Premier League fans may feel they are paying too much for tickets, but Tim Collings outlines 11 reasons why they may not be paying over the odds.
Angry and disillusioned football fans are right to grumble at being ripped off by greedy English Premier League football clubs’ ticket prices but they also need to stop and think why.
In a sellers’ market, the football they pay to watch, when they support their team, is the most sought-after show on earth.
Just as the elite English clubs embark on another expected annual spree of around £130 million in this month’s transfer window, some are waking up to a need to keep their supporters happy – and keep them in the stadium.
Overseas rights will bring in more than £1 billion-a-year and Sky and BT Sport will be paying a record £5.136 billion for domestic live broadcast rights from 2016 to 2019, but for stadium tickets it’s most expensive in Europe.
So why do some Premier League clubs, notably in London, think they can still charge more than FC Barcelona, the Royal Opera House or Real Madrid?
German fans can buy Bundesliga tickets for less than £12 – while the average price in England is more than £30 - and, stunningly, West Ham reportedly charged children £46-a-head for their clash with Chelsea earlier this season.
But arguably it’s worth it. And here’s why…
1 ENTERTAINMENT: It delivers a unique combination of dramatic and unpredictable football within a compelling media-made soap-opera – manifested this season by seeing Leicester lead and Chelsea crash and their respective managers’ contrasting fates.
2 PASSION: What it sometimes lacks in tactical and technical finesse, the EPL makes up for in raw commitment and enthusiasm. Crazy results; heart-wrenching heroism; pantomime meets tragedy. It’s what every fan loves.
3 INTERNATIONAL: No other league has such a wide range of top global stars. In 1992, an average of 11 non-British (or Irish) players appeared in the EPL. Two decades on, more than 70 nationalities are represented. Barcelona, Munich and Madrid apart, the best in the world play in England every week.
4 HISTORY: The tradition of English football enriches every match and every stadium. Old rivalries, ancient records and a link with past legends that enrich keenly awaited fixtures. Do you remember when George Best scored six…?
5 QUALITY: The EPL delivers top-class performances every week. When the league started in 1992, England was 13th in the UEFA Coefficient table. By 2013, it was third behind Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A. And it supplies the majority of the players at most major international tournaments. It is the best.
6 RIVALRY: Local pride means more big derbys happen than in any other league, contests that reverberate with traditions, old associations and deep roots often embodied in style of play and self-image - Arsenal v Spurs, Everton v Liverpool and Manchester’s City v United.
7 UNPREDICTABILITY: It is often said that any team, on their day, can beat any other in the EPL. It is open and highly competitive, as proven by Leicester’s rise and Chelsea’s fall this year and the feats of Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Stoke City. It is not the two-horse race of so many other leagues. It has real depth of quality now and every team has real ability and style.
8 SPENDING MONEY: The EPL has cash to burn and teams perform (unless sulking after a fallout with soon-to-depart manager) with a swagger. It’s unapologetically elitist and rich. That gives everyone involved the feeling that they are shopping in Harrods every week. It rubs off and the clubs spend well by importing the best performers in rival leagues to add depth and quality.
9 INFRASTRUCTURE: Most EPL stadia are modern, many are state-of-the-art and some are stunning. It makes for a comfortable and spectacular experience at odds with the open terraces, muddy pitches and gloomy ‘facilities’ of some other European leagues.
10. EGOS: From dugouts to boardrooms and team hotels to nightclubs, the EPL narrative is littered with larger-than-life personalities – the Special One, the ‘normal one’ and LVG compete for celebrity with WAGS and madmen. They are legends in a media melodrama that often leads the news agenda, usurping politicians in the headlines. The EPL is always generating big stories.
11. FANS: Last, but not least, English fans are loud, proud and knowledgeable, inspiring teams and individuals to achieve their best. They generate atmosphere at every match, every week, adding spectacle and noise in an unrivalled range of colours, songs and wit.
All this has helped earn billions to date for the EPL, but does it prove that the league can justify its prices?
This is now a business where more customers sit on sofas and hold remote controls than in stadiums with rattles. Which is perhaps why, right now, it feels it can afford to remain exclusive and keep those ticket prices high…