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The great jump: young people face huge hike to full adult prices

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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We reckon one way of making football more affordable is the introduction of a young adult price band. Sixth-former and Sunderland fan Aidan Campbell tells us about the dramatic jump in his season ticket price…

Lately, there has been a surge in how much we pay to watch the game we love. As I’m now at sixth form the price of my season ticket increased from what it was at a school – jumping up from £69 to £190.

Although I’m not poor I can no longer pay the large fee to watch a game of football especially as I’m unemployed. I am one of thousands of people in this position. I’m at the age where I can’t rely on parents money all of the time but also no income from anywhere else.

I would find it hard giving up though as I have been supporting Sunderland since I was six and my Dad took me to my first game. When I walk into the stadium it gives me a great buzz – there’s nothing better. But then I look at it financially which I never did when I was six and look at how much people pay to watch the so called ‘Beautiful Game’.

This year’s season ticket, as well as money for travel and a matchday burger, leaves me with very little to be spent elsewhere. Most of the fans that follow a football team are the working class or often on middle income. They are in a position where they may have to forfeit a family holiday or something as simple as a new carpet just because they want to see their team play.

A 1,100% increase since 1980

In the 1980’s football drew attendances that where very large yet unemployment rates were high, and the average income was lower. So how did they attract crowds? Tickets were simply much cheaper and more affordable.

The FA Cup semi-final in 1980 was one of the most prestigious and eagerly anticipated games of the season. The game was between Arsenal and Liverpool, two of the biggest teams around in that era and was played at Villa Park – one of the biggest stadiums in the country at the time.

A capacity crowd of 43,000 saw the game because the tickets were £5. If the exact game was to be played in 2015 tickets would be at least £55 which is a staggering 1,100% increase.

So why should we have to pay 1,100% more for a game that’s arguably of a lower quality? The cheapest season ticket prices at Arsenal is £1,014 – given that the national minimum wage for a full time worker is roughly £12,000 – why would these fans pay almost 10% of their yearly income just watch their football team? 

With the fees that clubs pay for transfers and wages there is no clear indication that the prices will come down in the coming seasons. Without fans football would be nothing. It appears that the top clubs, the FA and even the Government fail to realise this.

Huge windfall for clubs

The new three-year Premier League television deal, due to start next year, is worth at least £5.1Bn. That astronomical figure will grow even bigger once the international rights for the competition are auctioned off. The only way TV companies could hope to recoup this huge investment is by upping their prices.

So if fans can’t watch the game on TV as prices are too high, or they can’t go to the stadium because of prices, what are they meant to do?

How will clubs spend this massive windfall? Are they more likely to spend the money on players than reducing ticket prices? Some clubs in Germany charge adults as little as £100 for a season ticket as they say a couple of million is nothing to them compared to what it would be to spend it on fans.

With the team that finishes bottom of the Premier League set to receive £99m during the new TV deal, why don’t they spend £2m of that by reducing ticket prices?

In the 1960s over 60,000 people crowded into Roker Park to watch a match. Not only were these just people they were people on very low wage working 16-hours a day in a pit.

They managed to pay the fee to watch a game of football as it was affordable – we can’t say the same 50 years later. Football should be a game for all people of any class. Football is for you and me not for the industry. 

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF.  

Thanks to Ben Andreas Harding for the image used in this article. Reproduced here under CC licence.

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