Ticket Prices, and the Scandal of the Premier League

In recent times, supporters of Liverpool Football Club have been unfurling a banner at their games which reads ‘Football without fans is nothing’. This comes weeks after Manchester City sending over 900 tickets back to Arsenal as they refused to play the £62 for tickets to watch the teams play (article here courtesy of ITV Sport), which fans found ridiculous, which lead to fans questioning the actual prices of tickets.

In October 2012, the BBC released their annual ‘Price of Football’ survey (here). It showed that the average price of a matchday ticket at a game had risen from  £19.01 to £21.24. The price of a season ticket in the Barclays Premier League would be on average around £441, £100 more expensive than the nPower Championship, and £140 more than League 1. As a club moves up the tiers of football, the income naturally grows, with sponsorship,TV rights and more regular coverage and interest of fans. Therefore the price difference between Leagues 1 and 2 aren’t too different.

The SPL, the Scottish equivalent of the English Premier League, has season ticket averages which are similar to that of the lower leagues. This may not even correlate back to the quality of football, nor the level of enjoyment a day out at such a ground has.

A recent Guardian blog about the ticket prices revealed how the financial structuring and management of the Premier League was poor compared to the Bundesliga, the German Premier Division. This league has the highest average attendance than anywhere in Europe’s five major leagues (Bundesliga, Liga BBVA, EPL, Serie A and Ligue 1)

The teams consistently perform, with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich excelling both domestically and within the European club competition, the Champions League. Yet, in the largest stand in Dortmund’s ground, the Westfalenstadion holds 80,720, and is consistently filled out. The reason? Within Dortmund’s “Yellow Wall”, the biggest stand in the world with a capacity of 26,000, the prices are €15, around £10 a head on average.

My local team, Ipswich Town, has student prices at £15-20 on ‘Band B/C’ games for students, and the prices increasing on big matchdays and for adults. Though schemes are held for the likes of the Capital One Cup (at least, the earlier rounds) where U16’s can get in for £1, the ground is consistently left unfilled due to soaring ticket prices and a sense that a day out would not be value for money.

The Bundesliga is a fantastic template for further development, especially with the financial fair play looming. Though it may make €350m less per season in matchday revenues than the Premier League, the level of wages paid out from general revenue is just 50%. Huge clubs such as Manchester United have killer debts building, whilst the Spanish crisis has lead to many clubs selling the ‘family silver’ as it were, with stars such as David Silva, Juan Mata and Michu being sold off to help ease financial woes – worse still, if/when players aren’t paid due to this crisis, they strike and refuse to play. The French league, Ligue 1 spends 71% of its income on the wages of superstars such as Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi and Pastore.

The Football Supporters Federation chairman speculated that around £32 could be cut from every single ticket due to the rise in TV revenues this year – saving so many people so much money, increasing crowds and raising atmosphere. Armchair fans are on the rise, with families of those who are struggling financially finding that watching it on an illegal stream, in the pub or gathering around a mate’s house to watch has a similar effect and there is little pulling fans outside to cheer on their boys in the bitter cold.

Something has to be done; this is definitely a more pressing issue than bringing back standing facilities.

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