By Tony Attwood
Even by its own uneven standards the Guardian today has exceeded itself. Under the headline “Cheapest tickets in the English game have risen by 13% since 2011” the daily paper then has a picture of the Emirates Stadium under which is the statement “Arsenal charge £97 for their top-priced match day ticket at the Emirates, the most expensive in England”
Now we might pause here for a moment and contemplate. The headline is about the “cheapest tickets” but then there is a picture of the Emirates and a note about expensive tickets – which is not the subject of the article at all.
The piece focussed on the BBC’s annual Price of Football survey, which found that the average price of the cheapest ticket had risen at almost twice the rate of the cost of living since it began in 2011.
Now much of the piece is the usual mishmash of misinformed statistics. For example they say, “Over the past 12 months, during which there has been increased pressure from supporters’ groups over prices for away fans in particular, the cheapest tickets have risen an average of 4.4% from £20.58 to £21.49 – more than treble the rate of inflation which is 1.2%.”
The problem with such statements is that over the past 12 months there has been demand from fans of Premier League clubs to pay more players. You only have to think of Arsenal in this regard. We had the biggest growth of expenditure on player transfers and salaries ever – all as demanded by the fans – and yet the AAA and their allies in the Guardian, Telegraph etc were saying how desperate the situation was for Arsenal and how we needed two more players. Had we bought them (and the papers are continuing to press for such purchases in January) our costs would have risen by another £35m or more (when salary and transfers are included).
So where does that money come from? In part TV, in part sponsorship, and in part tickets. One might well argue further along these lines, but at least putting the broader picture would stop the article being so crazy,
But that is only the start.
If we go back to the self-same Guardian in 2013 we find this (the top 10 priced tickets are shown in order – teams relegated last season have been removed from the list). It is not a complete list of club ticket prices, but it gives an indication of what is going on.
Cheapest matchday ticket,
|Aston Villa||20 *|
|Manchester City||26 (10)|
|Manchester United||31 (6)|
|West Bromwich||20 *|
|West Ham||36 (3)|
I’ve added a guide to the rankings in brackets and marked the little group that have particularly low prices. It should also be noted that unlike the Emirates so stadia have “restricted view” seats – Liverpool is notorious for this, for example, and yet their lowest prices are among the highest.
Now it is fair to say that “the cheapest tickets have risen an average of 4.4% from £20.58 to £21.49 – more than treble the rate of inflation which is 1.2%.” But given the headline of the piece “Cheapest tickets in the English game have risen by 13% since 2011” what we should find is a sub heading that says Chelsea’s cheapest seats are over 150% the price of Arsenal’s cheapest.
And all this is before the fact that Arsenal, uniquely, charges £10 and £20 for league cup matches. Indeed even in the field of replica shirts (another area where Arsenal are traditionally bashed by the Guardian) they can’t knock us down. Manchester United and Manchester City charge the most for a replica shirt at £55, with Hull City’s the cheapest at £39.99.
Indeed apparently we don’t even have the most expensive pie. The Conference side Kidderminster Harriers have the most expensive pie among the clubs covered by the survey at £4.50. In the Premier League, Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Southampton have the most expensive pie at £4.
Liverpool, Manchester United and Southampton sell the most expensive cups of tea at £2.50, while Burnley and Manchester City have the cheapest tea in the Premier League at £1.80.
The price of football is controlled by the price of footballers – and they command enormous salaries. The one thing Lord Sugar ever did in his life, as chair of Tottenham (apart from appointing Christian Gross) which I have applauded was to suggest to the League that some of the TV money that was starting to flow into the game at the time, should be set aside and not just handed onto the clubs. The clubs rejected it, got the money and paid it to players.
Anyone who wants cheaper, or at least non-inflating prices for football, should push for a salary cap on clubs. That would encourage the use of younger players, and stop player salaries growing exponentially year on year.
The Guardian, being a paper read by the more intelligent readers in the UK, could lead such a campaign. Indeed one might say it ought to lead such a campaign. But instead it just continues on its remorseless Arsenal-bashing, which has now got to the stage where the facts at the basis of the article bear so little relationship to their ranting sub-headings, that the pieces are becoming collectors’ items, used in psychology courses when the topic of information manipulation comes up.
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