Over the last few years there have been many debates regarding the money involved in football, with some players now being bought for around £100 million and earning five figure sums weekly. Players’ fees going up has mainly been due to the massive increase in money being pumped into the game and specific clubs since the start of the Premier League. Most of this income has either been invested by mega-rich owners and chairmen or been generated by lucrative commercial sponsorship deals.
Yet it’s almost as if the massive amounts of money going to clubs already just isn’t enough. It seems clubs are now looking towards fans for the latest lump sum of income, with away fans up and down the country bearing the brunt of it. It appears that clubs are exploiting opponents who have a large away following and take support with them wherever they go by charging extortionate sums for dedicated supporters of the opposing side to see their team play.
These are probably the only circumstances under which I would say it is “unfortunate” that Aston Villa Football Club boasts a large away following, as this then leads to clubs charging Villans an arm and a leg to watch their team play around the country. This season alone, Villa fans have been charged extortionate prices for away tickets, with Liverpool away costing £45, Chelsea away priced at £55 and QPR away set to cost a hefty £40 – for a Monday night match, might I add! On top of ticket prices, fans have to consider the spiralling cost of travel, food and drink. It all adds up and, unfortunately, means some who would love to be able to watch their team live can no longer afford the privilege.
Back in 2012, Stoke City’s Chief Executive Tony Scholes made two suggestions to improve fans’ access to away games. His first proposal was for clubs to agree that travelling fans should never pay more than the cheapest home tickets available for the same game. At present, away fans must be charged the same price for comparable accommodation, so they often still pay more than home fans in the cheapest seats. Scholes’ second proposal was that clubs should provide all fans attending away games with free coach travel. This suggestion is obviously not going to benefit all fans, as some live too far from the club they support and others prefer to use other modes of transport. Last season, a number of Villa fans enjoyed free travel to ten away games but the scheme caused friction between established Lions’ Clubs and Aston Villa and left may fans feeling that the money could have been better spent.
The Football Supporters’ Federation launched its ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign in January 2013, calling for away ticket prices to be capped at £20 for adults and £15 for concessions. Despite the group’s efforts and media coverage of the campaign, it has had limited impact. Some clubs agreed on reciprocal pricing of £20 – £25 but fans are still forking out considerably more than £25 for tickets on a regular basis.
It is about time something was done to change the way English fans are being treated. Television revenue is much more lucrative for clubs than away ticket sales and the Premier League clubs could do much more to help their frustrated, financially-drained fans. It has become practically impossible for some fans to make it to matches and it looks as though things are only going to get worse. So much for it being the working man’s game.