It’s Just The High Cost Of Loving

This is a season where the cost of attending football has been under the spotlight like never before. As the Age of Austerity drags into its sixth year, even those supporters who are in relatively well paid employment are having to juggle increasingly high living costs, coupled with below-inflation wage rises – and that’s if you’re lucky.

The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) launched their ‘SCORE’ campaign (motto: Twenty’s Plenty’) in the Spring, targeting the ever-increasing cost of an away day, and urging football clubs to limit the cost of tickets for away fans to £20, not just in the Premier League, but also in the Championship, their research proving that even at League Two level, there were a number of clubs charging in excess of this amount. And while many clubs in all tiers offer discounts and promotions to home supporters, these are rarely offered to away fans outside of cup games.

Following the implementation of the new TV contract this season, the Premier League have taken the laudable decision to insist that each of their clubs invests £200,000 in assisting supporters with away match costs. Each club is allowed to apply this sum how they see fit, either in the form of discounts for match tickets or free/subsidised travel to away games. This has been further boosted by the League’s sponsors, Barclays, launching their “Thank You” campaign which will see them offer free bus travel to games for supporters over the next three years. And reports suggest that Newcastle United are about to become the first Premier League club to offer a £20 reciprocal pricing deal.

The role of the away fan is crucial in football. They contribute hugely to atmosphere within grounds, but are faced with a triple whammy of match ticket costs, travel costs (and we’ve all got a horror story about how expensive a “cheap” train ticket can suddenly become once the Train Operating Company realises that a certain match is taking place, whichever club you support) and matches that are scheduled hundreds of miles away in midweek, or re-arranged for television – and indeed sometimes re-re-arranged for television, as is the case with Manchester City’s trip to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Having originally been scheduled for 1.30pm on 27th October, the game was subsequently switched to 4pm the same day after Police requested the kick-off for the Tyne/Wear Derby be changed to midday on public order grounds. With the match originally having been due to start in the Super Sunday 4pm slot, many devoted Manchester City fans (not to mention Chelsea supporters travelling long distances) would have already booked their trains to the Capital, no doubt leaving some of them out of pocket.

Understandably the clubs, particularly higher up the football pyramid, will argue that a significant proportion of their income derives from television contracts and, as a result, supporters who have enjoyed continually seeing the standard of football improve, and some of the world’s best players attracted to the Premier League over the past twenty years, should swallow the inconvenience of anti-social kick-off times. This being so, there is a case for football ticket prices not just to be frozen, but substantially reduced. The FSF calculate that the additional income received by the clubs under the television deal which has just kicked in should make it possible for Premier League clubs to reduce their ticket prices to £30, without reducing their pre-deal earnings.

Based purely on ticket costs, the most expensive away day in the Premier League is at Arsenal, where £62 will get you a comfy padded seat, which you will probably spend most of the game standing in front of. That’s a lot of money, even before you factor in the other ancillary costs of travel and, for those arriving from outside of the capital (and probably those in London too), something to eat and drink. The simplistic argument is for a boycott. However, even if supporters were to take this step, there’s not much likelihood of having any impact. All the home club would do would be to sell more tickets to their own supporters. And at some grounds, away supporters are located so high in the stadium that a boycott would scarcely be noticeable.

Therefore, the answer lies in peaceful protest, perhaps outside the stadium, or with supporters arriving at a designated time, after the start of a match. The latter would have much more impact, especially during televised games when a large swathe of empty seats might make the football authorities sit up and take notice.

Even more importantly, supporters need to join the FSF, and/or the Supporters’ Trust of their own football club. A Trust backed by Supporters Direct will have the clout to lobby with their club with a view to making the voices of their members, the supporters, heard.

You can find out more about how the FSF and Supporters Direct are helping fans here:-

And you can read more about the launch of the Barclays Buses initiative here:-

And Another Thing….

The recently published autobiography from former referee, Mark Halsey, has seen a bitter war of words break out with his ex-colleague, Graham Poll, who has accused him of “betraying” his fellow refs.

In an interview with “Talksport”, apparently with no sense of irony, Poll said of Halsey, “The sensible thing would be to ignore him”.

This spat appears to be just the latest case of referees believing that they are as big as the game of football itself.

Whilst I’m all for referees being fit enough to cope with the demands of the professional game, given that over the past 30 years players have gone from carthorses to racehorses, the real rot seems to have kicked in since referees “turned professional”. Maybe they should go back to being amateurs who did the job for the love of the game and went out during the week to earn their living, like other supporters.

In Other News

Congratulations to the legendary David ‘Only A Pound’ Johnstone on the birth of his son George, who arrived on the morning of 28 September, allowing Dad to make it down to Wh*te H*rt L*ne in time for the kick-off against Spuds.
The After Hours Football Club has managed to find a new home and has also found a new lease of life.  Check it out at
Shameless Plugging
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In the meantime, you can as always follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.