LONDON (Reuters) - Fans of England’s Premier League clubs will be digging deeply into their pockets again this weekend as a new season kicks off with ticket prices continuing to spiral upwards.
According to figures published last month, 11 of the 20 top-flight clubs have increased the cost of their lowest-priced season tickets for the 2014-15 season.
Promoted Burnley’s cheapest season ticket has jumped 47 percent, although at 499 pounds it is still a relative bargain compared to the eye-popping 1,014 pounds for the equivalent at Arsenal.
The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), which represents fans throughout the country, organised a march on the Premier League and Football League headquarters in London on Thursday to demand ‘Affordable Football for All”.
“Basically, football has eye-watering amounts of money coming in at the top mainly through Premier League media rights but still we see very high prices and prices going up ahead of the rate of inflation,” FSF chairman Malcolm Clarke told Reuters by telephone on Thursday.
“It’s about time that the match-day fans, without whom there wouldn’t be these big media incomes because that’s part of the attraction, got some benefit from this, rather than players and agents.”
The Premier League is booming with the latest TV deal, which kicked in last season, worth 5.5 billion pounds over three years - an increase that, according to the FSF, means clubs could have let fans in free last term without suffering a drop in revenue.
Despite the costs, last season’s average attendance in the Premier League was 36,695 - a 64-year high for the top flight - with most clubs offering discounts for members and children.
“Ticket pricing is a matter for individual clubs, many of which work hard to fill their stadiums with offers at different points during a season that make top-flight football accessible to large numbers of fans,” the Premier League said.
“Fans clearly enjoy the environment in which they watch Premier League matches and the football on offer. Occupancy rates last season were 95.9 percent and the average attendance – 36,695 - was the highest since 1949/50.”
It added that it was against Premier League rules for clubs to charge away fans more than for the equivalent home seats.
Yet Clarke says clubs are guilty of cashing in on “brand loyalty” and that a new generation of fans watching games in the pub could have serious consequences in the future.
“Fans will not take their custom elsewhere because of their 100 percent loyalty,” he said. “Football clubs effectively exploit that. The other point is who is going?
“There is a lot of evidence to suggest the demographic of people going to the games is changing. The people who go are those who can afford it.
“A few years ago the football authorities committed themselves to price stretching, to keep the game accessible to all sections of the community.
“If we price out lower income supporters and young adults with young families we are losing the next generation of fans.”
Promoted Leicester City rank as one of the cheapest to follow, with the lowest-priced adult tickets on their website at 19 pounds compared to 41 pounds at Tottenham Hotspur.
Clarke said the Premier League should follow the example of Germany’s Bundesliga where a season ticket at champions Bayern Munich can cost as little as 104 pounds, less than the price of some match-day tickets at Arsenal.
“From our perspective, seven of 10 people think that the Bundesliga is important for society, Bundesliga chief executive Christian Seifert, said in the Daily Telegraph.
“We have a bigger responsibility.”
“Every year in magazines, you see double pages about the price of tickets, bratwurst and beer and everyone gets a huge shitstorm if they raise the price of a bratwurst by 10 percent.
“The concept of Aldine (supermarket) was invented in Germany: very cheap, but a lot.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris