Is football still affordable for the working classes?

Fans at match Cheapest tickets for English league football average £21.24, according to the BBC Price of Football Survey

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With players earning £200,000 a week, transfers of more than £50m and match tickets up to £126, can football still be considered a sport of the working classes?

Wales manager Chris Coleman says the distance between players and fans has grown because of what the two sets are earning.

So what are the opinions of others involved in the game and how can it be made more affordable? We asked three people their views.

The fan

Tim Hartley has been following Cardiff City for the past 38 seasons. When he started going to matches the price of tickets was hardly a consideration. Now he feels it's getting harder for supporters.

"I fear the working man is being priced out slowly and it would be a pity if this continued.

"There is no atmosphere in a stadium without passionate, committed fans.

How clubs help

  • Stoke City hasn't increased their ticket prices since being promoted to the Premier League in 2008. This year they're offering free coach travel to away games
  • Arsenal has a discount scheme for younger supporters and has set up a ticket exchange scheme for season ticket holders that can't get to a match
  • Crystal Palace is offering discounts for 18 to 21-year-olds at every home game.
  • A number of clubs allow fans to pay for season tickets through interest-free direct debit instalments.
  • Aston Villa offer its season ticket holders a loyalty scheme to get money off tickets, food, drink and merchandise.
  • Brighton Hove Albion offers season ticket holders free bus travel within the city on match days .

"If you turn football into a one-off special treat like going to the cinema or going to the opera, it's not going to be the game we all love."

As the team start life in the Premier League Tim's still paying Championship prices for his season ticket. A few years ago he took advantage of a price freeze offer at the club.

He says that £349 for the season is great value at around £18 a game but going to away games can be more expensive with some tickets over £50.

"As a family we can't go to every away match like we used to. We are picking and choosing where we go."

As chairman of Cardiff City Supporters' Trust he wants the prices of away tickets fixed.

"At around £20 I think more people would go.

"My top tip to reduce the cost on away games is to fill your car with friends, pack some sandwiches and bring a thermos," he said.

The fansite owner

Matt Cook's tips

Football in the net
  • Book your tickets early - particularly trains, hotels and parking - to get the best deal
  • Get flexible rates for your transport and accommodation in case kick-off times change
  • Share cars and fuel costs
  • Eat before you get to the stadium. Food at the grounds can be expensive, vary in quality and mean standing in a long queue
  • Buy club branded hoodies or t-shirts rather than the replica shirt. It's usually cheaper and you don't need to replace it every season
  • Talk to fans of other clubs for their tips and share knowledge about the cost and quality of what's available at each ground

Matt Cook is founder of First Rate Football - a fans' guide to football grounds.

He feels football is still a working man's sport but thinks clubs need to keep focused on catering for all budgets.

For Matt, the biggest challenge is the cost of transport.

"As a Brighton and Hove Albion supporter in London I have to travel by train to every home match," he says.

"With limited car parking spaces and trains servicing the route on match day there's only so much I can do to keep the cost down."

New Financial Fair Play rules start this season, aimed at stopping clubs from getting into money problems.

Matt thinks it will benefit supporters.

"As a fan I fear too much money is going out of the game and straight into the players' pockets.

"Hopefully the new rules will play a part in helping supporters' costs. It's a good idea to prevent clubs overspending and risking their long term relationship with the fans."

The finance expert

Football now appeals to a wider class of people, not just the working man. That's the view of Dr John Beech from Coventry University.

Even Prime Ministers and members of the Royal Family are open football supporters. Prince William is an Aston Villa fan.

Dr Beech is concerned that in the future fans' passion for their teams could be turned against them as teams aim to make more money.

"Football clubs are under pressure to generate revenue to compete at the highest level,

"Clubs are producing a third kit outside the home and away strip for fans to buy. I wonder how much further can clubs go in their pursuit of generating revenue?"

For the love of the game?

The beautiful game in paintings

Sir Bobby Charlton

Watch a slideshow about the history of football, from Henry VIII to Bobby Charlton

Football and money seem to be more closely linked than ever. Being a fan is unlikely to become much cheaper anytime soon.

For the supporters the game is more about love. Cost will usually come second.

But as prices increase fans may be forced to be more selective about when and how they support.

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