With ticket prices at an all time high then you have to be either very well off or single, or better still both, to be a regular at the highest level of English football these days.
This is because whilst Sky TV has pumped millions into the coffers of Premiership clubs the ever expanding wages of professional footballers, which account for on average over 60% of a club’s expenditure, has inevitably led to increasing ticket prices.
This season it is over £40 for an away fan at Old Trafford and £47 or £49 at Chelsea - so if you’ve got a couple of kids then forget it. The result is that the next generation of supporters only get to see their favourites on the TV and I’d guess will continue doing so in the future, which isn’t going to worry the TV companies that much but could long-term lead to half empty stadiums.
As a keen football fan for generations I’ve seen many once loyal supporters stop going. Often the reasons are complex but there’s little doubt in my mind that a good number of them in recent times are sickened by the wages of the players who they see as caring very little about which club they’re playing for. Fans support a club, players support themselves is their view.
It’s not as if higher wages has led to a more competitive league - 34 years ago Nottingham Forest emerged from the second league to win the First Division title in their first season - that’s never going to happen again, and currently at least 75% of the Premiership flight sides have little chance of ever actually winning the thing. The best players end up with the best paying clubs, fact - some of them are happy to even sit on the bench and not actually play the game they supposedly love!
It mightn’t be so bad if the wages were encouraging more youngsters to take up the game - yet that doesn’t appear to be the case. As a kid growing up in the football mad north-east you’d find hundreds of us kicking a ball around every night. Dads would join in - not now, go and take a look round your own town and see if you can find a group of youngsters playing football?