In this weeks column D3D4 Correspondent Darren Young takes a tongue in cheek look at the Price of Football Survey 2017…
‘Money for nothing? It is when you can get your kicks for free’
The Beeb have conducted a comprehensive – because they wouldn’t do it any other way – study of football and more specifically, the cost of it. They canvassed opinion and figures from a thousand fans (18-24 year olds) and more than two hundred clubs.
It’s concluded that young adults are being put off by the price – not just tickets but the combined costs of a day, or night, at the footy.
Now, I’m not a young adult, and I’m lucky enough to get into a lot of games for free with the work I do, but I also see a lot of football up and down the country so I am in a good position to judge the findings and I’ve tried to do so (some of them seriously) below:
Lemme Tell Ya, Them Guys Ain’t Dumb
The figures provided show that the costs of watching football are actually frozen or in some cases going down. 135 out of 190 clubs in England, Scotland and Wales reduced prices for this age group; on top of student concessions. Yet more than half the fans surveyed said it was too expensive and was making them stop going completely, or to less games.
The savings the study highlighted gave a clue to the problem. The biggest reductions were in season tickets (£146.94 in the Premier and Football League’s, a little less north of the border). But this demographic won’t buy into a full season so a saving on season tickets is not going to attract them. They are of a generation that bides its time and sees how things go before making a longer-term commitment. Some of them barely have attention spans that go beyond two and a half minutes on YouTube, let alone ninety of the buggers.
If the price of the match day ticket stays the same (and most go up by a couple of quid on the actual day) then the casual, stroll-up supporter is going to be put off when they’d find it hard to sit through it anyway.
Maybe Get A Blister On Your Little Finger
Football used to have a mystical pull. If you wanted to see football before the eighties, you had to go to an actual match or watch the FA Cup Final or else, limit yourselves to the Home Internationals (Google it!). Even after that, before Sky’s rise to power, live football was a rarity on television.
Fast forward twenty years and the smartphone has changed everything.
These days, some kids are born with a phone already secreted into their palms as they were conceived while their parents had their smart phones in their hands. When you hear a Mom shout ‘Eric’s son’ it’s not because her child has a dad named Eric. He’s named after the handset she had at the time.
And on them, they can watch anything including live match streams and highlights that are posted virtually seconds after they happen in real life. Why would any self-respecting 18-24-year-old get up, get dressed, get to a match, watch it all and then get home if all they have to do instead is unlock their iPhone?
Maybe Get A Blister On Your Thumb
Talking of getting to the match, when I wer’t a lad, I used to go down pit for tuppence a day. No, that’s something else. But I did used to go to the football a lot, even walking three miles plus to home games to save on bus fare. Money definitely wasn’t a worry in those days – I only paid a quid to get in, and that was when a bloke I knew on the turnstile wasn’t there to let me jump over.
One of the reasons I went was because, frankly, other than go up and down on the escalators in the shopping centre – or get turned down by girls – there was nothing else to do. There was no competition for football at all. No other sports that made an effort, no trampoline centres, no computer games (that were any good), no internet, no nothing. Never mind smart phones. At the time, my next-door neighbour had one where you held one piece to your ear and spoke into another part of the contraption. Imagine that!
61% of fans now engage with football via a PC or games console, says the study. Not just fans either. Some of the players themselves spend more time on FIFA than they do at training. Some are better at it too than the real game. And they are definitely better in the game.
Arsene Wenger says there is nothing like the experience of a stadium. But he has to be there! He also goes onto bemoan the computer-filled lifestyles of today’s would-be fans.
Although you can maybe combine the two. Some entrepreneurs (I heard this week) are looking at filling – yes, filling – the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with fans to watch two ‘video game enthusiasts’ play a game of FIFA.
I ask you.
We Got To Install Microwave Ovens
The price of football isn’t contained to match tickets. The overall expense, including petrol or public transport, parking, programmes and food, can really add up. If you look at the study via the BBC app, it helpfully allows you to calculate how much you spend watching your team.
I did it and it said that just five games could set me back nearly £500. I nearly choked when I read it but it is scary. For example, we can spend as much as a tenner on a pint, pie and half-time coffee. And the food isn’t always that great either. Or hot. I had a burger last weekend that had sat on a ‘warmer’ for ages and was exactly that. Warm. And only just. For an outlay of the best part of a fiver.
For fans, of any age, to get value for money, they have to get something better than that to make it worthwhile.
We Gotta Move These Colour TVs
No debate on watching football can avoid the topic of the big or not so big screen. Sky purchased football’s soul a long time ago but even the broadcasting giant is finding it hard to fend off the threat of illegal streaming and the availability of live matches that can be watched just about any time and anywhere in addition to the stadium itself.
Again, why would people go to a local match when they can choose a much more attractive one from the comfort of their house or pub?
I’m not too sympathetic to the broadcasters. They started it by taking football to ridiculous levels of exposure all across the world and you reap what you sow. The countries they made the game so popular in are the same ones that are sending the streams out that make paying a subscription so 2012.
We Could Have Some Fun
It’s not the cost so much for me anyway, although I do question the value for money at times. It’s Walsall’s dreadfully inconsistent form that’s putting me off.
The BBC study also calculated a lot of other numbers based on my (wildly optimistic) guess that I’ll go to ten games this season.
For instance, if we want to sign Neymar, we only need to get average gates of 315,961. Or make the Sunday market bigger.
And do you know I could buy 253 cups of coffee instead – or as well, to keep me awake at matches?
Predictably, like everything else, Walsall are mid-table in the cost league for League 1 teams. We are as close to average as it gets. To maintain our middle of the road balance, our cups of tea are slightly above the line, but our Balti pies are slightly below it.
We do have cheaper replica shirts than the average, mind. Although presumably that’s because the badge peels off.
Last season it cost me £7.44 to see Walsall score a home goal. I thought about some of the goals I saw and they must have seen me coming a mile off.
And I’ve seen some shockingly bad ninety minutes recently being passed off as entertainment. Not just at Walsall but everywhere.
If we have too much defensive tactics, nil-nil draws (yes, you, Mr Southgate), time-wasting, grinding out results, parking the bus or simply playing badly, why are people (especially of a certain age) going to shell out their hard-earned, or just earned, cash?
The competition simply has to be more appealing and football isn’t working hard enough at the moment to stop that happening.
And until it does, it’s got no hope of reversing the trend and getting younger people (the mainstays in a decade or so) to go to games on a regular basis.
As an aside, if anyone wants to know how to write an article that contains most of the lyrics (the politically correct ones anyway) from the Dire Straits hit, Money For Nothing, as titles…read this again.
Because that’s the way to do it
Thank you very much.