Interesting article from The Guardian on how The Premier League has priced out fans, young and old:
In the 20th year since the First Division clubs broke away from the Football League to keep the new satellite TV fortunes and form the Premier League, money has transformed the game – and the price of watching it. As the gradual changes each season are contemplated – 6.5% increases at Arsenalthis year; prices frozen at Stoke City, the £10 adult ticket at Blackburn Rovers– awareness fades of the mighty disparity between what fans pay now and the prices before the Premier League was formed.
The figures from 1989-90, collated for the Labour government’s Football Task Force, show the cheapest season ticket at Anfield was just £60 and £96 at United – the equivalent prices with inflation would be £106 and £170 now – but the actual lowest-priced season tickets this season are £725 at Liverpool and £532 at Old Trafford (1,108% and 454% inflation respectively).Clubs were usually neither sophisticated nor commercial enough then to conduct demographic analysis of their own supporters, but the memory and images of young people at grounds are borne out by research done at the time by Leicester University’s Sir Norman Chester Centre. Surveys of fans were carried out for Coventry City, in the old First Division, finding in 1983 that 22% of supporters were aged 16-20. At Aston Villa in 1992, 25% of the crowd was 16-20; at Arsenal, 17% of fans were 16-20.
Premier League surveys for years show a consistent reduction in the proportion of young people, who pay full price from 16. By 2006-07 the proportion of fans aged 16-24 was 9%; in 2007-08, the figure was 11%. Last season it bounced back to 19%, which the Premier League said was due to improvements in the way its survey is carried out.
The average age of a supporter now, according to the Premier League’s research, is 41 – the core whose loyalty was nurtured when attending games was affordable to almost all.
“We must accept that some people feel they are excluded because they cannot afford the prices,” the Premier League’s spokesman, Dan Johnson, acknowledged. “But many clubs work hard to attract fans with affordable deals, and there are different opportunities to attend.
Crowds do remain at historic highs. The average Old Trafford attendance last season was 74,864, just below United’s 75,769 capacity, while at the Emirates Arsenal played to crowds averaging 59,930, nudging full houses of 60,361. Overall, Premier League grounds were full to 92% of capacity, down from a high of 94% in 2005‑06.Clubs in poorer, northern areas, including Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan, are working hardest to maintain crowds, so offering the cheapest deals. In this recession, though, the top clubs cannot assume fans will keep paying a large slice of their incomes on expensively priced football tickets either. On Tuesday, more than 4,000 Old Trafford tickets remained on sale for United’s match on Monday against Spurs. After years of sell-outs United – since their US-based owners, the Glazers, began to raise ticket prices – have not been guaranteed to fill the ground.
“Some Premier League clubs do offer good deals,” says Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters’ Federation, “but the prices at top clubs, and particularly London clubs, are mostly outrageous. They are beyond the reach of many younger people who used to have access to football, and now, if they are interested, they are watching the game in the pub. Football, by tradition, was always accessible to almost everybody, and in the current economic climate, with jobs and standards of living under threat, there is a great danger an increasing section of the community will be priced out.”