Football

Published on February 26th, 2013 | by Max Owen

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Students suffer as football ticket prices rise

Fistful of match tickets

Ticket price rises have made watching games difficult for student fans
Photo: Alastair Johnston

Football fans and the press have never hesitated to criticise the almost unstoppable rise of ticket prices for big games, and for many clubs, the fans will keep on paying whatever it takes to see their team play live. But where do students fit into this?

For London clubs, it’s a lottery whether they allow students to fall into the ‘concessions’ category at all. No Premier League clubs in London offer any sort of student price for a single match ticket. In each case concessions only apply to the over 65s and under 16s.

The lack of discounts has forced students to trawl the lower divisions to get a better deal. At Championship club Crystal Palace, students can watch a match in the comfort of the main stand for as little as £15, a massive £10 saving on the adult seat. The promotion chasing Eagles have also ‘promotion-proofed’ their season ticket prices to reward their loyal fans.

However, neither Millwall nor Charlton offer student deals, with both teams regularly 10,000 fans short of capacity. While in Leagues One and Two, students can get discounted entry at Brentford, Leyton Orient, Barnet, AFC Wimbledon and Dagenham & Redbridge.

‘Out of control’

David Caviezal, a Fine Art student at Camberwell College, says paying student prices is his only way of watching Chelsea live: “Premier League prices are completely out of control anyway, the only games I can really attend are when Chelsea play against teams I’ve never heard of in cup games, like when we played Brentford in the FA Cup.

“I used to go and watch them in the Shed when I was younger but it costs me about £50 now and I’m even poorer than I was five years ago. I wouldn’t say I’m completely losing interest but it does make you realise that it’s a luxury that’s not really worth it in the whole scheme of things.”

It’s clear that the top Premier League clubs can easily afford not to offer any student deals, as they will fill their grounds with full priced adults on their own. Clubs who have to advertise and try to encourage fans into the ground offer the most competitive ticket prices. But why even bother with students at all?

Put simply, they are part of the future support of clubs. Every year thousands of open-minded young people come flooding into the capital to study, some of whom will stay long after graduating. If they enjoy watching football, and it’s made affordable by student offers, then these students will become the full priced paying adults of tomorrow.

Average age increase

Unfortunately, students have been a casualty of the meteoric rise of the Premier League. Clubs are unwilling to jeopardise a hugely important income stream, even slightly, to accommodate students.

In the 1970s, a survey by Manchester United said that the average age of the fans in the Stretford End was 17. The last survey conducted by the Premier League said the average age across the Premier League was 41.

The cost of tickets has undoubtedly played a part in this rise, but it also shows how clubs are failing to attract a younger audience. More student deals would help bring this age down dramatically and secure some long-term fans at the same time.

When Swansea City won promotion to the Premier League in 2011, Swansea University saw a 25 per cent rise in applications. Emma Frearson Emmanuel, head of the university’s international office, told WalesOnline: “Since the Swans came into the Premiership we’ve seen an increase in interest in Swansea from students in some countries, particularly in Africa.

“When we go out to recruitment events in different countries we actually have students coming up to our stands asking how far is the campus from the Liberty Stadium. And they are delighted that it is so close.”

The wider media, and society in general, often portray students as lazy, rich slackers who drink too much. However, in reality, a lot of students struggle with their finances and some just want to watch their favourite football team for a reasonable, fair amount.

The difficulty of attending matches also drives fans to stream games  illegally online, complete with dodgy foreign commentary and poor video quality. Caviezal adds: “Streaming it (matches) online doesn’t really bother me in the slightest, I’m not going to be buying Sky anytime soon so they can hardly say it’s a lost sale. Besides, everyone does it anyway.”

The growing anger at ticket prices made headlines recently when Manchester City returned almost a third of their allocation for a Premier League match at Arsenal. The tickets cost £62 and the match was live on Sky Sports anyway. City fans making the trip would have spent well over £100 on the ticket, travel and food for the day.

Working man’s game

The Premier League denies that the average football fan has been priced out of the game, and spokesman Dan Johnson said: “The expensive tickets and boxes subsidise the other parts of the stadiums. The fact that Manchester United are selling corporate hospitality allows them to offer £24 tickets to the Stretford End.

“People say that football is a working man’s game but society as a whole has moved on. The vast majority of our fans are now drawn from C2 (the skilled working class), but the London ticket prices at Chelsea and Arsenal get contrasted with the incomes of people in the North-West.

“If you look at clubs in the Midlands and the north, ticket prices are actually very affordable, Everton have announced a £95 under-16 season ticket. The clubs work really hard and are really sensitive to it, but if you have a £100 ticket at Arsenal, that’s the price that makes the headlines in the newspapers.

“Clubs work hard to try and get as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible into their grounds.”

So Premier League football seems to be out of the reach of your average student in London, but these issues aren’t just affecting students. All fans in the recession are starting to wake up to the fact that the price of football has gone on unchecked for far too long, and Manchester City’s revolt may be the first of many in the near future.

 

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