Price of Football: Non league clubs shamed by European Giants

Mansfield Town fans in full voice -Pic by: Richard Parkes
Mansfield Town fans in full voice -Pic by: Richard Parkes
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There was widespread outrage this week as the annual Price of Football study showed that price rises continue to outstrip the cost of living.

I watched a short piece on the BBC news that made unfavourable comparisons between our top flight clubs and their European rivals.

Norwich City fans celebrate as their side take the lead with their second goal''Photographer Rich Linley/CameraSport''Football - The Football League Sky Bet Championship - Blackpool v Norwich City - Saturday 27th September 2014 - Bloomfield Road - Blackpool''� CameraSport - 43 Linden Ave. Countesthorpe. Leicester. England. LE8 5PG - Tel: +44 (0) 116 277 4147 - admin@camerasport.com - www.camerasport.com

Norwich City fans celebrate as their side take the lead with their second goal''Photographer Rich Linley/CameraSport''Football - The Football League Sky Bet Championship - Blackpool v Norwich City - Saturday 27th September 2014 - Bloomfield Road - Blackpool''� CameraSport - 43 Linden Ave. Countesthorpe. Leicester. England. LE8 5PG - Tel: +44 (0) 116 277 4147 - admin@camerasport.com - www.camerasport.com

A reporter was despatched to deepest, darkest Altrincham. He discovered a number of recent converts that had switched to the mighty Alty, after being priced out of the market by the Manchester clubs.

What has hardly been mentioned is that lower division prices don’t fare too well when compared to our continental cousins either.

Find out how your club compares

A space on the terraces at Altrincham will set you back £14. That might be a bargain if you’ve been hobnobbing with the prawn sandwich brigade at Old Trafford, but is still more expensive than a seat at Paris St-Germain, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli or Porto.

The cheapest season tickets at Barcelona (£103) cost less than at Braintree (£170), or any other Conference club for that matter.

FA cup 3rd round Aston Villa v Sheffield United   4.1.14'Pic : Martyn Harrison'Blades fans celebrate Sheffield United's victory over villa''� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

FA cup 3rd round Aston Villa v Sheffield United 4.1.14'Pic : Martyn Harrison'Blades fans celebrate Sheffield United's victory over villa''� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Likewise Ajax (£174) undercut Accrington (£200). Just four trips to watch Alfreton would finance a season ticket at Benfica.

For the price of my pie (which was awful by the way), Coke and programme at Portsmouth last weekend I could have bought a ticket to watch Valencia at the Mestalla, with change to spare.

Even the wealthiest of nations can beat us on price. Take Norway for example. Massive oil revenues have made the country annoyingly rich and the government literally has more money that it knows what to do with.

The excess income is funnelled into a pension fund, which is currently valued at over £500 billion - that’s about £150,000 per adult - and rising rapidly. You would struggle to find a pub in Oslo that sells a pint for under a tenner, yet the locals can still watch a top flight game for around £15.

During the summer I was passing through Belgrade and was lucky enough to take in a Red Star game.

My ticket to see the reigning Serbian champions and former European Cup winners cost less than £1.50! Even the most expensive seats in the stadium were much cheaper than the entrance fee at Ilkeston or Matlock Town.

I never saw a programme seller, there wasn’t a food kiosk in the ground and replica shirts were few and far between. I haven’t got a clue how they survive.

When you look at all of those facts in combination it’s hard not conclude that a) English football is overpriced, b) European fans enjoy far better value, and c) I’ve got too much time on my hands.

If Bayern Munich can assemble a Champions League winning squad while offering £12 tickets then it’s tempting to assume that England’s lower league clubs are robbing their fans blind. Well apparently not.

Although Mansfield Town charge upwards of £20 for a seat, they still need regular cash injections from John Radford to stay afloat.

Mansfield aren’t unusual in that respect. In fact it’s hard to find a club in the lower divisions that don’t struggle to make ends meet.

Exeter City are fan owned, so it’s safe to assume that every penny they make is ploughed back into the club, yet despite similar gates and ticket prices to ourselves they also have financial worries.

In the Premier League it’s easy to see where the money goes. Each time ticket prices and TV revenues increase the players’ wages follow suit and swallow up the excess.

That’s why your average Premier League footballer is obscenely rich and the club he plays for needs a parachute payment to survive relegation.

League Two players must have looked on in envy and disbelief as top flight salaries spiralled out of control. When the Premier League was founded in 1992, the average top flight wage was roughly treble that of the basement division. Nowadays they differ by a factor of twenty.

From the outside it appears that we have a situation where players are earning relatively modest wages, fans are paying premium prices and chairmen are still needing to frantically shovel cash into their clubs to stop them from going under. Where is all the revenue going?

What do you think about pricing at your club? Email your views and the team you support to Stephen Thirkill