Clubs testing fans’ loyalty to the limit

Football fans

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As money continues to spiral out of control in the game we love, a BBC survey suggests that we the fans are bearing the brunt of clubs’ desires to treat us as consumers rather than devoted followers.

We all know that following a team is a highly emotional business; whether you’re supporting a team desperately trying to stay in the Football League, or a side attacking on all fronts to bring home silverware, it is one hell of a ride.

But the price involved has escalated, as the BBC shows, meaning clubs run the risk of alienating a good deal of their core fanbases; with some unwilling to pay the inflated prices for tickets.

Chelsea and West Ham are among the worst offenders in the Premier League, with the cheapest ticket at both clubs costing £41 and £36 respectively; pricing many fans out of attending matches.

Meanwhile despite offering a comparatively reasonable match day ticket for £26, Arsenal fans will have to shell out anywhere between a staggering £985 and £1,955 for a season ticket.

It has led to calls from Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, for fans to switch to supporting non-league clubs to boost community football while putting pressure on the bigger teams to lower their prices.

Despite being a sound suggestion in theory, the majority of fans are unlikely to suddenly drop their club in favour of supporting someone else; and it is alleged that football clubs are seemingly wise to this fact, knowing they can carry on exploiting fans’ loyalty and continue to get away with it- giving connotations of an evil villain chuckling loudly to himself.

On paper these seem to be alarming trends and statistics, but after reading the views of so-called long-suffering Gunners fans highlighted in the BBC survey, much is included within the ticket, such as seven extra cup games in the FA Cup and Champions League. Prices for League Cup games are also exceptionally low at just £5 each.

It would also be unfair to suggest that no value for money can be found; with half of Premier League clubs offering season tickets for under £400. It seems that the striking disparity of prices between different clubs that is causing grievance.

But we should not become too downbeat after reading the survey, as it largely fails to take into account what is included in these prices.

This is especially the case when looking at the example of my local club, Brighton & Hove Albion, where season ticket prices range between £425 and £625; but they are the only club to offer fans a policy of paying monthly instead of forking out the full price in one lump sum.

The ticket also includes free use of public transport; a saving of up to £6 a match over the 23 games in the season-something not to be sniffed at.

The fan experience at the Amex is certainly a positive one overall, but there is always room for improvement, especially as one-off match tickets can cost as much as £39 for a supporter sitting in the west stand lower section of the ground.

The BBC survey certainly makes for intriguing reading, but one needs to delve much further into a football club to see whether fans are genuinely being ripped off or if these are merely assumptions made on superficial details.

You can follow me on twitter: @JamesHilsum

Article title: Clubs testing fans’ loyalty to the limit

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