So what does the future hold for the everyday football fan?

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger

The BBC’s landmark The Price of Football survey across the entire nation, taking into account teams at every level from the Premier League and below, has led to some shocking revelations about the real expense that the game has on our bank accounts, so what does the future hold for the everyday fan? Are we being priced out altogether or are there other alternatives out there for us to try and make the best of?

Of course, being in a double-dip recession, having disposable income around is difficult and is simply not readily available to everyone and anyone, but even in tough economic times such as these, football fans turn out in their droves every weekend. It’s like a ritual, there’s nothing better to do on your Saturday but the startling statistic that the average cost of the cheapest adult ticket in the top four divisions of English football has risen by 11.7% – more than five times the rate of inflation, is enough to make you choke on your Bovril.

It all depends on geographical location as much as anything it seems, even if the division that your side plays in will obviously have a knock-on effect. Your average season ticket for Arsenal will set you back a cool £1,995 and they also come in as the most expensive average day out for a fan, totalling a whopping £134.30 in total, which when you compared it to Sunderland costing on average of just £48, then it becomes clear that certain clubs are more than taking their fair share.

According to the findings, seven out of the 10 most expensive match days for supporters in League Two alone are based in the South and South-West of the country, with four of those being based less than 36 miles away from London. This trickle down effect is alarming to say the least. We all know that the majority of the nation’s wealth resides in the South of the country, but does that necessarily mean that it’s acceptable for clubs to rip them off? At the very least, it’s hugely cynical, at it’s worst, borderline exploitative.

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Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the FSF said of the survey: “We want football to be available to all income levels. Certainly at some clubs that is not the case. We are in the wrong ballpark for prices of tickets.

“I hear all the time of long-term supporters who have given up season tickets because they resent paying the money they are asked to pay. There is a danger that supporters feel alienated. Despite the difficult economic times we live in, prices at some clubs and at some levels of the game are still exceedingly high.

“It is quite shocking that at Arsenal, for example, the cheapest season ticket is only £15 short of £1,000. We would like to see a much greater effort to reduce ticket prices and in particular give the benefit of the massive amounts of media income that comes in at the top of the game to the match-going fan.”

So what can we really do about the rising cost of ticket prices? Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, never a man short of a word, gave a telling remark in his response to the findings, labelling the game as part of the ‘entertainment’ industry, arguing that rising costs is not solely concerning football. This appears to be the main crux of the matter, the evolution of the game from a sport into a fully-fledged entertainment industry, perhaps the biggest around the globe. The revenues are massive and while cheaper ticket initiatives, like the one that Arsenal currently fund, are a welcome reprieve, are they really doing enough?

One way out of the mire that’s been suggested is a solution termed ‘dynamic pricing’, which essentially means the later you leave it to buy a ticket, the more you’re likely to pay – the exact same way that we buy plane tickets or book hotels and it’s generally accepted that the later you leave it to book your holiday, the more it will cost you.

Prices change daily based on demand and it will certainly improve competition for tickets, perhaps meaning more sell-outs lower down the leagues as supporters try to get themselves the best deal and Cardiff, Bristol City and Derby have already brought in the pioneering scheme, which rewards loyal fans and season ticket holders above your casual fan.

Having been a casual fan of Leyton Orient when I was at university, it does seem a bit of a flawed system in my eyes and it could only lead to the growth of more ticket agents and touts in the industry than we already see and it looks like another step towards a corporatocracy being established in football.

There’s no doubt in my mind that season ticket holders should be rewarded and dynamic pricing means they will be in the long-run but at the expense of other fans? One of the best things about football is that there is no tiered system in terms of support by and large, but this idea could see you paying significantly more than the chap next to you on match-day.

The average cost of following your team around the country now has risen dramatically and above the level of inflation, so the result means it’s skewed in favour of the clubs rather than the fans. Without any real demand or public cry for ticket prices to come down, they simply won’t do, and instead all we are left with are these piecemeal initiatives aimed at placating the masses.

The average fan is most certainly being priced out of the game, but then again, with most clubs seeing it as ‘entertainment’ as opposed to a sport, would they really even care if they lost their core die-hard fan-base? The painful truth is that they probably wouldn’t and they’d likely still sell the tickets anyway, which just goes to show you how expendable we’ve become.

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