Hold the front back page! Everything you understood about the cost of watching Premier League football was wrong! It must be! Richard Scudamore said so! Well, not quite. The chief executive of the Premier League, who has been mercifully quiet since he proposed the Premier League’s version of colonisation – Game 39 – last year, was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 earlier this week and, in the course of his interview, he made a rather rash claim.
When questioned by the BBC’s Mark Saggers on the subject of the recession and the price of Premier League match tickets, Scudamore went straight for the heart-strings, claiming that Premier League clubs are struggling too, and that ‘They are charging for adults and children for matches (at Bolton) less than it is costing to go to FC United in the non-league’. “Is this right?”, the listening audience might have thought, “is the Premier League really cheaper than ‘the non-league’?”. The answer, of course, is “no”.
Here’s a list of 2008/09 ticket prices at The Reebok Stadium. Category A, B and C, for the uninitiated, refer to categories of matches that Bolton offer tickets for. As you can see, the cheapest single ticket on sale at Bolton for an ordinary league match is £27 for a Category A match, and £20 for a Category C match. The childrens season tickets are certainly cheap – if purchased early enough, they’re £49 for next season, but there are still plenty of issues to be taken with Scudamore’s statement.
The obvious issue to take with it is that, broadly speaking, isn’t true. Here are FC United’s season ticket prices for the season just gone. As you can see, a child season ticket is still less than half the price of a season ticket at The Reebok Stadium, and an adult season ticket is less than half the price of a season ticket at Bolton. Bolton have, to their credit, run promotions where tickets are very cheap, but as a Supporters Direct spokesman drily noted this week, saying that this makes Bolton a cheaper place to watch football than FC United is like “saying that because England in summer can be warmer than parts of Spain in winter, England has a hotter climate”.
What is most interesting about this is that Scudamore should pick on FC United. United recently launched an initiative by which supporters would decide themselves what they paid for their season tickets. They received a very positive reaction from the national press, which earned them considerable coverage that they wouldn’t have otherwise received. As of this week, they had received over £35,000 of pledges from supporters, with three months of the close season still to go. Was FC United a random name plucked from thin air, or have they got under his skin?
It wouldn’t be implausible if they had, after all. They were formed from a feeling of revulsion with and a sense of disenfranchisement from the Premier League. Their supporters voted with their feet when their league shifted the time of a match without their permission, and their club supported them. They remain defiantly obstinate, with sponsor-free shirts and ultra-low prices for those unfortunate enough to find themselves out of work. They are the anti-Premier League and they are proud of it.
The irony of Scudamore’s comments about them is that not only do they provide FC United with more positive coverage, but also they show the chief executive of the Premier League up as being someone that is prepared to stop just a millimetre short of lying about a non-league club. Has it come to this, Richard? Is your argument really so baseless that you now have to pick on non-league clubs on national radio and still manage get his basic facts so wrong? Of course we wish he’d go away or at least shut up but, to a tiny extent, he’s the gift that keeps on giving.