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Survey: Cost of living crisis to hit attendances at non-league

Fans at non-league are already feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis, with more than half (57.7%) saying it had already impacted on how much money they had available to spend on football, according to the results of a joint survey between the FSA and the Non-League Paper.

In news that will worry non-league clubs, around one in four fans (23.9%) say they expect to attend fewer fixtures over the winter period, and half (49.9%) say they expect to attend fewer away fixtures as a result of rising prices.

While fans at all levels will be feeling the effects of inflation, rising mortgage rates and energy prices, the effect is likely to be more keenly felt in non-league where the margins for financial sustainability are at their tightest, and even small drops in attendances can have very real impacts on clubs’ financial futures.

More than half of our respondents (56.2%) said they expected to reduce their matchday spend on items including food and drink, programmes, raffle tickets and other donations.

Fans were also polled on potential measures that clubs might take in order to combat their own rising costs.

Further findings

When looking at the measures that clubs might take to ameliorate their own rising costs, there was broad support from supporters for moving kick-offs earlier to save on floodlight costs, with three in four (74.8%) in favour.

A significant minority, however (12.3%), said they would likely attend fewer games if kick-offs were to be moved, and so clubs will need to bear this in mind when considering any potential energy savings.

762 fans from across non-league completed the survey, with some of the further findings below

  • More than half (58.1%) of respondents were season ticket holders/attended more than 16 games per season
  • A further 28% attended at least six games per season
  • Less than one in five (17.4%) would be in favour of clubs raising ticket prices to help clubs run more sustainably
  • Almost two thirds (61.4%) were opposed to ticket price rises
  • Fans were split on whether they supported part-closures of stadiums, or concession areas – 36.9% were supportive, while 30.4% opposed the measures

Andy Walsh, head of national game at the FSA, said: “The economic uncertainty and increases in the cost of living are having an impact on where football supporters spend their disposable income. Our survey of non-league fans shows the financial squeeze of inflation and the rising cost of energy and housing is already causing supporters to rein in their spending on football.

“Clubs face some difficult questions on what to do for the best. Our data shows attendances would be marginally impacted if kick off times were brought forward to reduce the need for floodlights, but as the nights draw in this measure will have less impact.

“Fans are broadly supportive of clubs’ attempts to address the impact of rising costs, and the FSA encourages clubs to communicate regularly with their fans and consult on any proposed changes to the usual matchday arrangements.”

The FSA will be sharing the results of the survey with the FA, leagues and clubs, to ensure that those involved in running the game are aware of fan sentiment on what will continue to be a hot topic over the months to come.

Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund

Partners

  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Pledgeball