March and there wasn't much riding on the game. But it was kids-for-a-quid day and there were 20,000 there, not far off a sell-out. Albion were getting 13,000-14,000 at that time for those kinds of fixtures.

Long may your club continue to reap the benefits of the work it was doing back then. I'd love to go back, but it's difficult these days.

Comment by geobra 2012-04-20 13:09:20

I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned the average age of the Premier League fan, which I believe is over 40. That surely tells its own story both about today and the future.

For what it's worth, at the time of writing I've seen 64 games this season and paid a total of 313 euros. That's everything, because I have no transport costs, all matches being reachable with my annual season ticket on the local bus network, and what pass for programmes at Atalanta and AlbinoLeffe are free. And I never eat or drink anything. The most I pay 'at the gate' is 10 euros for a local Serie D team. In 25 years I don't think that I've ever paid more than the equivalent of £25 to watch a match, which is probably no bad thing considering how many of them may have been fixed!

Even the cinema is reasonably priced here. If I go from Monday to Thursday it costs 4 euros 50 or 37 euros for a 'season' of 10 films. Weekends are a little more expensive, but all tickets cost less than 10 euros. And as it's an art cinema, the quality is very high.

Comment by geobra 2012-04-20 13:14:16

I should have added that I expect to see about a dozen more games this season, with probably only one costing me at the gate. So I will be averaging about 4 euros per game. About half the games I will have seen will have been in Serie A and B. I dread to think what I would have had to fork out in England for 40 games in the Premier League and the Championship.

Comment by jhnalford 2012-04-20 14:46:36

All Ryman South League games are now £8.00 a pop. I support Dulwich, if we go up then it'll £11 or £12 a go. I regularily travel to Madrid - you can watch La Liga, Atletico Madrid for 15 Euros ie not much more than Dulwich - the place is usually jammed, although lately we have not been playing well. Similarily 3rd Division season ticket in Spain last year was 85 Euros. Dulwich do a very reasonable cup of tea for 80p and a pint of Boddingtons in the club bar for £2.50!!

Comment by Coral 2012-04-23 08:47:51

s10_yellow and Jameswba, I am sure there is some shrewd marketing but kids for a quid is hardly a Norwich only practice. Not taking anything away from them though, and you are quite right to point out to the worry of now limiting the number of new attenders due to lack of capacity.

For real imagination, look to Stockport this coming season and Hartlepool before. If they get enough people registering and paying £100 for the season ticket then everyone gets it for that price if they get the specificed £660,000 they require. If not then everyone is refunded their money and the details are destroyed. There is an option to pay £150 as well if you want. But then given the competition they really do have to strain every sinew.

Comment by MarkBrophy 2012-04-23 09:49:49

If ticket prices had tracked inflation since the 1980s, a season ticket at top clubs would still cost around £100 per season. See my blog here:

Comment by westbanker 2012-04-24 12:49:21

Players' wages are the elephant in this chat-room - that's the reason the ticket prices are where they are.

Comment by FCKarl 2012-04-25 09:30:35

I hate that embedded in my ticket cost are all kinds of things that come under the rubric of "infrastructure," i.e. things I am not interested in paying for, as I am there to watch sport / football. No one here is talking about the massive embedded costs now of security inside and outside grounds. One has to pay for this even if one is and always has been a lifelong, happy, law-abiding, non partisan football lover hoping to just see the best side win. I hate being in stadiums where the ratio of fans to security seems to hover around 12:1. See, I'm paying for that. And you are, too. Same for all the high tech "safety" gadgetry, cameras watching you, the secretive managerial security squad bunker in the stadium with high tech devices like one would find at NASA's Cape Canaveral. See: I hate paying for things I am not responsible for. I hate paying for a potential hooligan riot when this is my very rare, very precious, hard won free time and day off from work. And I abhor being bodily frisked and gruffly questioned by paid staff and bouncers at the gate (metal detectors) as if I am an infamous serial murderer or part of a violent, murderous drug cartel. These are the things that push up your ticket costs (try going with a family of five!!!) AND THIS IS ABSURD.

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