At Liverpool’s home match against Hull last Saturday, fans were expressing more than just anger at yet another lacklustre performance. Banners across the stands read “supporters not customers” and “Kop kids pay adult prices” as fans protested at Liverpool remaining one of the most expensive clubs in the Premier League.
The cheapest match day ticket for LFC now costs £45.80, second only to Arsenal, at £57.50, as the most expensive club in the Premier League whilst season tickets now cost over £700.
However this is not only a cause of tension at Anfield. Prices across English football have been rising exponentially. In the last three years alone, the average price of the cheapest tickets across English football has risen at almost twice the rate of the cost of living.
These prices seriously threaten the accessibility of football, and therefore a core aspect of this great game’s unique identity. For generations football has been considered one of the most egalitarian sports, accessible to watch and play for fans from diverse backgrounds.
Professional football is one of the few athletic disciplines to remain dominated by players from working class backgrounds as the game doesn’t demand expensive one on-one-training or sophisticated equipment or facilities for young people to become involved in the game.
This accessibility used to extend to match days too. Affordable matches made football a sport
many people could enjoy and be part of without having to worry about the cost. This also arguably created a better atmosphere at games as fans were able to attend routinely, with large groups and as families, and follow the team’s progress more intimately.
This is the spirit of football that the price raises threaten. Exorbitant prices can push out lower-income fans and threaten the game’s working class roots by pushing out those who cannot afford the tickets. If matches become occasional extravagances it destroys the element of a communal fan experience.
It can also create increased resentment when team performance fails, as the money paid doesn’t correspond with direct success. This becomes increasingly grating when compared to European football as the cheapest season ticket for European Champions Real Madrid costs less than a third of Liverpool’s, at only £174.65. If supporters aren’t paying in proportion to team performance then the ridiculousness of the escalating cost is only heightened.
Most importantly, the increased cost of football, both at Liverpool and in the wider league, pressures the game to become exclusive to those who are privileged enough to afford the tickets. Matches become less viable as a family experience, the first introduction many fans have to the sport, as fewer families can actually afford to go. It reduces the sport to something so distanced and elitist that, for the majority, it will only ever be seen on a TV screen, thereby killing the communal nature of the supporter’s experience.