There was a time when the beautiful game was the sport of the working class people. The public would work their mundane, manual labour jobs from Monday to Friday and treat themselves to watching an affordable game of football on the weekend.
As sad as it is to say, times have changed and financial matters have been put before the enjoyment of supporters. Ticket costs have reached a disgusting high, pricing out a large number of fans who have to be content with watching their chosen game on the TV or illegally via a free live stream.
It is clear that football has evolved from recreational entertainment into a business. Clubs are intent on sucking their die-hard supporters dry to watch 22 individuals kick a ball around for an hour and a half. The protests of Manchester City and Liverpool fans during their February 2013 encounter is proof of this. A jointly-held banner displaying the slogan ‘”£nough is £nough’ is an emotive message to those at their respective team’s hierarchy. Will they listen? Probably not, why should they?
The question now is, can the working class afford to still be followers of the world’s most popular sport? At the way inflation is going, the answer is no. According to this writer’s research into ten London football teams using sources from the BBC and official club websites, the average price of a league ticket in English football is £41.90, which is the equivalent of paying 47p per minute. Some fans would be content about splashing the required amount of cash to watch top quality players, but the fact is that only a small minority of football across England can be considered world class. Paying £23 to watch Brentford at home is not most supporter’s idea of value for money.
Ticket prices are not the only essentials that are on the up financially. Merchandise is crucial to the football fanatic’s day out and everyday life. Last season, QPR fans would have to pay £60.99 to have a half time pie and be decked out in the latest kit and scarf, on top of the £40 cost for a ticket. You’d think that empty pockets would be less common in the lower leagues, but expenditure is still rather high. Followers of Championship side Millwall would have to pay £53.98 for the same day out, including the £28 ticket.
The most expensive ticket in the country belongs to Arsenal at a whopping £127, whilst the cheapest in the sample was fellow North Londoners Barnet at a somewhat more reasonable £14. The question football fans must be asking themselves is the football at the Emirates £113 better than games played at Underhill. For a typical working man, £127 is going to be a significant dent in the monthly wage, and prices like those would probably be considered criminal by many.
The overpricing doesn’t stop there. Out of all the London teams in the sample, not one of them charge under £3.00 for a pie, costing significantly more than the same refreshment at your local supermarket. The priciest pies belong to White Hart Lane who charge £3.70 for their pre-match delicacy. One most assume that the most premium of horses are involved in the ingredients.
Following the recent reports of match fixing combined with the current economic downturn, it may come across some chairmen’s minds that fans might actually start abandoning and boycotting matches over these issues. Therefore, in order to restore some dignity to this already corrupt sport, lower prices from the official club store to the ticket office would seem like a plausible idea.
Whether those at the top of the football pyramid will see it in this light remains to be seen.