Should clubs cut prices?
The BBC published a lot of data yesterday about how much it costs to go to a match at different clubs, even down to the cost of a pie (although often there one is not comparing like with like).
This data requires careful assessment, but in the meantime the Football Supporters' Federation (SF) have argued that the cost of attending matches should be cut. As a consumers' body, that is what one would expect them to say, but their case is centred around two points.
First, given the amount of money coming into the game with the new television deal, clubs could afford to cut prices. This overlooks the fact that most clubs are running at a loss, but the FSF would argue that top players are overpaid and this is alienating supporters. Against that, one could argue that if one wants world class players, one has to pay world class wages.
Some fans would no doubt argue that they do not want to watch foreign prima donnas but it seems to me that prices lower down the league system, even in the non-league, are often excessive given what is on offer.
Away fans also often get a raw deal. They are overcharged for inferior seats: cramped or in a poor position. They have to deal with surly stewards.
Even so, although the incomes of many fans have been squeezed, they continue to pay up. The average stadium occupancy rate in the Premier League so far this season is 95.1 per cent, more than four per cent up on last season. Figures have at least held steady for more than a decade in the top flight.
In 1992-93 stadiums were, on average, at only 69.9 per cent of capacity and many have been expanded since then. The most expensive season ticket at Chelsea is £1,250, but they have sold all the 25,000 they want to. Tottenham Hotspur have hit their limit of 23,000. At Carrow Road, Norwich City have almost 22,000, only 5,000 short of capacity.
The counter argument is that football is increasingly becoming an activity for the older, prosperous fan. This may affect the viability of the game in the longer run. There is also some anecdotal evidence following the Olympics that other sports such as cycling have been given a boost with families finding them a cheaper and more satisfying day out.
However, Dan Jones of Deloitte has argued that clubs are unlkely to cut prices.