Priced out of football

Fans are being priced out
Fans are being priced out
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Dave Seddon’s press view

The annual BBC Price of Football survey tore me in two this week.

Parts of it had me nodding in agreement but some aspects had me screaming in despair.

Football is too expensive, I get that. Whether it be a season ticket in the Premier League or League Two, the average supporter is being asked to pay over the odds.

I see nothing wrong in the BBC trying to compare like-for-like prices at clubs in their respective divisions, although the survey still has its faults in that respect.

What I really object to are the accompanying banner headlines which try to pitch, for example, Manchester City alongside Cheltenham.

“It’s cheaper to watch the Premier League champions than it is League Two strugglers,” was an oft-repeated story on the day the survey was published.

Every credit to Manchester City for having a season ticket available for £299.

Saying that, they can afford such a good offer, can’t they?

They have money pouring into them from the United Arab Emirates and from both the Premier League’s and Champions League’s considerable coffers.

Maybe I’m being flippant but gate receipts and season ticket money is loose change down the back of the sofa for teams like City.

It is pocket money almost, Friday night cash, the big bucks coming in from other sources.

The reality is so much different at the other end of the football scale, a point which the Price of Football survey chooses to ignore.

Cash taken on the turnstiles and from season-ticket sales is the lifeblood of clubs outside of the Premier League.

It is their major source of revenue, the one guaranteed regular income.

Pitch ticket prices too low and some clubs won’t be able to operate as a going concern.

Clubs in League One and League Two adhere to the Football League’s Financial Fair Play rule, which restricts them to spending 60% and 50% respectively of their turnover on players’ wages.

Ticket money is a big part of that turnover – lower the price and you lower the percentage of funds available for recruiting players and then paying them.

So what is Manchester City’s cheapest season ticket is a few quid lower than elsewhere.

City won’t go to the dogs if a few folk don’t turn up for a game. Yet a drop in the crowd figure at some lower league clubs can lead to serious cash-flow problems.

Look at the contrast in how much clubs receive for having a game broadcast live on television.

For Premier League clubs it is £500,000 a game, whether they are home or away. Bear in mind too how many times a team will get shown over the course of a season.

In League One, it is £30,000 if you are the home side and a not-so whopping £10,000 for the away team.

How many times do clubs in League One get shown live each season? Two, three at a stretch, four or five if you land in the play-offs?

It is the top-heavy distribution of money in the English game is what should be properly addressed, not how much a pie and a cup of tea at Mansfield costs.

As the Premier League continues to have riches lavished its way, that will force more and more sides outside of it to spend big to try and force their way into the elite.

Should more of the income from television rights filter down from the Premier League into the Football League, then you could have more of a level playing field in surveys like this one from the Beeb.

Going back to the headlines of City being cheaper than whichever League Two club was chosen as a picture of lower division greed, what do they want fans to do?

Rip up their season ticket at Preston, Cheltenham, Colchester or Morecambe, and ride off in the sunset to Eastlands?

The cost of travel there and back would surely be more than the difference in ticket prices. When it comes to comparing prices at clubs in one division, fair play. That is interesting analysis.

Then again, some clubs are more ambitious than others and feel a need to bring in more revenue rather than be content to stay where they are.

The Price of Football survey does not take into account some excellent ticket offers for younger supporters.

Under-8s at North End get free season tickets under the Mini-Whites scheme, and I’m sure other clubs do similar.

Gillingham are offering free admission to Under-12s when accompanied by an adult for PNE’s visit on Tuesday. Let’s see the wider picture.