“HOW MUCH?” It’s an oft-repeated question in football these days, whether you’re talking about an international or a trip to see your local heroes – covering everything from the price of admission to the quality of a pie.
And anyone who’s suffered a poor half-time nosh or a tedious game over the past few years knows how important these things are.
When there’s a family’s involved too, it’s all the more shocking how much some of these clubs will charge for an hour and a half of questionable-quality football, the players incapable on occasions of trapping wind, let alone 10ft sideways passes.
Suffice to say we’ve all suffered at times, getting home to shake our heads at the whole miserable experience – wondering why we’ve just shelled out a small fortune to actually pay for an ultimately demeaning experience, and what we might have done with that hard-earned cash given the opportunity again.
It’s all part and parcel of being a sports fan and true supporter of course, and you have to take the crunchy with the smooth (any more cliches? no, that’ll do for now). Besides, most of us wouldn’t have it any other way, however much we might moan at times. But sometimes you do wonder why you’ve paid over the odds for an away programme with such half-hearted pen pics of players you already know, a plethora of crap adverts, the bizarre musings of a manager (which would have been enough to see him certified before the days of care in the community), and action pics from a dreadful 0-2 defeat at Rotherham United or Romford.
Then there’s the stomach-discolouring ruddy mess or (alternatively) see-through murky water (and rarely anywhere between these extremes) that the club you’re visiting laughingly calls tea, and a tepid pie that makes you wonder if you’ll ever be able to leave your khazi for the next couple of days if you finish it.
And for some of you out there, it’s not even just a rare treat, but something you subscribed to one glorious summer’s day in May (‘calling all early birds, blah blah’), splashing out on a season ticket at last year’s (already inflated) prices – the resultant booklet of ticket stubs viewed as a community service sentence at times.
Yet we can’t suffer in silence, and it’s all part of being British that at times of woe we take comfort in the fact that there are people out there going through worse experiences. And I’m talking about relative poverty here. You might be paying £3 for a sub-standard pie at your club, but those buggers on the Buttock Road End at Melchester Rovers could be paying 40p more for their inedible half-time treat.
By that premise, a few of us will no doubt feel better after looking at the BBC’s 2012 Price of Football survey, which canvassed 166 clubs in 10 divisions across British football, including the Blue Square Bet Premier and Women’s Super League, comparing prices of the most expensive and cheapest season tickets and adult matchday tickets as well as the cost of a cup of tea, a pie and a programme, to calculate the cheapest day out at a football match.
Among its findings, we learn that prices in the top four divisions of English football have risen by 11.7% – more than five times the rate of inflation, while the average price of the most affordable ticket in league football went from £19.01 to £21.24 in the past 12 months, and only two of our 92 League clubs offer a day out for less than £20 now (£12 last year).
Some of the findings are surprising, others not so, but I’ll tell you that the most expensive adult matchday ticket is on sale at Arsenal (£126) while the cheapest is at Montrose (£6). The Gooners also market the most expensive season ticket at £1,955 (their cheapest is a bargain £15 short of £1,000), while Montrose fans part with £90.
It’s a good advert for women’s football that their matchday adult tickets range from £4 to £6, with season ticket prices between £22 and £40. But you’ll have to part with £3.40 if you want a pie at Doncaster Belles.
The most expensive cuppa in British football is found in Manchester, both City and United charging £2.50 (as opposed to 50p at Alloa in Scottish Division Two), while Leeds United charge £4 for their matchday programme, which would buy you eight editions of the Inverness Caledonian Thistle alternative.
Yet you’ll need £4 for a pie at Kidderminster Harriers in the Conference Premier, compared to £1 at Alloa, Albion and Forfar (the latter, incidentally, what you might say with your mouth full at Aggborough when you’re told the price of your hot snack). I should add that the ‘pie’ in question at Kiddie is a large, homemade cottage pie though, and I’d be more than happy to rate it more objectively if Harriers could send me one or invite me down (expenses paid) at some stage to sample one.
Finally, a trip to the Emirates Stadium can cost as much as £134.40, with top-price tickets going for £126 (a £26 rise on last year), a programme (£3), pie (£3.30) and cuppa (£2), while Newcastle United offer the Premier League’s best value day out, with a ticket, programme, pie and cup of tea coming in at £23. Perhaps that’s what those Toon fans are celebrating when they take their shirts off on freezing cold winters days.
This year’s results brought understandable outrage from the likes of the Football Supporters’ Federation, who called for greater efforts to reduce ticket prices and give the benefit of the massive amounts of media income at the top of the game to match-going fans.
That bit about money from all those big financial killings failing to come down through the system shouldn’t really surprise us who have already turned our noses up at top-flight football and watching matches on subscription TV. It still rankles though.
But (particularly after my soapbox-style rant about supporting your local clubs last week) I’ll just add that while we may all suffer for the cause this season, there are those out there paying through the nose to suffer elsewhere. And that should make us feel a bit better about the whole sorry experience.
So next time half a cup of lukewarm hot chocolate splashes on your over-priced 1998 away shirt as your fellow fans go mental when you grab an 87th-minute equaliser at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, or Victoria Pleasure Grounds, Goole, just remember there are supporters out there far worse off, however much silverware they’ve amassed over the years.
To check out how the figures compare, check out the BBC Sport Price of Football Survey via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19842397
A version of this Malcolm Wyatt article first appeared on the http://www.sportnw.co.uk website on October 22nd, 2012.