The Price of Football

Date: 14th April 2015

DESPITE being one of the best football supporting countries in the whole of Europe, with around four per cent of the population attending matches every week — higher than Germany, Spain and even those south of the border — why then, are Scottish stadiums always so empty? Match day experience? Cost? Something else? A mixture of everything?

The BBC’s Price of Football survey, which was published in October 2014, shows that the Scottish game is much cheaper than our English counterparts — the cheapest season ticket in the Scottish top flight is £200 at Inverness, while in the English Premiership the cheapest season ticket is at Manchester City at a cost of £299. So £99 extra will get you the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Frank Lampard. In addition to that, you get — usually — brilliant attacking football, goals and superstars. Almost all clubs in the Scottish top-flight offer a season ticket around the same price as City, so while City provide the above, our clubs give us… some entertainment? Some good players? Some goals.

Our clubs do provide the same things as City, but not on the same level. Every fan knows that the English game is vastly overpriced — and English fans have shown their frustrations through various campaigns over the rising cost of supporting their club. But is the Scottish game overpriced, too?

Fans can spend anywhere between £10 and £34 for a match day ticket at any level in Scotland. When you factor in the cost of travelling, costs can easily go over £40 for the day — and that’s not including the price of extras such as food, programmes and memorabilia. If fans buy food and a programme at every match, there’s at least another £5 on top of the cost of the day.

Scotland is not made up of wealthy people. There are some wealthy fans, but the majority of fans are what we used to call the working class. Can a working class fan afford to spend over £60 per month going to support their club, especially if they have kids who want to go — easily adding at least an extra £10 per week onto their costs?

Some may be able to, but a lot can’t. This is part of the reason there are dwindling attendances, a sad reality that has been forced upon the lifeblood of the sport — the fans.

As the game has become more expensive, the financial cost has gradually deterred fans from going to every game.

Last month, Celtic played Inter Milan in their Europa League tie.  It was played in front of a full stadium in Glasgow, that is, 60,000 people managed to go to the match, after their work on a Thursday night.

The weekend after that match, Celtic hosted Hamilton Accies and there were 48,000 or so in attendance. The last home game Celtic had before Inter was against Motherwell, on 21 January and there were just over 42,000 fans there. The home game before that was attended by 45,000 people. Compared to other clubs these are still relatively strong numbers, but it means that there are regularly around 25 per cent of seats empty at Celtic Park.

This example shows that fans are willing to pay the money for a crucial match — a match that fans may not see again for several years added to the top class players that Inter bring, and the history.

As fans in Scotland continue to be priced out of domestic games, we will continue to see empty seats every Saturday and Sunday, but on those rare European nights, the stadiums will be full.

Ticket prices remain around the same cost on European nights as they are for domestic matches, but European games mean so much more to fans.

Until some sort of middle ground can be met, whereby a regular match day experience is more affordable to every fan, then there will still be many empty seats. Scottish fans should take note of their English counterparts and show their frustrations to their clubs, to their clubs’ boards, to the SPFL board, to the media; to anyone who can help reduce the costs of supporting their teams.

Football without fans is nothing. Perhaps it’s time that this was recognised and remembered.

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