In Depth

Players 'don't care' that wages are killing Premier League fans

Rampant inflation in wages is sending the cost of tickets spiralling – but what can loyal fans do?

The debate over the cost of watching football in England, sparked by the BBC Price of Football survey, continues with MPs, pundits and even the BBC's economics editor all having their say.

The fourth annual BBC report, released yesterday, showed that the the price of tickets continues to rise at well above the rate of inflation, with fans now paying on average 13 per cent more to follow their team than they did in 2011, when the first Price of Football survey was published.

Top of the league for ticket prices was Arsenal, where match-day tickets can cost £97 and a season ticket more than £2,000. Even the cheapest season tickets at the Emirates cost more than all but two other Premier League clubs' most expensive season tickets.

Why so expensive?

As BBC economics editor, and Arsenal fan, Robert Peston points out there is little a football-obsessed supporter with a lifelong connection to a club can do about ticket prices. "Only in theory do I have a choice about supporting another club or giving up on Premier League football... But Arsenal and other clubs have a strong local monopoly over me and thousands of others."

The reason for the increase in cost to the supporter is the "rampant inflation" in player wages, which now account for more than 70 per cent of Premier League clubs' expenditure.

"This combination of near monopoly pricing power and irresistible cost pressures from players' wages is bad for everyone... with the exception of a small number of athletes who were born with and nurtured a precious talent."

What do the players think?

Do the beneficiaries of the high ticket prices care about the impact their demands are having on the supporters? Not at all according to pundit Robbie Savage.

"During my 20-year playing career, I never once thought about how much it was costing fans to go to games," he writes in his BBC column. "I never discussed the issue with any of my team-mates at any of my clubs and... ticket prices did not cross my mind once, let alone how much the pies or the programme were costing.

"If someone had come up to me when I was a player and said that ticket prices are too high, I would not have been bothered at all. There is a link between players' wages and the price of tickets but I cannot think of any player, myself included, who thought about that when they were negotiating a contract. I was always thinking of myself."

It's not just tickets

Ticket prices are just one example of clubs "fleecing" their fans, says MP Tim Farron, and the constant release of expensive new kits is another "symptom" of the malaise. He says that third kits are a pointless exercise designed to extract money from supporters. "You don't have to be a genius to work out a sensible colour for your second kit that would make sure you don't clash. There is no reason whatsoever for a third kit. They are pointless."

What is to be done?

"We need to deal with the root cause," Farron tells the BBC. "Legislation is not the answer. There needs to be a radical upheaval of the game and we should move to the German model."

In Germany all clubs (with a couple of exceptions) must be owned by their members, ticket prices are low, grounds are full and the Bundesliga operates at a collective profit. Wage bills, however, are markedly lower.

But the only real solution is the toughest for fans to countenance. "Prices will only fall when demand drops," says Glenn Moore in The Independent. "To force a price cut fans have to do the hardest thing of all – stay away. The danger for the game is that if, and when, they do, they may not come back."

Recommended

Solskjær saga and lack of strategy defines the Glazer era
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
View from the terraces

Solskjær saga and lack of strategy defines the Glazer era

Messi vs. Ronaldo: how football’s superstars compare
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Profile

Messi vs. Ronaldo: how football’s superstars compare

Harry Kane: England’s brilliant captain regains his form
Harry Kane scored four in England’s 10-0 win over San Marino
View from the terraces

Harry Kane: England’s brilliant captain regains his form

How West Ham United is stepping up to join the big boys
David Moyes celebrating
In Focus

How West Ham United is stepping up to join the big boys

Popular articles

Are we heading towards World War Three?
Vladimir Putin
In Depth

Are we heading towards World War Three?

Woman diagnosed with ‘climate change’
Humber Bay Arch Bridge in Toronto
Stranger than fiction

Woman diagnosed with ‘climate change’

Channel crossing crisis: why Priti Patel’s ‘push-back tactic’ is not working
Priti Patel
In Brief

Channel crossing crisis: why Priti Patel’s ‘push-back tactic’ is not working

The Week Footer Banner