The cost of attending matches is one of the issues that the FSA has campaigned on the longest, and for good reason. The acceleration in the rise in ticket prices well beyond the rate of inflation in the late nineties and early part of the 21st century meant the game quickly became unaffordable to large swathes of its traditional fanbase. Ultimately, if you can’t afford to get into the game, then other issues around a matchday will be less of a concern to you.
While home fans are often able to benefit from membership and season ticket discounts and other local promotions, it’s typically away fans that bear the brunt of the highest ticket prices, particularly when taking into account the investment in travel and time that they make following their team.
Away fans are also disproportionately responsible for the colour and atmosphere within grounds; we’ve all been to games with a half-full away end and a flat atmosphere as a result. So that’s why back in 2013 we launched the Twenty’s Plenty campaign, arguing for a £20 cap on the price of a ticket for away fans at all levels, to recognise their contribution and keep the game a vibrant spectacle for all.
In 2016, after years of lobbying and pressure from fans across the country – often in the face of naysayers who said that a cap was an impossible ask, and that supply and demand would rule the day – the Premier League announced a £30 cap for all away tickets. In February 2019 it was confirmed that the cap would continue to run for another three seasons – saving yet more millions for travelling supporters in the top flight.
They’re steps in the right direction, but we’re keen not to let the issue of affordable football slip, however – while the cap has proven both popular and successful, there are still ways that clubs are finding to increase the cost of a matchday.
Leicester City came in for criticism of their ‘stealth tax’ on tickets, hiking fees for each individual ticket rather than a per booking basis, while Norwich City introduced a wildly unpopular new £50 membership scheme to access away tickets without consultation.
Aston Villa ditched a similar scheme to the Canaries after consultation with fans, which goes to show the need for vigilance.
With the continuation of the good news in the Premier League, as well as other leagues such as Ligue Un in France instituting a price cap, the issue of ticket prices in the EFL has come under even greater focus. The Championship is now one of the most expensive divisions in the world for away supporters.
We continue to work with our EFL fan group representatives to bring positive change in not only the Championship, but Leagues One and Two as well – highlighting the worst offenders, but doing our bit to highlight best practice, too.
Ipswich Town managed to get half their visitors to agree to reciprocal deals back in 2017/18, and through our EFL Networks we continue to encourage clubs and fangroups to lobby for reciprocal deals – where both sets of fans can realise a saving – as well as working towards a longer-term solution to the problem of high ticket prices.
Off the back of our work in making sure more fans could make the final, we set about making it more affordable.
After the lobbying efforts of supporter representatives, the FA agreed a reduction in ticket prices for 3,000 tickets at the 2019 FA Cup final. 1,500 tickets in the lower band behind both goals (3,000 total) at Wembley Stadium were reduced from £115 to £70, a total saving for supporters in those areas of around £135,000.
This good news, however, came on the back of the previous season in which the FA was criticised for introducing inflation-busting price hikes without consulting supporters, and with a significant proportion of tickets still costing in excess of £100 for the showpiece.
The FA responded by meeting fans and increasing the concessionary saving on the most expensive tickets (from £10 to £25) and committed to not increasing the price of semi-final and final tickets beyond the rate of inflation until 2022 at the earliest.
Small steps in the right direction, but there’s still plenty to be done for what remains one of the highest priced cup finals in world football.
It’s not just on these shores that we work to make football more affordable. Through our membership of Football Supporters Europe (FSE), the pan-European body representing football supporters across the continent of which the FSA was a founder-member, we lobby UEFA to keep prices down.
When you take into account the even greater costs of travel for continental away games, rising tickets prices are of huge concern, with clubs demonstrating their willingness to fleece visiting supporters, charging prices in excess of €100, described by fan groups as an ‘elitist joke’.
Such moves forced clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool to enter into ‘revenge pricing’ for their games with Sevilla and Porto, increasing the price of tickets for matches at home to subsidise their travelling fans at their respective fixtures.
After a great deal of lobbying and hard work by FSE and fan groups, UEFA announced a cap for fixtures in the 2019/20 season of €70 in the Champions League and €45 in the Europa League.
FSE’s executive director Ronan Evain said of the cap “This represents progress, and we commend UEFA for their forward thinking. The cap will eliminate the most egregious cases of overpricing, but it is, in our opinion, still too high”. UEFA will review the cap at the end of the season, showing that there’s work still to be done, and hopefully further improvements to be made.