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Premier League fun for all - at a cost

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Matt Slater | 17:12 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

You've probably heard the old joke about 98% of all statistics being made up - but have you heard the one about Premier League crowds becoming more diverse and inclusive?

No, seriously, it's all there in new research conducted for the league by polling company Populus.

According to the study, women and people from ethnic backgrounds are going to top-flight matches in increasing numbers. Nearly one in five adult fans at Premier League games is female and 8% of the adult total are from an ethnic minority group.

The number of under-16s attending games on a regular basis is also on the up, with 13% of all season tickets sold across the league being junior tickets.

Premier League staff are understandably pleased with these numbers but it is the "direction of travel" that really delights them.

According to the research, women and "black or minority ethnic" adults now account for nearly half of new fans in the last five years.

Blackpool supporters at their game with ArsenalThe survey shows more women are becoming interested in football - photo: Press Association

"This is hugely encouraging because it confirms the hard work we and the clubs have put into improving the quality of experience on and off the pitch," said Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.

"Football is increasingly attractive to more sectors of society, which is fantastic because it was only a generation ago that people used to look down their noses and see it as a rather narrow preserve for young, white males."

Scudamore is right: people did think that about football fans. But that's not necessarily what they think now.

Today's Premier League fan is still typically white and male but he's not so young. Middle-aged and middle-class is the new stereotype and it's one that has left English football's bosses in something of a quandary.

On the one hand, they are sensitive to the "prawn sandwich brigade" tag, but on the other, they could be forgiven for thinking 'what's so bad about being middle-class?'

After all, aren't we all a bit middle-class these days? And if the alternative is a return to the hooligan-scarred '80s, well, could you pass the sandwiches, please?

But working-class, middle-class, it's all a bit A-level sociology, isn't it? Those labels mean less than they used to. What matters more now is money, and it is on this measure the Premier League is vulnerable.

Released alongside the Populus research this week was the announcement of a joint initiative between the Premier League and VisitEngland. The tourism agency has come up with a football-specific version of its "Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme" - basically a kitemark for tourist attractions.

All 20 clubs have signed up, which means they will be assessed on eight criteria: pre-arrival, arrival, pre-match experience, match experience, catering, toilets, post-match and club shop. Under those main headings are the nuts and bolts: answering the phone, clean toilets, enough parking and stewards who treat you like cherished customers.

All well and good and exactly the kind of thing Fifa's World Cup 2018 inspection team would have been delighted to hear during their visit this week.

There is, however, one important question VisitEngland will not be asking: "Nice ground/decent game but how much?!?"

Steven Powell, the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) director of policy, spotted the elephant in the room immediately.

"We're disappointed the Premier League has chosen not to consult and involve supporters in the VisitEngland scheme," said Powell.

"Once again fans have been ignored. Why? We also note there is no value for money element in the criteria. No surprise there.

"To give one example, Chelsea charge visiting supporters a minimum of £46 up to £54 for seats behind the goal, some with very poor views. That would buy you the best seat in the house in Germany."

Chelsea are by no means alone when it comes to being reassuringly expensive. Take Arsenal's visit to Blackburn this Saturday. Seats in the away section cost £35 for adults, £25 for over-65s and £15 for under-16s, all with booking fees.

Shifting the 4,800-seat allocation at these prices has not been easy. In fact, the Gunners have taken the unprecedented step of emailing the 160,000 supporters on their database to remind them these tickets are still available.

It almost goes without saying that the reason Arsenal have 1,800 more seats than the minimum allocation is Blackburn cannot sell those seats to their own fans.

The issue of attendances has become something of a specialised subject for me as I spent a week earlier this month trying to persuade clubs to tell me how season ticket sales were going. The old favourite "You only sing when you're winning" is perhaps the best way to describe how I got on.

But what I did get is a firm impression that it's tough out there, particularly for the clubs without realistic chances of silverware (most of them, then) - and that is why so many are offering what look like attractive deals for those willing to commit to a season ticket, especially if you do it early and online.

That said total attendances, after years of steady growth, have fallen for the last two seasons, as have season-ticket sales. That last nugget of information was in the footnotes of the recent research, they were down 4% year-on-year.

So you could argue those deals are not quite attractive enough, which brings us back to the issue of just how "inclusive" top-flight football really is.

The FSF was not the only supporters' group to notice the absence of "value for money" criteria in the VisitEngland scheme but it was the only one willing to go on the record.

When I asked another 'fans' representative' what he thought of the Premier League's research, he joked that it was a "desperate attempt to realign a dirty product with the forces of good", before more seriously pointing out the absence of any breakdown by income group.

As Powell put it: "The results of the survey that have been put into the public domain don't square with our weekly experience as fans. We'll be asking the Premier League to release the full details of the study and methodology employed."

And that's the problem with statistics, as Mark Twain once said, they are pliable, facts are stubborn.

But it would be churlish of me to ignore the progress that has been made in getting more women and ethic minorities through the turnstiles, especially the latter.

A 2002 study on crowd demographics at Premier League games found that only 2% of fans were not white. To bring that figure to something very close to the statistics for the general population is impressive and encouraging.

It also sends a positive message to Fifa about this country's suitability as a host for the World Cup. Male, female, black, white, middle-class, working-class, all are welcome - just don't forget your wallet.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at http://twitter.com/bbc_matt

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Does it really matter who the fans are? No. I could not care less if I was sat next to a man, woman, black or white, rich or poor at Bramall Lane. A better statistic would be 'that attendances are improving.'

  • Comment number 2.

    Only those obsessed with race and gender care about this

  • Comment number 3.

    @ Smurf-Wrong-Phillips SUFC

    Does it really matter who the fans are? You're probably right, no. However, this blog made a very interesting read because it is nice to know the percentage demographics of people going to football matches. It certainly shoes that football is changing in the modern world compared to 50 years ago.

    If we applied your attitude to comments then does your comment really matter? Probably not. You should probably understand that blogs are generally opinion and you may or may not agree with the content.

  • Comment number 4.

    Erm, I think you missed the point. It does not matter really who attends games, just that people are attending games, why is always so important to make a fuss about the fact that 'different' people who do not conform to stereotypes are now attending? Like Webb of Deceit wrote beneath me, only those who are obsessed care...

  • Comment number 5.

    @ Webb of Deceit

    What a load of poppycock. People can be interested by demographics without being 'obsessed'. Don't let your own predetermined ideas cloud your judgement.

    @ Smurf-Wrong-Phillips SUFC

    You're probably right again, it does not matter who attends the games but it IS interesting. But then again your comments do not matter, nor do mine.

  • Comment number 6.

    Ticket prices really are the elephant in the room. They are quite frankly appalling, and many supporters are being and have been priced out. This is important because many of those that have been priced out supported the national game when it was dying on its feet. The vast majority were not hooligans. Another middle class myth perhaps?

    Indeed many of those doing the sneering represent the new breed of "fan". It's strange how a certain section of society want a slice of the action when something becomes fashionable. This is not directed at women or ethnic minority supporters who for many years have had a deep and abiding love of the game. It's good to see them at grounds, free of fear.

    Rather it's directed at the "I'm really into football now" group because football is the latest "must do". I've often wondered how many long term Arsenal, Spurs and particularly Chelsea supporters really feel about their new neighbours. Where have these people come from, and where will they go should the tide turn?

    Let's be honest many genuine long term supporters are middle class and they are probably and rightly the most cynical of all. Why? - because from experience I know many care very deeply about the supporters they shared the 80's with, who can't afford the tickets.

    Football may just need them, before they need football.

  • Comment number 7.

    "According to the research, women and 'black or minority ethnic' adults now account for nearly half of new fans in the last five years."

    Hmm, so which group were black or minority ethnic women counted in? Or were they counted twice? If so, the figures may be lying!

    (See how fascinating football statistics can be, chaps?! :-))

  • Comment number 8.

    Part of the appeal of following clubs in the past - whether right or wrong - was that it offered local supporters in particular a sense of identity and belonging. Certain clubs were inherantly linked to their working-class roots and religious/cultural backgrounds often determined who you followed aswell as your location. To support someone meant more than how much money it took to see them in a game. Ofcourse this often created a lot of sectarian animosity which led to tribalism and hooliganism - which wasn't good, but what really identifies anyone with their clubs anymore? We've become obsessed with statistics and trying to make everything conform to certain variables. Has the cultural link in football been completely eroded in todays' game and is that what we really want?

  • Comment number 9.

    Interesting read, Matt. Clubs these days know that they've got their fans by the jaffers in terms of loyalty and the tribal nature of football - most season ticket holders pay whatever they're asked to pay. Almost all the football fans and season ticket holders I know (at various clubs in various leagues) complain about prices and clubs being unsympathetic towards the whole recession situation, but they all still turn up most weeks regardless.

    Coincidentally, one of my friends is a Blackburn fan and his season ticket has only cost him abuot £200 for the last couple of years - great value for a PL team - but this of course the exception to the rule.

    Ticket prices are far from fan friendly, and if clubs and the FA want to convince FIFA that England deserves the World Cup then this needs to change.

  • Comment number 10.

    Prices are ridiculous.

    If you are a Gunners fan, you have got fork out 35£ for a ticket to watch them play at Blackburn.

    How much extra for food, drink and petrol?

    I've no idea.

    But the TOTAL cost must be around 60£? 70£???

    That's about 12-15 hours salary for someone on the basic wage.

    FAR TOO MUCH in other words.









  • Comment number 11.

    (Should just add, in addition to Östers IF I'm also watching Malmö this season. Top of the Swedish PL at the moment. Brand new stadium. Cracking position. The price? About 15£ a ticket).


  • Comment number 12.

    What I'd like to know is by how much attendances are dropping. If you exclude the increased capacities at Man Utd and Arsenal, I would suggest that average attendances are well down on ten years ago.

  • Comment number 13.

    Matt,

    What exactly do the PL claim to have done to increase the %age of ethnic minority fans?
    Off the top of my head I can think of three things to help give these results, namely:
    The total population now has a larger proportion of ethnic minorities, so by definition that larger proportion will be reflected in all walks of life.
    The signing of dozens of high profile African, Asian, South American players is bound to attract people with roots in those countries to come and see their heroes.
    If white working class men have been priced / hounded out of grounds, causing overall attendances to fall, then the number of ethnic minority fans represents a larger %age even if the actual numbers have stayed the same.

    None of these events are thanks to anything positive that the PL may have done.














































































































  • Comment number 14.

    it all reeks of a sell out for the lower working classes, how many of them can afford to go to a game, and these folk are the ones who over a long period of time built the game, like a lot things the worker has built it is now a cash cow for the 'Betters' cheaper safe standing areas should be built

  • Comment number 15.

    i would say the increase in ethnic minority attendance is down to an increase in ethnic minority players in the PL

  • Comment number 16.

    Evening all, some replies from me before I clock for the long weekend.

    Smurf-wrong-Philips-SUFC (1) - Glad to hear it and I'm sure the PL will be the first to tell us if/when attendance figures start to rise again.

    Webb of deceit (2) - Not sure what you mean by "only those who care about race or gender would care about this". Shouldn't we all care just a little bit that we live in a fair and just society that gives everybody a fair crack of the whip? I know I do. OK, we're only talking about watching sport here, but sport is a pretty useful mirror for any society. How you play it, how you watch it, who plays it, who watches it etc etc If you are trying to say none of this matters, I understand where you're coming from but I think you are wrong. If you are saying none of this should matter, you are right...but it does matter, that's life. So I am pleased to hear that you see a lot more non-white faces in the crowds at games these days because it says to me that non-white people are no longer scared to go to games or just put off by the prospect of abuse, be it 'a bit of banter' or otherwise. Because football, as our national sport, should reflect our nation, in all its shades and types.

    NorthLondonCockerel (6) - Good points, well made. I think where things get a bit trickier is when people try to apply pretty old-fashioned working-class/middle-class labels on what is happening now. I'm not suggesting the class system has been eradicated, far from it, but it's got more fragmented and also more nuanced. The old-fashioned fan is much maligned, though, and I for one would love to see the return of safe terraces, cheaper tickets and more passion at British grounds.

    Spamburger (7) - Exactly!

    JoC (8) - Yep, I think you're right. And to answer your final question: no, it's not what I want! Clubs should be the repositories of people's hopes, reflections of local pride (but not excessively so) and sustainable community assets. They should also be a lot fun.

    SirWilliam99 (9) - Absolutely. For most fans clubs are not like supermarkets or clothing brands....they are monopolies and they have us for life! Too many people in football these days seem to have forgotten that. And you're right to praise Blackburn's ticketing policies for their own fans - as I wrote in my recent season-tickets blog £200 for 19 games is great VfM - I just wish all clubs would be fairer to away fans. The supporters of big clubs get fleeced on a regular basis.

    TheMidland20 (10 & 11) - Ticket prices all over Europe put our prices to shame. I'm looking forward to taking my wife to see Valencia play next month during our romantic break there. I expect it will cost us no more than £30. She doesn't know yet, the lucky lady.

    backinwhite (12) - I don't have the numbers in front of me now but the overall attendances have fallen by a small amount in each of the last 2 years. The PL, however, likes to point out that occupancy rates (% of total seats sold) have held steady at about 94%. This is pretty impressive but it's not 100%, is it? And 'occupancy' doesn't actually mean somebody 'attending' a game, it just means the ticket was sold. As anybody who went to a game at the Emirates towards the end of last season will know, selling a seat does not mean it will be filled come game time.

    backinwhite (13) - To be fair to PL I don't think they've made any specific claims about what they've done to attract more fans from ethnic minorities. But I think they would probably point to campaigns like 'Kick It Out' and 'Show Racism the Red Card' as helping to stamp out overt racism at games. That said, you are right to suggest that much of this is down to wider developments in society (racism is no longer tolerated at the workplace, school, bus stop etc). I don't think you can just put this down to the 'fact' that there are more people from ethnic minorities in the wider population, though. The % of non-white people in UK population is growing but it's growing pretty slowly, certainly not quadrupling (2% to 8%) in less than a decade.

    Right, that's more than enough for now. Enjoy the weekend.

  • Comment number 17.

    What doesn't help the away fan is also the ridiculous train prices. Take Arsenal's game at Blackburn tomorrow. Its £70 by train this weekend and those were the prices a month ago which put me off going. With the cost of a ticket its £105 before getting food and drink. Its not easy to fund this every week. With the games on TV too its just not worth it.

  • Comment number 18.

    What's it got to do with you smurf....this is an article about PREMIERSHIP attendances !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    I think the fans have also got to look at themselves a little bit in reagrds to money, and ask themselves what they want out the game. I have sat in games and been on message boards and I hear fans saying things like 'We need another five signings', 'the chairman doesn't care about our club he needs to splash more cash', 'We've signed who? why can't we get a bigger name?' it's this kind of attitude that means the premiership has become this rat race of clubs trying to find billionair owners, and willing to pile themselves in debt to sign bigger names, it is all to please the fans. I hear people boasting about how good the premier league is, about how it has the best teams. Truth is if the premier league were a club it would be a Chelsea, successful yes, but on the back of big spending and in truth not as good as everyone thinks to watch.

  • Comment number 20.

    Its not just the PL where the prices have become too much. Its also the FL.

    I'm a Gillingham fan who currently lives in Torquay and both clubs are currently playing in L2, the lowest level within the FL and Gillingham charge £20 and Torquay £16.

    Now I don't wish to denigrate L2 players but on the whole most of them don't possess anywhere near the same level of skills as even the average PL player yet they are still charging more than many of the top European sides for their domestic league games.

    For example, I lived in Holland for a year and went to an Ajax game and granted it was in 1 of their lowest band games but I still got a ticket for €9 and for this price I got to watch players like Wesley Sneijder, Ryan Babel & Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for a lower price than I can see L2 players.

    Also, as mentioned above the price of travel is somewhat prohibitive to a number of fans, especially PL fans who often have games kicking off at times that are not train-travel friendly

  • Comment number 21.

    How can Ajax charge less than Gillingham? There must be something fundamentally wrong with the entire structure of English football. My suspicion is that 92 fully professional clubs is simply too many for a country of this size. Leagues in France, Spain and Italy are all regionalised and/or semi-professional below the second divisions, and we have to consider the same.

    Value for Money has to be a big part of the fans' experience. In an age of austerity, no clubs have significantly cut prices in the last few years, so it's inevitable that the fanbase is becoming more limited. The thing is, what can be done without losing the bulk of highly-waged overseas players or having every club owned by a faceless billionaire? I'm not certain of the scale of increase in ticket prices, but I'm pretty sure it followed the post-1994 World Cup rush to sign big name players from overseas. Then again, Huntelaar and Babel are probably on higher wages than any League 2 player, so there must be other inefficiencies at work.

  • Comment number 22.

    My season ticket at The WengArenA works out at £37 a game, second cheapest, which compares well to quoted prices at Gillingham or Blackburn.

    Wigan away was £20, Blackburn is £35. Both clubs can't sell their ground out but Blackburn want 75 per cent more!!

    English clubs should demand standing areas be returned and priced reasonably. We're still an independent nation, aren't we?

  • Comment number 23.

    English clubs should demand standing areas be returned and priced reasonably. We're still an independent nation, aren't we?
    -------------------------------
    Yes, which is why whilst it's not allowed in Britain (outside of old grounds in the lower leagues) you can still go and stand on a terrace elsewhere in Europe.

  • Comment number 24.

    Regionalisation is something I would like to see below Championship level. Where is the commercial sense in making Barnet and their supporters travel to Crewe?

    This can also have a detrimental effect on team performance. I understand that the Barnet team travelled up on the day of the game. One can only have sympathy for manager Mark Stimson who gave a very dignified interview to BBC Radio London after the game. There is a man who deserves some success.

    The total cost of travelling to an away match can be staggering, yet has the penny dropped at boardroom level? Boardrooms have bowed to pressure from agents, and the economic effect is reflected in ticket prices, and unpaid creditors.

    Following the outcome of the 2018/22 World Cup bids I would like to see a national enquiry into the overall state of the British game. I say British, because ticket prices in Scotland are also excessive. I was genuinely shocked when I saw what was being charged.

    Any enquiry has to be root and branch, league structure, player wages and agents fees, ticket prices, standing areas, the power of television, overseas takeovers, etc. It must also have bite. Football is covered by a government department, and regardless of what Fifa say politicians are entitled to give opinions, and become involved.

    When you see wonderful clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United loaded with debt, by overseas "investors", they should become involved. If not now, then when?

    Football is part of our cultural heritage, and Uefa and Fifa would do well to remember that. What would the administrators do for a living without football and its supporters? They are not heads of state.

    Politicians want a "big society" and a big part of that society is our national game, and its followers.

  • Comment number 25.

    Matt - this is 'good news' for the PL and its 'direction of travel'.
    The demographics (think thats the right term?) of those people attending PL matches, is very important to those who run the game, to its sponsors and ultimately it may well have an effect on whether England stage the 2018 WC, although many other factors precede this in importance, as far as hosting the WC goes.
    Being able to present, in particular, the PL levels of English football as a 'family/multicultural' activity is the goal, especially if the PL harbours any real hope of retaining the support of the PL clubs in negotiating new TV rights with SKY etc, as a group and not as individual businesses - which of course many PL clubs want to try!
    There are also many 'political' reasons for wanting the national sport to be , just that, something if not alway particpated in, then at least watched by the whole Nation. Although club football by its nature pits one set of fans against another, it also is great for helping to break down racial and other barriers in society - in short football can have a complete new lease of life, if only we could get the FA sorted out, we might even win the odd international competition!!

  • Comment number 26.

    Attendances seem to be better in the PL but what about the lower leagues. Every week on the Football League Show I see stadiums all over the country which are less than half empty.

    The ticket prices in the lower leagues are just as bad as the Premier League. I currently live in Stoke and have a wealth of teams in the region I would go and watch as a neutral if it wasn't for the fact that I refuse to be ripped off. These days you're looking at about £20 to go see the likes of Port Vale & Crewe in the bottom division.

    If the prices were half that I'd go but for some reason the clubs see this price as a sensible part of their business plan and it is easy to see why so many of them are in financial peril. If you had a shop full of overpriced goods and no-one bought them, you'd lower the prices to get people through the door. But with football, when no-one comes through the door, the prices remain the same.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hooligan haunted 80's? Oh how deadly must it have been to watch football in that evil decade? More media based drivel.

  • Comment number 28.

    #16 Matt wrote: Clubs should be the repositories of people's hopes, reflections of local pride (but not excessively so) and sustainable community assets. They should also be a lot fun.

    ..agree 100%. There's far too much conformity going on in today's game in aiming for an 'x' amount of this and and an 'x' amount of that, even stadiums are all beginning to look alike. Fifa and UEFA's policies are turning clubs and tournaments into bland clones of each other - even the grass has to be a certain shade of green for TV! It's all about a 'boxable product' when culturely we should be welcoming a bit of healthy diversity in all forms. 'Vuvuzelas' apart the last three World Cups 'inside the grounds' were indistinguishable. Mix it up, bring back some safe terracing, ticker-tape, allow more banners and flags, sections for (non-hooligan) hard-core support as well as family seating, and more visible local community involvement - a sense of belonging. Barca call themselves 'more than a club' because of their unique identity..which many envy. Football isn't like a night out at the Opera no matter what the TV companies try to package it as - it's more visceral and instinctive. When the passion dies..the love of the game will fade away.

  • Comment number 29.

    to point#6:

    I wonder if "true fans" reflect 'tribalism' in football, and your statement of "I'm really into football now" possbly reflects this article...that football is evolving and developing into something resembling 'live entertainment'...and yes watching millionaire footballers kicking a ball around can be very very expensive business.

    Does that mean the fans 'lose out'? Well the kind of person going to watch games is probably changing...perhaps 'tribal fans' are being replaced by people who simply want to be entertained...and when you're watching 22+ people on £million contracts...I suspect people really want to be entertained.

  • Comment number 30.

    'Football isn't like a night out at the Opera no matter what the TV companies try to package it as - it's more visceral and instinctive. When the passion dies..the love of the game will fade away.'

    Fine, but a lot of people would rather watch the game on tv than actually be there. I don't like travelling 4 hours on awful public transport, paying far too much to get into a ground or getting stuck in the rain - some people love this, but a lot of people don't.

    With TV you can follow a game more closely and not have to then take 5 hours to get home. I may miss some of the atmosphere - but not that much.

  • Comment number 31.

    "Because football, as our national sport, should reflect our nation, in all its shades and types."

    ----------------

    By that logic the English national team should have more white players to reflect the nation.

    How can we overcome racism, sexism or any other sort of discrimination while constantly referring to someones race, gender etc?

    These people are just fans like anybody else.

  • Comment number 32.

    "What's it got to do with you smurf....this is an article about PREMIERSHIP attendances !!!!!!!!!!!!"

    Erm, do you not think this would apply in other leagues perhaps?? It is however a shame that basically every blog is about the Premiership on the BBC, despite the far more exiting stuff which is being played in the FL and below.

  • Comment number 33.

    29. I think with very few exceptions "true fans" do reflect, and represent, tribalism in football. It's the tribalism that underpins the game worldwide. If that goes, which I can't see happening, then the game would really be in very serious trouble.

    Because of high ticket prices particularly in the top flight, I think many regular supporters are perhaps changing/being forced to change, the way they perceive a game. Perhaps a case of "We're paying thirty five quid for this, so we should try to enjoy it!" Not that easy when your team isn't doing well. As you suggest a perception of football as "live entertainment". Far easier for some than others.

    It's the long term commitment of the new/live entertainment fan that worries me, particularly if the true/tribal supporters continue to decline. Football clubs across the board have got to get to grips with this, particularly in the lower leagues.

    30. Agree entirely on the opera/passion point, together with the view on travelling. Part of the case for regionalisation perhaps? However I don't think you can beat the experience of a live match, where you can see the whole pitch, and the movement of players dragging their markers. That said television is a very attractive option, but regrettably that also comes at a price if you want the full "a la carte" menu.

  • Comment number 34.

    people like girls and children should not be encouraged at the football. crowds today sound like those from a schoolboy international or a netball game. i dont go to the tennis or the opera or the theatre cos i wanna drink & swear & fight. all of which were fine to do at football until terraces were banned and the family thing got big in the late 80's

    the ethnic make up of the crowd is of course irrelevant, as long as they are predominantly male and of an age whereby i dont have to watch my language. When people like the softie blog writer, who feed sugarlumps to police horses at derby games and Scudamore and his corporate hospitality set inevitably move onto some other pusuit, the games traditional owners (lads) may not be there to fall back on - they'll have grown tired of attending matches where your shown to your seat and have to listen to banter more suited to a church jumble sale than the big match. Does nobody remember the atmosphere of a packed terrace? bit special it was like

  • Comment number 35.

    I had to pay 72 pounds to see an Arsenal v West Ham game - the seat was in the top top corner (I was one row from the last). I live overseas,and general sale tickets are virtually impossible to get unless you maybe know someone who's a member. But that's the price I had to pay if I ever wanted to see the Gunners. Still though, 6 months later and I still shudder at how much I had to pay...Interesting that the demographics are shifting, but I wish the prices would too, so that access to affordable tickets is more readily available for fans.

    An earlier comment from someone living in Stoke mentioned being open to attending local matches of teams in lower divisions if the ticket prices weren't a rip-off. I concur - that's what's held me back in the past, too.

  • Comment number 36.

    As Arthur Daley might have said, if you're a fan, you're only a prawn in the game. The game consists of a relationship between the Leagues (mainly Premier), Murdoch's TV sponsorship, and the players' agents. Everyone else is an also ran. Only when fans properly appreciate that those in power in the game hold them in contempt will things improve. Listen to Delia! She made more sense about the game in five minutes than any man I've heard in the last five years!
    And despite the name, I am also a man and a follower of the game for forty years.

  • Comment number 37.

    #34- thankfully you are a dying breed of football supporter and I would say your opinions are thankfully irrelavant to this particular discussion.

    The statistics that have been published this week that prompted this blog need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

    FIFA sends out a mandate to prospective World Cup host nations, a large portion of this relates to Global Legacy and reaching out to minority groups.

    This week has been our showcase week for the FIFA delegation and the timing of the report is all part of our effort to impress.

    I believe the debate into crowd demographics is relevant and interesting, but the publication of these statistics was not to try and engage this debate, it was to satisfy the requirements of FIFA so we are succesful in our 2018 World Cup bid.

  • Comment number 38.

    Now, assume that we had more supporter-owned clubs in England (and by 'supporter-owned' I mean more than one or two wealthy supporters). Would the same mixes and costs apply?

    Arguably costs would be lower and the mix would resemble the fanbase, which would, in the long term, resemble the ethnic mix of the location of the team...?

  • Comment number 39.

    #16 Matt - The missus doesn't read the blog then? :-)

  • Comment number 40.

    It only matters who is attending matches in as much as there used to be a hostile environment for anyone not male and white at pretty much any ground in Britain. Evidence of that situation changing has to be a good thing. In that light, the fact that at one point on my way out of the ground today, I was following a woman in a Hijab was a great sign. The anti-semitic song sung at one point was not so good, so we clearly have a way to go.

    As for away ticket prices, I think there is a strong argument to have a standard price for away tickets and maybe take into account the cost of travelling to an away game. A recent away ticket to Wigan would have cost me £25 - a lot less than a home ticket. If that's all I would have had to pay to visit their stadium, should they have to pay more for the return leg?

    There could maybe be a sliding scale for the away tickets according to visibility, although there needs to be a minimum standard for visiting fans' seats. On which note, I would have to say that I saw no sign of any Stoke fans today being in reduced visibility seats, which are usually at reduced cost.

  • Comment number 41.

    To say that actual the number of people attending games is misleading as it gives that the percentage of attending games is dwon. The actual number of fans has decreased due to the teams that were relegated (ie Newcastle United) who had bigger stadiums, but the utilisation is the same at 92.4%. I have noticed a little bit of a decrease this season, but it doesn't make a huge deal to clubs as matchday is only 23% (EPL average) of their total revenue.

    Demographics are important from a marketing point of view. Clubs have noticed a satutation in the market, so they have started targeting various demographics, not necessarily ethic minorities, but mainly women and children. I think the fact that there are more ethnic minorities in the stadium is a good sign, although there is still some racism there. Clubs like Sunderland who banned a fan for shouting racist comments at Darren Bent's mother is good, but one wonders if she were the mother of someone not so high profile, would it have been brushed under the carpet.

    I agree with the people who say that age, sex, ethnicity and sexuality don't make a difference. We are the world. But I also agree with others who find it interesting.

  • Comment number 42.

    Great blog entry Matt,

    As a Leicester city fan and a class theorist, I can assure you social class (working class, middle class) is not just A-level sociology. Your right to point out that class has become more messy, but it is coming back with a bang.

    The problem with the report is that black and ethnic minority categories do not mean much on their own. Basically, many of the ethnic minority groups have themselves made a lot of money and entered the middle class, therefore, really we should be looking at the class structure and match attandance.

    Bearing in mind how poor we did in the world cup, we can now look at Germany as a league that produces home grown talent and a much cheaper match day experience. German clubs even pay for transport once your near the ground, as reported on 5LIVE. Fans are even clubbing together and the price of transport, with a ticket is working out at £30 travelling from the UK!!! I can only afford to go Leicester city matches when we get disscounted tickets, ussually they are £20 or more. I am white, working class and have a brain, therefore I choose to keep my money in me pocket.

  • Comment number 43.

    Its a shame there is little mention of the football league with a similar number of people attending the 3 leagues in total as the premier. What are the equivalent statistics for the less fashionable side of football; how many 'middle-class' go to see (no disrepect to) yeovil versus rochdale say on a cold, wet January evening. Surely the inclusion of the football league in the statistics would provide a better depiction of who is going to football matches these days and provide an interesting comparison between fashion-following football fans and traditional fan-bases that I think continue for non-premier clubs.

  • Comment number 44.

    #30 unounos wrote: With TV you can follow a game more closely and not have to then take 5 hours to get home. I may miss some of the atmosphere - but not that much.

    I'm not against watching games on TV either as costs make it necessary a lot of the time but it's becoming all too samey. Even the commentary and the pre-match, half-time and full-time comments seem repeated as if presenters have it down pat (regurgetaed script)..don't even bother listening nowadays! Don't you think your experience watching a game on TV is vastly improved if there's a great atmosphere created by the fans that are actually there? Games with empty seats are more often than not boring spectacles to watch so clubs still need to look after non-armchair supporters.

  • Comment number 45.

    I really don't like the inferences being drawn, by saying that it was only white males/working class who attended match days. I mean aren't we living in a country who's population is predominately white, so it stands to reason that's who would attend the matches. Now the demographics have changed so will the attendance's. Real football fans don't really care who they stand/sit next to, as long as it's a fellow support which has been pointed out by quite a few people commenting on this blog.

  • Comment number 46.

    I no longer go to away games for my first side (Wigan). I did when we first came up but after spending £500 watching just 9 away games I decided that it just wasn't worth it. I now follow my local non-league side when Wigan are away, I even follow them away. An afternoon watching non-league costs me £10 for entry, coffee and programme with minimal costs for travel (my most expensive trip this season likely to be £40 over to Durham City).

    The sad thing is that the fans don't matter in the top flight, we can watch it all on TV but we lose the beauty of the game, the funny chants, the football friendships and more. As Wigan fans will know from repeatedly pointing out there is no attendance column in the league table, it is all down now to who can buy the best players.

  • Comment number 47.

    Only those obsessed with race and gender care about this

    Good comment. If people like watching football they will go, no matter what their race is.

  • Comment number 48.

    Does anyone cares who they sit next too? aslong as attendence's are increasing surely thats the main thing? 'smaller' clubs getting more income from loyal fans who should be paying respective prices is surely the main concern over if somoeone is sitting next to a lower or upper class fan.

  • Comment number 49.

    care*

  • Comment number 50.

    Football has now become very expensive and there are shed loads of people (mainly from the 80s,etc I guess) that are being priced out of the game.

    What is good though is that the passion hasnt died. Ok, there are some who claim that it isnt the same as twenty years ago and I would have to take their word for it, but I love the passion, the singing and chanting at games. Its still there and in my opinion, makes football what it is. Its the buzz people love.

    I think though that the FA should consider a cheap, standing area in grounds once again. It works very well in other European leagues and there are still many stands in this country where supporters stand for te duration of the game, despite the efforts of those horrible stewards.

  • Comment number 51.

    I agree regarding the stats, aslong as people are going to the game (apart from the idiot element) who cares?

    What really gets me as a life long and 3rd generation Chelsea fan living in the West Country (Proper)is that its so difficult to plan a trip for a game, you look at the fixturesand think ahh yeah we'll do that one and so you plan and book your train etc and then ohhhh MR SKY/MR ESPN have moved it and it bu$$ers up your plans!!!!! I appreciate that come the end of the season they will pick and choose the best games according to the league but early on can the not be more up front??
    Moan over!

  • Comment number 52.

    Oh and I forgot! for me a trip to the Bridge is a minimum £120 day!!!!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    Quite a good read Matt. The part that is of most interest to me is the bit where you talk about the £35 match ticket at Blackburn in the away section. Firstly, Arsenal charge £47 for tickets in their away section and with them being one of the most expensive clubs to watch im sure that £35 match ticket is easily affordable for the Arsenal fans as they are used to paying larger sums for tickets at the Emirates. Its the teams like Blackburn, Bolton and Wigan who charge a pittance for their season tickets and most match tickets so they get used to paying very little and when an away match goes on sale and you have to pay £47 at Arsenal and £41 at Man Utd thats why they dont sell their allocations.
    Secondly, this minimum allocation you spoke of 3,000? Could somebody confirm this is true because last season Man Utd where given 1,900 at Tottenham and 1,700 at Sunderland, and its not a case of United not being able to sell their away allocation as it sells out at every single game and always will.

  • Comment number 54.

    Premier league teams and the matches are so boring. Not enough exciting players - unlike the Spanish/ Italian leagues.

    Same old Rooney who can only score when given a penalty.

  • Comment number 55.

    No it doesn't matter who watches football, but this misses the point. The point is that people who wanted to watch couldn't due to either overt racism in the crowd or the undercurrent of violence. Now that both these problems are going they are more inclined to go.

    Clubs now target the middle and upper classes as they are the ones who afford not only the ticket prices but also more importantly all the replica goods. Interestingly the game and the players remain basically working class, even though the population of the Uk has itself changed dramatically from being the traditional view of working class. Thoroughly recommend the book "Why England Lose" which examines this question and other really thought provoking subjects.

  • Comment number 56.

    What amazes me is how the front 5 rows at grounds charge the same price as 10 rows back, where you see so much more.

    I went to Anfield a few years ago and the seat was right at the front in the corner. It was actually BELOW the pitch.

    The atmosphere was amazing, the best I experienced, but for what you could actually see, £35 was quite an expense.......

  • Comment number 57.

    premier league games especially for london clubs are a complete rip off ,and the practise of upping the ticket prices for the top top(united) clubs when they are in town is totally wrong.All premier league ticket prices should have a sealing of a max price ie £30 .The prawn sandwich brigade can watch polo or something else give football back to the people.

  • Comment number 58.

    #37 - #34 is a WUM. Probably a 12 year looking for a reaction.

    I find it odd the number of people that take issue with away matches - cost of travel and distance and effort etc. England probably has the most highly concentrated top flight sports in the World. You're probably never more than 100 miles from a major stadium and often have many within that range. Sometimes away matches are just too far to travel cheaply. So be it. Name another country where you can travel to away matches for less cost and effort. Liechtenstein probably.

  • Comment number 59.

    I can only see diversification of match attendees as a good thing. Spectator sports are a communal experience and should be enjoyed in a congenial atmosphere where the game is supported in the right spirit.

    I am a regular attendee at the DW Stadium, a ground that can hardly be described as oversubscribed (for the football anyway). However, it has always struck me that a lot of women show up to watch Wigan play and (seeing as support for the club has really only taken off since 2005 due to Premiership status) an argument can be made to say they have been a key demographic of Wigan supporters and look set to remain so.

    As a point for comparrison, I went to Lords Cricket Ground on Thursday to watch water bucket from the sky. Easily the least diverse crowd I've been in with it being almost exclusively male, white and well-off. Cricket seems to be a male orientated sport without having had the same degree of problems that football has had regarding crowd animosity. I wonder why that is?

  • Comment number 60.

    Stuff the demographics, how about safe, affordable standing areas to bring back some atmosphere.

    Old Trafford is like a morgue these days, with the possible exception of CL knock-out nights.

  • Comment number 61.

    "Does nobody remember the atmosphere of a packed terrace? bit special it was like"

    Agreed.

  • Comment number 62.

    Interesting article but misses out on key issues.

    1) With a couple of exceptions atmosphere has almost disappeared. Old Trafford is less the theatre of dreams than the theatre of silence for example. Why is this happening, principally because to pay for vastly inflated wages, clubs have to vastly inflate ticket and season ticket prices. This prices out of football those fans who actually sing leaving the ground to many who have enough disposable income but would not lower themselves to sing and chant.

    2) The exorbitant pricing of football is a self-fulfilling spiral upwards, caused by the need to gain success by paying ludicrous wages to over-rated footballers and the consequent need to sell as many tickets as possible at the highest possible price to pay these wages.

    Is this restricted to the Prem, not a bit of it. Whilst I pay over £400 for a Championship club Season Ticket I could get two Season Tickets in the equivalent Bundesliga B.

    The great football supporter rip-off continues until a major club loses it's rich backer and lands in administration. Not that the Premier League will do anything to stop that happening they are merely corporate yes men.

  • Comment number 63.

    46 pounds a ticket? i am 20 and a season ticket holder at luton. If i had paid full price for my young adult season ticket it would have been £300. divided by the 23 games that includes, means a match costs 13.

    as it stands luton offered a special price to buy a season ticket before the end of may for my age group at £200 thats around £8 a game.

    we have so far averaged 6500 attendance in the blue square premier? People always complain about the prices of premier league games but nothing will ever happen unless people start doing something about it!! I would urge all people dissatisfied with the ludicrous amount of money being spent on the premier league, go to your local non league side it is often more entertaining and be honest when you see chelsea vs west brom for example 95% of the time that kind of match os a foregone conclusion whereas luton vs grimsby this saturday is anybody's guess as to the result.

    too many people start these "pub revolutions" sitting around with mates arguing that it's unfair and saying how football is being turned into a prawn sandwich brigade nowadays then trudge off to the overpriced game to sit with the prawn sandwich brigade. I say if you are that unhappy do something about it go spend a third of the cost at a more local side where more than likely the clubs finances are struggling because of the lack of funding at lower levels compared to premiership. the premiership is crippling this countries grass roots football and something needs to be done

  • Comment number 64.

  • Comment number 65.

    Blackburn charge matches depending on the expected size of the crowd. Arsenal supporters were required to pay £35 for an adult ticket. Fulham supporters will be required to pay £10 for an adult ticket at the next match. This is simple economics designed to maximise the attendance at each match. If Arsenal fans don't like paying £35 I suggest they start supporting Fulham.

    PS. As a Rovers fan I pay £209 for a season ticket. Yet I usually have to pay well beyond £20 as an away supporter at any other Premiership ground.

  • Comment number 66.

    i know this thing is about peoples opinions but to be hounest shouldnt football be a game to enjoy no matter if your black white poor middle class it should be about supporting your team yeah attendace increase is great but shouldnt matter who it is mor supporters for the club just enjoy the game im 17 years old and to be hounest you lot are fighting like a bunch of girls its not like we can change anything just enjoy "THE BEAUTIFUL GAME"

 

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