The cost of football is squeezing the ordinary fan out

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Liverpool’s Spion Kop 1960’s

The new supporter is nothing more than a paying extra    

Remember when watching football was just that.  You would go the match were it would only cost a couple of quid as a kid to watch top flight football.  For me it would be the Liverpool team of the late 1980’s with John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge terrorising defences with their fast free flowing football.   Of course they were highly paid but not on the astronomical amounts that players are on today.

Back then the clubs relied on the turnstiles for their main source of income.  Indeed some visiting teams used to look forward to playing at Anfield simply because they had a decent share of the match day revenue.   The big clubs at the time (Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Man Utd, and Spurs) didn’t take kindly to this and pushed forward for what we now know as the Premier League.  It meant more money was given to the big clubs and with Sky willing to pay big money for the ‘best league in the world,’ it transformed football forever with the avalanche of cash that suddenly swirled around top flight football.

This all tied in with football  becoming popular when England were a penalty kick from reaching the 1990 World Cup Final.  Ticket prices started to increase with the excuse at the time that it was to pay for the all seater stadiums as instructed by the Taylor report.   This though hasn’t stopped the clubs over the past twenty years later to keep on hiking up the amounts that a report in the Guardian last year stated that paying to watch football since 1990 has gone up to a thousand percent.  It cites how in 1990 it would cost £4 (£7.09 with inflation) to watch Liverpool whereas now it is £45, an increase of 1,025 percent.   That incidentally is not counting the cost of having a cup of tea or a hot chocolate at Anfield which is £2.50.  Unlike Leaf in Bold street who specialise in fancy tea’s (incidentally they are also cheaper) it is a Typhoo teabag with a bit of hot water.

Gone are the days when as a kid I would go down the match with friends on the day for a couple of quid.  Now it’s paying sky high prices and having to arrange tickets on a military scale.   For those not lucky enough to have a season ticket (or the money I would also like to add) you have to pay £20 for a membership card and get this you are not guaranteed a ticket but given an opportunity to apply for tickets.  That’s if you have been to enough games previously.

Ordinary people and certainly some of the fans that went when gates were low pre 1990 are being priced out of going the game.  Certainly in this economic climate with wages being low and the cost of living escalating going to watch football is to take a back burner.

Football and certainly the Premier League is now more about marketing and hyping the product.  Supporters are seen as commodities and it is about selling the experience.  Everything is hyped with every comment or action scrutinised.   You only have to turn on a sports show on the radio as they encourage listeners to contact the station.   The more eccentric or stupid the comment the better as this in turn encourages more outraged listeners to contact the station.  This is also true of newspapers as they hope it helps boost sales.   Transfer deadline day on Sky Sports news is treated as a major event with reporters outside every top flight club.  As the day draws to an end the hysteria blows up to a climatic end as though it was the ending of an action blockbuster film.

Football in the Premiership is about marketing and trying to  make the game an experience.  Take for instance the handshake before the kickoff and the Premier league anthem.  It isn’t about promoting gamesmanship but making it an occasion for the casual match goer or tourist visiting.   Kickoff times are scheduled around television’s convenience.  It certainly isn’t for fans that somehow have to make it to the other end of country for a 12:45 start for a game.

The much mooted 39 game shows the direction that the Premier League wishes to take.  Never mind that it would unbalance the competition it’s all about the money that they can make by franchising games abroad as well as the revenue to be made through television deals.  The fans who actually go the game their views don’t come into it.  As far as they are concerned you are just a willing paying extra for this great enterprise.   Regular football goers are like addicts were despite the moans and the continual hiking of prices will do everything to get their fix.  However you can only push people so far.  These are the supporters who somehow manage to find the time and put themselves into debt just so that they can follow their team.

Nevertheless it appears that football clubs just see supporters as a walking pound note.  When a club like Liverpool can actually charge people a fiver for wanting to stay on a season ticket waiting list, who cares if a few say no more and spew their season ticket.  There is always someone else willing to take their place.   Besides the money is to be made from the tourists who will spend money in the club shop, buy the food and drink inside the ground unlike the fan that has been going for over thirty years, who will have a pint at one of the local pubs and go straight the match.

Everything is about squeezing every last bit of money out of the supporter. Liverpool’s return to the Champions League this season saw the match day programmes cost £5 from the usual £3 on match day to commemorate being back amongst European’s elite.  Incidentally there is nothing extra in the programme except it being bigger in size.

Some fans are protesting and there have been protests this season from the Spirit of Shankly group at games this season.  No doubt the club probably snigger that they are still paying the £45 to stick up a flag saying that they are not prepared to pay.  Indeed the best way of protesting would be to boycott a televised game and let Sky or BT film the ‘world’s greatest league,’ in an empty stadium.   That though seems unlikely as people still want to get their fix of live football.  Yet even when attendances are low such as the Aston Villa and Southampton game which drew a 25,311 crowd on a Monday night game before Christmas the supporters still get it in the neck.

Never mind that Villa have been poor, never mind that Southampton fans were expected to travel and find the time off from work to travel to the midlands, never mind that it was £40 for a ticket before Christmas, never mind people in this dire economy would rather save their money and either watch it at home or have a couple of pints at the pub, the fans are derided as being disloyal.

Of course it’s a bit hard for Sky to sell the experience of Premiership football at an empty stadium.  Rather than question that the football clubs ought to reconsider their ticket prices  may be the reason why people decided not to buy a ticket the fans get the brunt of the blame for being disloyal.   This was also true when Manchester City failed to sell out for their Champions League game against Roma earlier on in the season.  Again rather than question whether it is reasonable to be charging £40 for a ticket, City fans were sneered at on social media for voting with their feet.

What really takes the biscuit is when you have multi-millionaire footballers such as Rio Ferdinand sneering at the supporters who decided not to go by tweeting that City fans would rather be at home watching Ramsey’s kitchen.’

The Premier League like to use the big crowds and the atmosphere to sell to the world of being part of this loud, bright experience yet clubs milk their regular supporters for all they are worth.  Indeed these supporters are seen as the extras to sell their product.  The audience across the globe are sold on the atmosphere as well as the blood and thunder of the English league.

Football is certainly not the working man’s game anymore and unless someone decides to make ticket prices more reasonable it will come to the point that regular supporters will spew it. By then though it will be too late and going the match will be like going the theatre rather than supporting the team.

Maybe it is time to take a stand and start boycotting games.  Let Sky broadcast a big match at a empty stadium.  Maybe the clubs may sit up and take notice.  After all clubs earn most of their money from television and sponsorship deals.  The money from the turnstiles is no longer the main source of income.

B. Benjamin

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Author: Brian Benjamin

I love football and will watch any game. Writing is also a passion of mine and apart from writing about football I have also tried my hand at short stories in my spare time.

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