The Money in Football – A Fans Perspective
First and foremost, I am an Arsenal fan. I wasn’t born an Arsenal fan exactly, I don’t think I was really into football until I went to school and even then I didn’t initially support anyone. I thought football was something we played on the playground and then the next level up was the England team which I sometimes watched on the telly. But when I discovered there was more to football than kicking a ball around (ha!) I did what I think most people would do, I asked my Dad.
I don’t really know how my Dad came to support Arsenal. I’m not sure it really matters. Based on location, it makes sense. Lots of people in Bedfordshire support London clubs, especially Arsenal and Spurs. But in any event, I was subsequently an Arsenal fan. I was rather spoilt that the first season I can remember really supporting, and following, Arsenal was the 1997-98 year, when Arsenal won the double. I remember sticking up newspaper cut outs on my wardrobe doors, because I wasn’t allowed to put blutac or selotape on the walls.
My step dad, Ian, was a Luton Town fan. The only time I ever saw him shout, even considering what a little shit I was, was at football matches. I actually remember being quite frightened at my first game, borrowing Ian’s dad’s season ticket one game. Routinely everyone would rise from their seats, either to celebrate, throw their heads in their hands whilst gasping, or to call the referee a wanker. I didn’t recognise Ian for the first 45 minutes and then a half time he offered to get me a bottle of pop and a burger. We spoke at half time and he apologised but explained this was what it was like at football games. No one around me would hurt me or was angry at me, it was all aimed at what was happening on the pitch. It made sense and I enjoyed the second half.
After using Ian’s dad’s ticket whenever he wasn’t going, which was a fair amount as he wasn’t very well, Ian bought me my own season ticket. A Junior season ticket back then was £30. I loved going to watch Luton play, and one of my best friends also had a season ticket and between us we often invited other friends to games. Unfortunately, as I got older, weekends became busier. Other commitments got in the way and as I started using the ticket less and less, Ian said it wasn’t worth buying it any more. Completely fair. These days, I think it’s £70 for a junior ticket at Luton Town. Still very reasonable in my eyes. An adult one looks to be around £400. I am informed that my mate’s season ticket to Leeds United for the upcoming season was £440 (as a renewal, new ticket price of £530).
A few years ago, shortly after I moved to London, I was provided the opportunity to rent an Arsenal season ticket for the season. I say rent because it wasn’t in my name, it was a spare ticket that was routinely rented out season after season to ensure that the seat was never lost, due to the waiting list for an Arsenal season ticket. £1,300 and the ticket was mine for a season. I didn’t have that kind of money to stump up in one go but the friend who had advised me about the availability offered to pay upfront and I paid him back.
So there I was, routinely going to see the Arsenal play. Saturday 3 o’clock games. Champions League games on a week day evening. Various times on a Sunday, normally following a visit to the pub before hand and often a swift one after. I bought a programme at every game. Not really sure why, probably a habit from going as a kid when me and Ian used to collect them and keep note of who played and what the attendance was each game. Having worked it out just before writing this, and using very rough estimate, I reckon I spent £1,800 that season on watching Arsenal. The following season, I had decided it wasn’t a cost I could continue paying year after year, and that was on a decent London salary, let alone someone on National Minimum Wage. I had also not enjoyed the atmosphere as much as I thought I would, certainly not like I remembered at Kenilworth Road as a junior.
I guess the point of this post is about the money in football. We see it every summer and January when transfer prices are quoted in the press and everyone comments on how sustainable it is, or rather, isn’t but football is always talked about being the global game. The game anyone can get involved with. And whilst I don’t deny that is true on some base level, fans are being priced out of following the teams they support. If I couldn’t justify going to see Arsenal any more on my pretty good wage, how can people on low incomes be expected to have an invested interest in their team. And this is without going into depth about the price of watching football on TV these days.
As I opened this blog piece with, I am an Arsenal fan. They are my number one team and I honestly cant see me turning my back on them. But I wont go watch them on a regular basis with those kind of prices. I know some people will dismiss the idea of a second club as a poor mentality, but I have always had a soft spot for Luton Town. They were my first exposure to live football and I travelled up and down the country with my step dad to watch them. Admittedly these days it tends to be trying to keep an eye out for them on Live Score apps and checking the table every couple of weeks. Once I have a better idea of where me and Abi expect to be on a more permanent basis, I will probably look at getting a season ticket to either Luton, Leeds or Barnsley, the current leading options currently and another couple of clubs I have a soft spot for being where I was born and lived fairly recently.
I understand Arsenal are the most expensive season ticket in British football. And I understand not everyone follows a Premier League club. But when fans talk about the money in football, it isn’t just the mind boggling transfer fees and wages we need to worry about. Season ticket prices go up, and it is understandable to a degree, but when this is on top of already extortionate prices and faster than people’s wages are increases, at some point something has to give. And it will be a shame whenever a fan feels they cannot afford to go watch their team play any more.