Play-Off Prices And The Nature Of Value

35 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   May 9, 2011  |     40

Value is a relative concept, and it is all the more so in the case of sporting events. In recent times, for example, the standard fall-back position for those that defend the increasingly extortionate prices that many football clubs now charge for season tickets has been the size of the waiting list for season tickets at their club. What happens, however, in the case of a match for which the exact numbers that will turn up is, broadly speaking, unknown? What is the cut-off point at which the casual supporter thinks to themselves that they cannot justify this expense to themselves? We may well find out the answer to this in a couple of weeks’ time, after the announcement of the prices for the final of the Blue Square Premier play-offs.

The match is due to be played at The City of Manchester Stadium on the twenty-first of May. It would be something of a surprise, to say the least, if it isn’t played between AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town, considering that these two clubs won their away legs in the semi-finals by two and three goals respectively. This would achieve the significant end of season double-whammy of having thousands of supporters from the south-east of England in Manchester for a play-off final whilst thousands of others, from Manchester City and Stoke City, head in the opposite direction for the FA Cup final, to played the week before this match, but that this has been the way that these two matches have panned out is no-one’s fault. It is obviously completely understandable that venues for such matches have to be booked months in advance of the matches being played.

In the case of the BSP play-off final, however, a match of huge importance may well see the number of people prepared to make that trip north significantly impacted upon by the decision to charge £36 for the cheapest ticket available, with child tickets costing £18 and no concessions available other than this. On top of this, purchased tickets will be subject to a £3 booking fee and a £2.25 postage charge (the tickets are being brokered through a company called See Tickets), meaning that the cheapest adult ticket for the match will be a jaw-dropping £41.25 – this, remember, for a match between two clubs from the fifth division of the English league system. Luton Town have already on their club’s website that they have “have made a challenge to the Football Conference on the pricing policy that has been released”. Wimbledon, perhaps wary of the dangers of hexing their own place in the final, have not yet passed official comment on the subject.

The argument over whether this represents value for money is a complex one. The intrinsic value of the ticket for a football match is one that can be endlessly batted to and fro, and ultimately the answer to that question is probably, “as much as people are prepared to pay for it”. In this case, the most pertinent question then probably becomes, “How many people are prepared to pay for it?”. Wrexham and/or Fleetwood Town, for now, can still make the final, but, for now, it seems likely that it will be Luton Town and Wimbledon that will be due in Manchester a week on Saturday. We could safely assume that, of the die-hard supporters of each club, the vast majority will find the money to make the trip to Manchester. It will be expensive, once the cost of travelling north and the other accoutrements of a day out are taken into account, but they will most likely take that hit for the one-off spectacle of a play-off final. The cost of travelling for supporters of Wrexham or Fleetwood Town would be lower, of course, but this wouldn’t guarantee a higher attendance than if Luton and Wimbledon end up contesting the final.

What, though, of the less committed? For big matches involving non-league clubs – whether rightly or wrongly – the interest of those that don’t go every week is important. There were just short of 25,000 people at the FA Trophy final between Darlington and Mansfield Town last weekend, and the majority of those present have probably not been regulars at The Darlington Arena or Field Mill this season. There is nothing wrong with this per se, and the involvement of the less regular supporter is part and parcel of what makes a big event for matches between clubs of this size. How many of those that may take a bit more of a “take it or leave it” attitude towards the match will be dissuaded from travelling to Manchester by having to pay over £40 per ticket for the match? The cost of taking a family of four will be comfortably over £100 for tickets alone. How many of them will be dissuaded from travelling? Luton Town’s official statement advises that, if they make the final, they will be allocated 22,500 tickets for the match. They sold 40,000 tickets for their Football League Trophy final match two years ago, but it seems difficult to believe that even they will sell out their allocation with prices at this level and the cost of a return journey to Manchester.

Moreover, it is difficult to escape the question that many people be asking themselves this evening: “Thirty-six pounds for a non-league match?”. If non-league football wishes to position itself as an affordable alternative to the Premier League (which would not be an unreasonable marketing stance to take), then charging over £40 for a ticket to its showpiece event would seem to be a move that undermines the whole of the non-league game, and to this extent should there be rows of empty seats at Eastlands a week on Saturday the Football Conference will only have itself to blame. Charging as much as you feel you can for the biggest match of the season is all very well, but it seems somehow unlikely that the league will do itself any favours in terms of PR. If the pricing for this match looks like a rip-off, the Football Conference may come to regret this decision at its leisure.

The cheapest tickets for this match are considerably more expensive than the cheapest tickets for the League One or League Two play-off finals, and it is also worth noting that the Football League also has reduced prices for concessions. Most importantly of all, though, the Football League’s prices were announced in February. The fact that the Football Conference has delayed until now before making them public can only lay them open to the accusation that they have waited until they believe that the two biggest clubs are in the final before trying to squeeze as much money as they can from the tournament. This may or may not be true – and non-league football needs all the money that it can get – but the feeling coming from supporters of both Luton and Wimbledon is that they will pay should they get there, albeit reluctantly, but that it will leave a feeling of ill-will that will long outlast the match itself, while Wrexham and Fleetwood’s supporters may be happy to do a deal with the devil, that they will pay the high price for tickets if their teams can somehow overcome the obstacle of the deficits that they have to turn around to get there in the first place. What seems likely, though (and we may yet be proved wrong on this), is that a match that should be a showpiece for the non-league game could well end up being played in front of banks of empty seats, and it’s difficult to see who exactly will benefit from that.

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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • May 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm


    Well said Ian.
    Considering this is the same bunch of fools that thought the Premier TV deal was a good one, and that includes Wimbledon’s Erik Samuelson being on that board, do we really feel they would make a sensible decision that rewarded the fans??

    Let me bend over again while the football authorities f**k us over again.

  • May 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    SW19 Womble

    _IF_ we make it, I’m not going, simple as that. It’s not the FA Cup Final FFS, it’s a non-league playoff game in the other end of the country, not even Wembley or some architectural masterpiece full of history…. I’ll go watch in the Nelson Arms in SW19 with a bunch of other wombles supporting the lads… however, I will stay at home completely if it’s Fleetwood versus Luton/Wrexham. Good luck to them tho in that case! 😀

  • May 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm


    Must admit that the lateness of the announcement does raise the suspicions you have pointed out. Personally at this moment in time it is very much in the balance IF I and my daughter can afford to go, if AFCW are successful on Wednesday night. As she is missing that game anyway….. we will have to see (no pun intended!)

  • May 9, 2011 at 9:52 pm


    SW19 – My whole family, 4 of us, were going to go. I have even booked my hotel rrom. Now this will cost us 400 quid I will cancel the hotel tomorrow.

    And to think I told my wife that all of us going to Paris for a long weekend for the same amount of money was too expensive for a weekend.
    And now I have to justify the same money for 90 minutes.

    Do me a favour.

  • May 9, 2011 at 11:28 pm


    The stadium of the size of the COMS – the tickets should be reduced to pack the place out and make it a spectacle that promotes all that is good about the Conference. When a match is shown on TV of a meagre 15,000 crowd (if that) contesting the showpiece event, it doesnt make PR, let alone the blow out from the ticketing policy itself that will draw resentment from all fans involved.

  • May 10, 2011 at 1:23 am


    Great article (as ever), we should be talking about one of these great clubs getting back into the league, instead we are talking about another rip off decision from the authorities! change the game to The Emirtaes stadium and charge £25 a ticket.
    Mod£rn football strikes again.

  • May 10, 2011 at 2:18 am


    I’ll be there, if we get there, but many of the occasional punters, along for the day out, won’t be, nor will several families that are unable to justify a couple of hundred quid for travel and tickets.

    More than the League 1 and 2 play-offs? No concessions other than under 16’s? That’s some sort of joke, surely?

    Football dies another little death.

  • May 10, 2011 at 4:49 am


    I will go to this game, gullible idiot that I am. I’ll even stump up the cash to buy my elderly father a ticket. Not giving concessions to pensioners is quite frankly disgusting.

    Should we (Luton) get to the final then I think we will probably sell most if not all of our allocation. It actually seems fitting to me that Luton or AFC’s last game in non-league football will be played under a cloud of incompetence created by those who run the game….

  • May 10, 2011 at 6:14 am


    With my attendance of the playoff final in the balance due to it’s location (what’s wrong with playing at a central location that’d be fair to everybody? Villa anyone?) the ticket pricing has blown any chance of my familly being there, 2 hotel rooms and £180 for tickets? It just ain’t gonna happen.

    All English football leagues, as far as I can see, are run by utter incompetents who are interested in one thing only, well they won’t be getting their hands on any of my hard-earned so up theirs

    Viva la revolution

  • May 10, 2011 at 6:47 am

    Ron Ipstone

    The tickets are the same price as last year’s play off final tickets although there has been a hike in the booking fee and the postage costs.

    The members of the Board of the Football Conference (including G Sweet and E Samuelson, Luton and Wimbledon respectively) should therefore be congratulated for this anti-inflationary measure. In this respect it should be noted that a ticket for the first play-off final in 2003 at the Britannia Stadium could be had for £20 and the 2010 ticket prices represented an increase of 18% on the 2009 prices.

    There will be those that will complain that the price of £40 plus together with the attendant cost of transport, beer, overnight accommodation, commemorative souvenirs, jellied eels and the thousand and one other myriad things which contribute to the match day experience, will make the day an expensive one for the average Home Counties’ footballing family. Indeed it will be difficult to argue otherwise, but at least those that support the south-eastern clubs will now appreciate why their fans outnumber supporters of northern clubs at Wembley matches. Perhaps the author of the piece could address the inherent unfairness of the Wembley play off when as happened last year the crowd of 42,000 comprised 33,000 from Oxford and only 9,000 from York.

  • May 10, 2011 at 7:28 am


    Ron – quite frankly your comment that the Conference Board did well in keeping the prices the same as last year falls down on two points.

    1) IT was too expensive last year.
    2) It was at Wembley last year.

    There is some cache in seeing your team at Wembley. Why else did over five thousand turn up to see a meaningless friendly between Corinthian Casuals and Wimbledon several years ago. I honestly don’t think the crowd would have been 500 if the game were played at White Hart Lane.

    Surely Eastlands is cheaper to hire too?

    Reading the comments on both Luton and Wimbledon boards, and personal knowledge I know of many “neutrals” or family members that would have gone if cheaper but have zero intention of going now.

    The Premier Sports contract and this debacle should result in the Conference Board members personally apologising befre hanging their heads in shame, followed by resignation.

  • May 10, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Dermot O'Dreary

    Surprise, surprise, football’s premier prat Ipstone has finally found his way here, instantly turning a sensible debate into a mass one

  • May 10, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Dazza Hatter

    PREMIERSHIP PRICES for NON LEAGUE FOOTBALL :( I am absolutely disgusted at the rip off pricing for the NON LEAGUE play off final, I was looking forward to taking my family and friends with me to the final, as we did for the Football League Trophy final 2 seasons ago, on that day we were charged £20 adults £10 concessions, Wembley got it right, 42,500 people followed Luton that day including 3,000 asian Lutonians, a record. this final is much further away (No problem personally with that, Wembley is not in the centre of the country for Northern clubs) but this final at Eastlands is not the same pull as Wembley, and considering the 2 clubs combined have 10,000 average home crowds, I really cant see the 44,000 capacity being tested but I could see the ground being nearly full if it had the right ticket prices, say £20 to £25 adults and £5 to £10 children, £15 students and OAP’s. I went to every home game at Luton this season and a dozen away games, but I will not pay £41.25 for me and £129 for my family 2 adults 2 kids, (It’s on television). I understand it is also £8 to park, and a 0844 number to even book your tickets, that aint cheap from a mobile. The way I see it, Luton and AFC should challenge these prices and most of all this outside agency, who are blatantly ripping off fans with charges. If I do go it will just be me now, after all us fans are all trying to find the money for our new season tickets this month, the Conference are out of touch!

  • May 10, 2011 at 8:43 am


    I`d ignore Ron, he`s a well known 606 troll.
    At the start of the season, there were 3 teams who`s names constantly came up as promotion/pof odds ons, they were of course ourselves, creepy and afc. By christmas it was looking more likely that creepy would get 1st spot, leaving ourself and afc in the po`s. Now it doesn`t take a genius to work out that game could have a massive crowd if it was priced and located correctly. The idea that arsenal for example couldn`t stage the bsp po game at short notice is laughable, they`re a football club, staging games with big crowds is what they do.

    Listening to the non league show podcast last night, Colin Peake said the FAC looked at how many fans Luton took to the JPT and decided we wouldn`t take as many as that to the POF. Well he`s not wrong, we`ve only got 22,500 tickets ! AFC by their own admission won`t sell that many, they may struggle to sell 8,000, with the cost of travel even higher for them than ourselves, on top of the ticket prices. At a time when the cost of living is getting higher and higher and wages effectively dropping. The fac subcommittee responsible for ticket pricing chose not to help the fans, but go for the money!

    Colin Peake actually stated they wouldn`t know how much Eastlands was to hire till AFTER the event !!! Nor did he know how much wembley cost, which is rather amusing as the FA Trophy was played there on saturday, the most expensive ticket for which was ………..£30!

    Heres a hint Colin, for the JPT when we won it, wembley cost £100,000 for 90 mins and £75,000 for extra time, split between the 2 clubs.

    Another few interesting facts, that £2.25 pnp is for a 1st class stamped ( probably franked) envelope (cost about 80p) which if it goes missing you will not be able to get replacement tickets, to do that you need to pay over £5 for a registered letter ( cost about £1.90) See tickets are also selling forests po tickets, and charging less for pnp to their fans!

    Tinpot league board, tinfoil more like.

  • May 10, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Simon Barnett

    Quite apart from anything else, matches like this are often the starting point for a new fan of lower league clubs.

    You go to a big game, get the bug and go again next season.

    If that big game is too expensive, you don’t go in the first place and the club, the league and the fans lose out in the long run forthe sake of £15 or so.

  • May 10, 2011 at 8:53 am


    Just one last point ‘designated singing area’ yes you have to request to get a seat in the bit behind the goal should you feel the urge to stand up and be vocal. It seems they don`t want ‘daytriipers’ upset by rowdy football fans, don`t worry stewards/fac/bsbet…there won`t be many daytrippers at those prices !

  • May 10, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Dazza Hatter

    I applaud Luton Town’s 20/20 board, I understand that the £18 child ticket price will be reduced from that child’s, next season ticket, at Luton they are a bargain £50, when accompanied by an adult. this gesture goes someway to restoring my confidence in modern football.

    See tickets, who the heck are they, to charge so much for each PnP?

    The other annoying thing is we could of brought our final tickets (If we win) tonight straight away from Luton’s ticket office, we have to wait until Thursday, one thing is for sure if the price does not come down, I will boycott it and sit in a Luton pub watching it on telly, for the price of BFH and a couple of pints.

  • May 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Ron Ipstone

    In the event that the participating teams be Luton and AFC Wimbledon then it would have made sense to hold the final at one of the better south-eastern grounds; the Emirates, White Hart Lane, Stadium:MK and Vicarage Road spring immediately to mind as being right for the job. But we must assume that the Board of the Football Conference (including Mr Gary Sweet of Luton and Samuelson of AFC) were acting in the wider interests of the game when selecting the splendid Manchester stadium for the final venue. Indeed in Mr Sweet’s case visiting Eastlands might form part of his much vaunted Independent Feasibility Study looking forward to the relocation of LTFC.

    As to the price of tickets, I take on board the point that Manchester is not Wembley and does not have its cache, but this must have been realised by the Board of the Conference when fixing the ticket price. Hatters’ fans will recall being charged a hefty price for Luton’s pre-season friendlies, so it may be that it is Mr Sweet who is out of touch with the value of this game to the paying spectator.

    In any event doesn’t the major share of the final’s profit fall to be divided between the participating clubs? If so this might provided a reason as to why the Board acted as it did.

  • May 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Tony Hill

    WHo is this Ron Ipstone Charachter. He really knows what he is on about eh! one of his suggested venues for a Luton Wimbledon final is StadiumMK. This guy clearly has just landed

  • May 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

    somborne don

    Stadium:MK, what a great idea for AFC fans (not)!

    I thought i read that the teams get 25% of the final tickets each.

    £40 is way too much. I was going to take my Dad and two sons, but now I won’t. If we do go through tomorrow evening (and it isn’t certain yet), then I’ll listen on radio WDON and try to get a dodgy TV feed. Sad, because i was hoping to go and make a day of it.

  • May 10, 2011 at 11:38 am

    mad beanite

    Luton v AFC @ StadiumFranchise with Speed Tickets responsible for insurance? Great suggestion Mr D.Ipstone, gets my vote. Anyone else think this is a winner? LOL

  • May 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    James Page

    I’m a Halifax season ticket holder. Even with the close proximity of Manchester to Halifax, if i was in the same situation right now I would boycott this farce 100%. £41? Mad.

    Get some beers in the fridge, get some mates around, decorate the house in dark blue or orange for the day, and watch the game on TV for the price of the Sky subsciption.

  • May 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm


    BOYCOTT !!!!

  • May 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    paul Cambridge

    Being a non league football supporter from Manchester, I was looking forward to this game. I would love nothing more than to see Wimbledon regain their rightful place in the football league.
    However, with these ridiculous prices, I will be giving it a miss as will probably many more Mancunians who might have gone to this game.
    What planet are the league on? This was an ideal opportunity to showcase non league football. With reasonable pricing it may have been almost a full house. Muppets.

  • May 10, 2011 at 5:49 pm


    The lowest ticket price here is actually the same as the lowest ticket price at Wembley for the Championship play-off final!

    Manchester City pay £3m per year to Manchester City Council for the use of CoMS. 18 home games plus a few cup games, call it 20 games per year? £120,000 – £150,000 for a one-off match, I would think. If you can fill the stadium, about £3 per head. Where’s the other £33 going?

    Manchester’s government grant was reduced by £7.1m compared to 2009. They’ve recouped about £1m by increasing the lease from about £2m (depending on ticket sales) to a flat £3m.

  • May 11, 2011 at 12:19 am


    If my team were lucky enough to get to that kind of match I would love to go, but it would be in a group of firneds/family/neighbours and in these days of limited disposable income I couldn’t have the front to suggest it to my partner as a good use of money, much less those others looking for a day out

  • May 11, 2011 at 3:51 am

    Micky F

    Ron Ipstone you are a sad little individual. Obviously your life has come to an end now that 606 is closing down!

    The ticket prices are a disgrace, I hope both clubs complain to the Conference board and ask for them to be reduced.

  • May 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Ron Ipstone

    So that will be Gary Sweet, CEO of Luton Town FC 2020 Ltd, complaining to Gary Sweet, member of the Board of the Football Conference, will it?

  • May 11, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Southport Hatter

    Ron lpstone a PO final between Luton and AFC Wimbledon to be played at vicarage Road – What world do you live on???? Can you imagine the carnage!!!

  • May 12, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Micky F

    Who do we complain to about you Ron? There must be a queue streaching half way to the moon!

  • May 18, 2011 at 8:34 am


    I will not e going – it is too expensive, I have 3 daughters and my wife to pay for as we are all mad hatters, it would cost me a weeks wages to go and watch 90 minutes of non league football when I can watch it in my own home for £7. Most fans that i have spoken to cannot understand why it is being played in Manchester at a stadium with limited parking and hard to get to. Surely it would have made more sense to hold it at Villa Park as that is more central and easier to get to. The BSP are a useless unch of idiots that really dont understand how to run a modern league.

  • May 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    jamie jowett

    Now lads and lasses don’t complain the final is “up north” for years supporters winged about going south. Now the penny has sropped you might just understand how they feel.Now that’s over and done with have go to manchester have the day out,and believe me you will have a wonderfull time,for manchester is a great location for day and then night out in.Just imagine the dream of getting back into the league. Long live LTFC in my heart, aexiled Luton supporter in barnsley yorkshire

  • May 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    mike garnett

    As a non-league fan in the Manchester area I would have considered going to the Wastelands on Saturday had the price been set at around £20. However, as soon as I saw the prices set by the Conference that idea went straight out of my head, and I suspect the same will be true for all sane neutrals. It will serve the Conference management right if the stadium is half empty on Saturday. For heaven’s sake, this is a play-off between clubs in Division Five!

  • May 21, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    robert hardman

    I’m a Blackburn fan going to woves tomorrow. Our £38 are being subsidised by Blackburn Rovers so we only have to pay £25. I also heard yesterday that the blackburn owners are to give out £10 vouchers for every Rovers fan to spend at the Wolves ground. Five Blackburn home matches this season have been maximum of £10 full price home and away fans. This still may not be value for money when it comes to football on offer but it is why I love the Rovers. I am writing on this website because I cannot believe that such a stupid decision to charge such a large amount was made for this Play off final match. Some fans may go but they won’t forget how they have been treated. Good luck to both teams. By the way if you want a tip for watching a top footballing team. After Arsenal, Larkhall Athletic (western league champions) are the most consistent and delightful team to watch. Its only £5 to get in , full price, and their home ground is remenicent to the cricket grounds in cape town or Dharamsala in the Punjab.

  • May 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Ticket sales so far. - Page 18 - - Wrexham

    […] prices have been set in this way. I'm afraid most people are saying no." Further reading Play-Off Prices And The Nature Of Value | Twohundredpercent __________________ "PART OWNER IN WREXHAM AFC" "ITS IN OUR […]

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