Can You Really Watch League Football For Under £20?
One of the headlines emanating from the BBC yesterday morning was that you can only have a day out at the football in Britain for under twenty quid at eleven out of 104 league clubs in England and Scotland. By a day out, the BBC talks about the entrance fee for an adult, a matchday programme, a pie and a coffee. That did not seem too unreasonable a conclusion to have come to, and when Rochdale were revealed as the cheapest day out in the league, again it felt realistic. Rochdale might be in League One these days, but the one factor that seems to see prices rise in football more than anything else, is going up a division, and without being unkind to ‘Dale, that is not something that has happened often in recent history. Blackburn Rovers were referred to as the cheapest club in the Premier League, which again is not unrealistic, with Rotherham United and Torquay United the cheapest in League Two, Inverness Caledonian Thistle being the most value for money in the SPL, and Watford being the cheapest in the Championship, and all of the English clubs offered days out for under £20.
It was only the mention of Watford that made me double take. It has been a few years since I have been to Vicarage Road, but my recollection of it, is not one of getting into the game for a tenner. Then I looked at the rest of the BBC’s report on the Championship. At the time, they were reporting that Ipswich were the second cheapest in the second tier, at a total cost of £23. I did more than a double take here, because I went to the Ipswich v Wolves friendly on Saturday, and Adult tickets were £15. As a regular visitor to Portman Road, it’s been a few seasons since the standard League price was £23, let alone the price after buying something to eat, drink and read. In fact, when Leeds United visit Portman Road at the end of the month, their tickets will be £36.50 if bought on the day (unless they have the full away allocation, in which case they’ll have a handful of tickets at £31.50), or a mere £34 if bought in advance. The BBC’s survey claimed that Ipswich sell Adult tickets at £15. Now, there is an element of truth in this. Adult tickets for the League Cup game against Northampton Town next week are £15, and this has been the standard price for Ipswich Town cup games against lower-league opposition for around nine seasons (where the away team have agreed). A report on unofficial Ipswich website Those Were The Days suggested this is a new “D Grade” of matchday pricing – however there is no mention of this grading on the official website. The website’s matchday pricing gives the lowest prices as £25 for Grade C, but with the only league games announced so far this season being Grades A and B, the lowest advertising price for a league game is the £26 advertised for Grade B games.
And here lies the discrepancy which causes the survey to be almost useless – the clubs have been asked for their lowest matchday prices. BBC Sport Website editor Stuart Rowson has stated on his Twitter account that “the aim was to find the cheapest day out”, and that the clubs “provided [the] cheapest, and most expensive, single adult ticket for a league match”. However, while some clubs have used a single specific game that is cheaper than their regular price (and often deals that are in other competitions), some clubs have given their lowest regular League price despite having better offers elsewhere. The survey itself has been presented as “The Price of Football” without the caveat that these are often individual offers. although oddly enough, Preston North End’s website claims that clubs weren’t allowed to incorporate regular meal deal offers in their prices, even if they use them for every game, even though this would more accurately reflect the prices of the refreshments at the club. The loosest definition of a matchday price appears to be Watford’s £10 ticket, as areview of their website shows their lowest price as being the £26 they are charging for their upcoming games at Burnley and West Ham. The Hornet’s claim of being able to see a game at Vicarage Road at ten pounds a ticket is not even a Watford game – the only game advertised on their website with tickets available at that price is England U21 v Azerbaijan U21. The other teams that the BBC claim offer tickets at a lower price than £20 tell varying stories. Bristol City’s lowest price is claimed as being £15, but their upcoming Carling Cup game is £10, and their regular lowest is £25 (but can be reduced by £5 if you spend £20 to join their membership scheme). Blackpool’s lowest in the survey is £18, but the lowest advertised on the website is £24 (although Blackpool do say that membership will reduce ticket prices, but there is no information about the discount or the membership scheme). Barnsley’s £16 is only the price for three games this season. Birmingham City advertise a Category D price of £16, but the Category announcements are “coming soon”. Since the report was published, Doncaster Rovers have told the BBC that they have a Category C that they use on a discrectionary basis, which pushes their lowest price to £15, and makes them the second “cheapest” in the Championship. Only, there is no mention of this new category on their website, and they could even have claimed the cheapest tickets in the Football League, as tickets for their League Cup game with Tranmere Rovers are an admirable £7 for season ticket holders – a deal that applies to both home and away fans. Which leaves us with Cardiff City, whose lowest advertised price of £18 is available for every match in the Grange Stand. A result that gives them the Championship’s cheapest day out price of £25.50 – but unfortunately for the Bluebirds, it’s been Watford that grabbed the headlines.
A look into the League One report shows similar findings. The survey claims that seven of the clubs in League One have days out for less than twenty pounds – the reality is that none of the clubs in the division manage to meet this offer regularly. I was not able to find any currently advertised Rochdale matches for their suggested lowest price of £10 (presumably this will be for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy), but their lowest League price is £15. Preston North End’s £10 tickets are only available for two League games this season, in “PNE Day promotions”, one against Tranmere in September, the other in April. The Franchise’s £10 is not available for any currently advertised game (except the already played friendly against Tottenham, and that was only if you bought the ticket by the end of June), leaving their cheapest at double the price. Sheffield United’s ticket pricing section on the website is so vague that it’s impossible to tell what terms and conditions, and even games, their £13 tickets are available. Pride of place, however must go to Notts County, whose £12 tickets come with the most convoluted conditions of all. The only advertised way to be eligible for that price is to live over 75 miles away from Meadow Lane, be a member of their “Member 75” scheme (for the price of £75 a season), and buy the ticket in advance. Two clubs, do however come close to the £20 figure for the day out. Oldham Athletic categorise games, and their survey price of £14 is available for seven advertised games this season, making their survey price of £21.10 the second cheapest regular price in the division. Pride of place doesn’t go to headline grabbing Preson North End, but one of the teams that came down with them from the Championship last season – Scunthorpe United. Scunthorpe’s £14 prices are only available if you are a member, but only if you become a member, but at £14 a season, Scunthorpe’s membership scheme pays for itself if you attend five games a season, and this makes the day out at the same as the BBCs survey at £20.70.
I looked at the League Two prices in a bit more depth as a guide of how many clubs were referring to regular prices, compared to one-off games – and fourteen of the twenty-four clubs have the same advertised lowest price for League games, as the survey claims. Three more clubs – Barnet, Crewe Alexandra and Northampton Town – offer those prices if you are a member, with fans needing to attend between seven and fifteen matches to recoup their membership fees. AFC Wimbledon’s lowest advertised price of £15 is actually lower than the £16 claimed by the survey. As it is, it is mainly clubs at the “cheaper” end of the division, who have taken the loosest definition. Rotherham United, Plymouth Argyle and Torquay United are all surveyed as having tickets available for £10. yhe Millers and the Pilgrims are only advertised as charging this price for the League Cup next week, while the Gulls don’t have any games advertised at that price, leaving their advertised minimum at £17. Cheltenham Town’s £13 ticket is nowhere to be foundon their website, upping their price to £20, and Southend United appear to have had a price review between the completion of the survey, and it’s publication, as the survey claims that Southend’s most expensive ticket is £18, yet the cheapest ticket advertosed on the website is £19.
All of which means that instead of eleven Football Clubs that offer football for under £20, only one actually manages it on anything remotely resembling a regular basis, and that is Macclesfield Town – and the Silkmen are not even one of the eleven claimed by the survey. Admittedly, this is because the survey was compiled just before Macclesfield launched a new early ticket purchase incentive yesterday, which reduces the cost of standing at Moss Rose to £12 a game, for every game, but with the programme, drink and pie costing £6.20, Macclesfield become the only club in the top four tiers to give you a day out, and change from a twenty pound note.
Rob would like to thank Martin Cloake for his assistance with this article.
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