Football Crazy: Can You Still Afford To Support Your Team?

Stafford Heginbotham, the former Bradford City Football Club Chairman, once described the game of soccer as “the opera of the people”. He probably didn’t anticipate when he made that remark in 1985 that in the 21st Century it would cost more to attend a Barclay Premiership football match than to watch ballet or opera at London’s Covent Garden Opera House. If you had wanted to go to see “La Boheme” last Saturday (12th May) there were tickets available for £37. That price has not been enough even to get you into Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium during the 2011/12 season unless you are a “senior citizen” (over 65) or a “Junior Gunner” (under 16). Their “Category A” charges (for matches against Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham) have ranged from £51 (behind the goal) to £100 (“Emirates Upper/Lower Tiers). Except for “restricted view seating” at £23.50p, the outlay for an equivalent “Grade AA” match at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium during the 2012/13 season will be between £56 – £87.  BBC Sport’s most recent “Price Of Football” survey queried whether clubs are “ providing value for money or profiteering from their supporters’ passion and dedication”. The research has indicated that although “matchday programmes” are currently sold for £3.00 by most league clubs  – with a few exceptions, such as Fulham (£3.50p) and Hereford, who have just been relegated from League 2,(£2.50p) – the similarity does not extend to the purchase of a pie or a cup of tea. Arsenal, again, are the most expensive: £4.00p & £2.00p. At Tottenham, they are marginally cheaper (£3.50p / £2.00p); Newcastle more so (£2.30p / £2.20p); Liverpool: (£2.96 / £2.00p); Manchester United: (£2.60p / £2.00p). If you don’t mind going to Npower League Two games, you can get a pie at  AFC Wimbledon  for £2.40p and a cup of tea for £1.20p.

This is the time of year when key issues – relegation, promotion, the Premiership title, the Champions’ League Final – are being resolved. It is also when fans all over the country are having to decide whether to renew their season tickets. In the current recessionary climate, coping with the cost has become even more formidable. Most will renew, (by instalments or credit card): They are well aware that if they don’t, someone else will happily grab their seats. Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation, believes that clubs “must work harder to ensure football does not become too expensive for ordinary fans” and that it should “not just be something only middle-class and upper-class families can afford”. The “Footballtransfertavern” website has expressed indignation at what it considers to be “season ticket scandals” and has classified Arsenal,Tottenham, Chelsea, QPR, Liverpool, Manchester United, Leeds, Fulham,West Ham and Ipswich as the ten biggest offenders who are “taking the game further away from the man in the street”.

Prior to the start of the 2011/12 Premiership, a “Telegraph Sport” investigation revealed that the cost of the division’s cheapest season tickets had risen by an average of 7% since the previous year. The sharpest increase, they concluded, had been at Fulham (32.98%) followed by QPR (22%), Norwich City (12.05%), West Bromwich Albion (10.03%), Swansea City (8.80%) and Chelsea (8.18%). The “Sun’s” football correspondent Mark Gilbert, who reported last year that the cheapest season ticket for the Emirates Stadium would increase from £895 to £951 and the most expensive one from £1825 to £1944, has now noted that Arsenal will “freeze” 2012/13 season ticket prices and thus that  “35,000 supporters will benefit from the announcement”. At Chelsea, the lowest adult season ticket price will be £595 and the highest £1250. However, there’s an additional levy if fans want to pay by 6 monthly instalments. Fulham’s adult prices will start at £449 and go up to £959 (though less if they pay before 1st June); Manchester United (£532 – £950); Liverpool (£585 – £802); Newcastle (£363 – £909), but there’s a discount and “the price of the season ticket is guaranteed for the next ten years” if they pay by monthly Direct Debit.

The clubs, of course, couldn’t  survive on what they earn from tickets, pies and tea. Deals with sponsors and Sky Sports  provide their most lucrative sources of income. They also make a substantial amount from the sales of childrens’ “replica kits”- which (according to Western Mail journalist, Darren Devine) now cost a minimum of £60, rising to £80 when “ badges ,names and logos are included”. He points out that if this is multiplied by two or three “when teams produce not only home and away strips but special one-off cup kits”, parents begin to “curse the clubs that their children worship”. Devine attributes this trend to “ruthless marketing men” and quotes the parenting website Mumset’s calculation that the clubs are “racking up a profit of 500% on kits which cost only £9 each to manufacture.

Devine depicts the Premier League as “dripping with money”. The top players appear to be the main beneficiaries. They dominate the Sunday Times “Sport Rich List 2012” published on 6th May. David Beckham is now worth £160 million, up £25 million (19%) from 2011; Wayne Rooney: £45 million (+ 22%) and  paid a salary of £8 million pa by Manchester United. Several Chelsea players are not doing too badly, either: Goalkeeper Peter Cech: £90,000 per week & worth £18 million; Frank Lampard (£140,00 pw / £30 million); John Terry (£160,00 pw / £26 million); Fernando Torres (not many goals, but £175,000 pw / £21 million). BBC TV’s “Match Of The Day” presenter Gary Lineker has criticised footballers as “overpaid”, but himself receives £2 million per annum and is worth £22 million. His fellow BBC pundit, Alan Hansen, has had his £1.5 million pa pay cheque reduced by £500,000.  By contrast: David Cameron receives £142,000 pa as Prime Minister and an additional £65,000 pa as a Member of Parliament: A total annual salary of £207,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Society, Sports | Posted on May 15th, 2012 by Colin D Gordon

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