Faithful Premier League fans take another kicking in the ticket stakes

Supporters group says blue-collar followers of the beautiful game could become an endangered species if prices keep rising

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 10:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 10:22pm

It's not the news you wanted to hear ahead of the English Premier League (EPL) season kick-off.

We supporters have been placed on a list similar to that occupied by the likes of pandas, rhinos and sharks.

The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) warned this week EPL crowds are an endangered species and could soon "die out" if ticket prices continue to rise.

We who create the unique atmosphere which sells the league around the world (and lines the pockets of TV companies, sponsors, club shareholders and many a minted player) could fall silent within a generation.

This year fans will pay an average of £526 (HK$6,800) for the EPL clubs' lowest-priced adult season tickets. That's 6.5 per cent up from last season

The FSF - a group run by fans for fans - warned this week young, working-class fans are being priced out by inflation-busting price rises.

Nine of 10 fans believe prices are far too high, the organisation claimed.

"English football risks losing an entire generation of young fans," said Kevin Miles, the FSF's chief executive.

This year fans will pay an average of £526 (HK$6,800) for the EPL clubs' lowest-priced adult season tickets. That's 6.5 per cent up from last season.

The yearly shakedown is par for the course for those of us who want to support our clubs in the flesh. The cost of top-flight football for supporters has increased every year for more than a decade.

Arsenal will be the most expensive to support with the cheapest adult season ticket at the Emirates Stadium costing £1,014.

A handful of clubs, including Tottenham, Swansea and West Brom, have frozen ticket prices at the same level as they were last season.

This Southampton fan and his nine year-old son are forking out over £1,600 for our tickets (he can forget an XBOX upgrade at Christmas given the price of his junior seat).

Moneybags Manchester City offer the lowest EPL price and have also frozen their cheapest season ticket at £299.

Yet tickets remain unaffordable for many who want to watch the "peoples' game".

Most ticket concessions end at age 18 or 21, while the falling value of wages means many young working-class fans are priced out of adult tickets until they reach their 30s.

A recent study found that 18- to 24-year-olds have an average annual disposable income of £2,088. An EPL season ticket could now cost them up to a third of that.

In 1981 an average Arsenal season ticket cost £84. But today the cheapest adult pass costs £1,014 - a real-terms increase of 370 per cent.

Yet the increase in the EPL's media rights alone could have led to all 20 clubs letting in each and every supporter for all 38 games for free last season - without being any worse off than they had been the season before, the FSF claimed.

"Being a regular football supporter is a habit that's formed at a young age," said the FSF's Miles.

"If you keep raising prices, what you'll get when you look around the ground isn't what you had when you started, because you've priced out the whole generation - you've broken that habit. And if the crowds keep ageing, sooner or later they will die out."

Fans of Europe's top leagues fair far better because their authorities realise the support of young and working-class fans is crucial.

Germany's Bundesliga clubs pass some of their sizeable commercial income to fans by subsidising tickets and also offer cheap standing areas which are outlawed in England.

Champions Bayern Munich charge £104 for a season ticket - that's less than some tickets for a single Arsenal game.

Italian champions Juventus last season charged £291 for their cheapest pass, while Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid charged £172 and £177 respectively.

This has added to the anger felt in England. On Thursday the FSF led fans on a march to EPL headquarters in London to demand a cut in ticket prices. "Something has to give," the FSF said. Those watching from their sofa or bar stool must hope it's not us, we the overcharged, endangered pitch-side supporters.