Thursday, 17 November 2016

The real Price of Football

Every year, BBC Sport release a study which claims to 'analyse data to find out how much it costs football supporters to follow their team'.

Several articles are released, looking at ticket prices across the football league, summarising the main points and grouping together the stats under the banner 'The Price of Football'.
It's an important topic and one us football fans talk about regularly, because it affects every one of us. There's no getting away from the fact that football isn't cheap.
But the BBC, once again, seem to miss the point of the conversation and an opportunity to send a strong message to our clubs - prices are getting to high.
To me, the article reads like someone let the work experience student go mad with stats and then picked out the biggest numbers to create a 'shock'. Perhaps I am being naive, perhaps that is exactly what journalism has been reduced to these days.
For Ipswich in particular, it betrays the average fan by portraying the details of a far more premium experience at the club that most of us will ever actually pay for.
Sadly, it's a stat that hits their headlines every year: the most expensive season ticket in the Championship is... *drum roll please*... Ipswich Town with £842.
"Eight hundred quid!!?" the neutrals cry, "that's an outrage. You can get a season ticket at Barcelona for less than that".
Except, like I say, that isn't what a 'normal' Ipswich fan will pay. I follow a lovely chap on Twitter who sits in one of those seats and he has explained in the past that he enjoys sitting there, so he is willing (and able) to pay that price.
The average Ted, sitting down in the Sir Bobby Robson stand in his blue and white replica shirt (more on that later), will have paid a generally more manageable fee of £500. It's still a lot of money, of course, but far less shocking.

So what actually is the Price of Football?
I don't intend to speak for all football fans, but I can talk through what the Price of Football is for me:

Matchday tickets: £30 per month - ish.
I don't go to many home games per season, so my focus here is on away ticket prices and those can vary greatly: for Leeds in September I paid £35 but for Wigan next month I am about to pay just £20.
I always budget around £30 for a ticket as that's what I am willing to pay to get into each game. I am happy if it costs me less than that and I do try to select games which will cost less to allow my budget to go further.
For home games I usually pay just over £30. It is more than I want to pay, especially when you add in the cost of travel, but I believe season tickets are the lifeblood of our club and so the cost of those should be more attractive then the matchday tickets.
For a season ticket holder, each individual game costs around £17 - almost half of what I pay - which I think more than reasonable. If you are unable to pay that in one go, you can pay by direct debit for around £30 a month: the same amount I pay each month for just one game!
In addition to that, the club currently have a special offer where you can buy a number of tickets for a reduced price. You do need to know which games you plan to go to, but surely we have all planned our lives around football games?
Just me?


Travel: £20 per month (£60 if travelling to a home game)

As an away fan, I generally opt for games that are easy to get to via public transport. £20 is usually the limit for my budget when booking train tickets, it is equivalent to half a tank of petrol and I can get to most grounds on that amount of fuel.
I truly feel sympathy for the Ipswich fans who travel up to the northern games, which usually involves four or five hours in the car (and no drinking), or several changes and a large cost if going by train.
Ipswich is such a difficult place to get to, with journeys up north often involving two or three changes at places like London, Grantham and Peterborough, changes that increase the prices. As a result, I have known many friends book their travel months in advance to take advantage of lower prices, only to find the game has been moved to be shown on Sky and they lose the money they have paid for that ticket.

Food and drink: Between £10 and £30
This is an entirely subjective cost, which fluctuates depending on how much time I have for pre- and post-match drinks. The Price of Football for me though will inevitably involve a few pints and a couple of shots, because, as you know, my enjoyment of match days is based heavily on the social side of the day.
I know from when I was pregnant last season that I could easily find somewhere to eat lunch and have a soft drink for less than a tenner. It doesn't have to cost a lot, in the same way that one doesn't have to buy a pie despite it being included in the BBC survey.

Programmes and other memorabilia: £50 a season.
I recently moved home and, being pregnant at the time, I was unable to lift most of the items down from my first floor flat.

So, you can imagine the delight of my partner, Luke, when he came across my boxes of ITFC programmes. "Do you really need these?" he asks, before quickly scurrying away when given 'the glare'.
The same was true when my Dad moved home a few years ago, my Mum could not understand why we were carting boxes and boxes of the things all the way down to Cornwall. "Mum", I said, "these are from the eighties. Come on, be sensible".
The truth is, both Mum and Luke have a point. We really don’t need those programmes. But throwing them away would be like throwing away the treasured cuddly toy of your first born, or the little tag the hospital put on their teenie little ankle when they are born. You just can't bring yourself to dispose of memories that have had a profound effect on your life.
Yes, I did just compare my son's hospital name tag to my programme from Huddersfield away five years ago and, no, I'm not sorry.
As a result of realising how right Mum and Luke are, I have decided not to buy programmes when at games. I find I rarely get the chance to read them at the game and tend to prefer to find stories online in the days leading up to the match.
I have also made the decision not to buy a replica shirt each season. However, if I particularly like a shirt, like the 'Tractor-lona' away shirt we had last year, I purchase it at the end of the season at a reduced price.
I have cut back on the typical bits, but I do buy generic items that won't go out of date in 12 months time. Like the time I travelled to Ipswich only to realise it was much colder than I'd expected and I hadn't packed a coat. So, I popped to Planet Blue and paid £30 for a gillet, which I wear almost every day two years later.
My new expense, of course, is Ipswich Town babygrows for my son, Harry. I am not sure if I am brainwashing the child or being duped into spending money I don't need to... but the feeling of seeing him in blue and white, smiling at me when we've won is worth every penny.
In total then, it seems I spend around £850 per season. So, for the price the BBC has given the impression Ipswich fans pay for season tickets, I get a whole year of enjoying watching Town (I use the word 'enjoying' very loosely).
The thing that frustrates me is that this is actually an important topic, but the BBC miss the point by trying to focus on too many things at once.
People are being priced out of watching the game, particularly those who have children to pay for on top of their own tickets.
The prices at Portman Road are not great, particularly when compared to the amazing cost of a season ticket at Huddersfield this season.
But, those points are part of a much wider conversation, one which I'm sure I will return to at some point this season. In the Championship, it's not a simple case of the clubs profiting from their fans like it is in the Premiership and comparing the two is unfair and unhelpful.
£500 is a lot of money but the truth is, I am able to pay that at the moment and so I am willing to. Football is a huge part of me, the hobby that makes me happy. And, whether it's decoupage or watching sport that takes your fancy, hobbies cost money.
And I'd much rather be supporting Town than gluing together bits of paper.

I'm interested to hear hoe much you spend on football, so please do tweet me on @tractorgirlamy8

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