The number of football fans intending to turn their backs on going to live matches has increased as the cost of attending games becomes ever harder to bear for hardcore fans, according to Virgin Money’s authoritative Football Fans’ Inflation Index.
Research for the index shows that 30 per cent of regular match goers have resolved to go to fewer live games in the ‘09/’10 season because of the cost – up from 26 per cent in pre-season last year.
And of those out-priced fans, 22 per cent are intending to follow a less expensive lower league club in order to ensure they continue to get their regular fix of live football.
Virgin Money’s Football Fans’ Inflation Index, which has tracked the cost of being a fan since January 2006, helps explain why – costs for fans have risen 15.1 per cent year-on-year and by 29.6 per cent compared to when the index launched in October 2006.
Rail fares, ticket prices and pay-per-view costs have all increased significantly compared to last year while costs in every category of the Virgin Money basket of goods have increased compared to when the Football Fans Inflation Index launched.
The research among more than 4,000 fans representing all 92 clubs in the Football League is worrying for all clubs, but three of the Big Four Premiership clubs are most at risk where 33 per cent of hardcore fans plan to go to fewer games. Birmingham, West Ham and Wolves fans are close behind at 31 per cent.
Premier League clubs that have the least to worry about include newly-promoted Burnley, Fulham and Hull. However even they face up to one in five fans cutting down.
Grant Bather, spokesman for Virgin Money, said: “Clubs need to come down from planet football and live in the real world. Despite some efforts to cut or freeze ticket prices, for many fans attending just one game burns a big hole in their pockets. To attend 10, 20 or 30 games in a season is asking a lot when prices are so high.”
Virgin Money says supporters are only reacting to increasing pressures on their finances which have been caused by rising unemployment and increasing mortgage, food and fuel costs.
Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the Football Supporters Federation, commented: “It is very worrying that ‘football inflation’ continues at a level way above standard inflation. Football fans are you, me and the bloke next door, not a different race, and with people losing their jobs and being worried about the future, it’s not surprising that going to the match – a leisure activity – might suffer.
“And in the middle of all this, fans see huge sums of money being paid in transfer fees and even a club talking of paying a player a million pounds a month, which many regard as obscene. A little bit of prudence – and a little bit of humility – from those at the top of our game, would not come amiss in the current climate.”
Virgin Money’s Football Fans’ Price Index shows that in the past two and a half years the cost of attending games has risen by 29.60 per cent. The index is aimed at helping supporters keep track of the rises and falls in the costs of supporting their team. The company identified the match day essentials fans buy and keeps tabs on increases and decreases.
At the launch of the index in January 2006, the match day basket of goods** cost £77.95. However the most recent analysis puts the cost at £101.02 – a rise of £23.07. Virgin Money’s Football Fans’ Prices Index runs every three months and the firm’s research team examines the cost of items such as a gallon of petrol, match tickets food, alcohol, train tickets and replica shirts.
* Football Fans’ Census interviewed a representative sample of 4,032 football fans between 8th and 20th July 2009
** The basket of goods includes a gallon of petrol, a pint of lager, a bacon roll, a train fare, a match ticket, a replica shirt, pay-per-view cost and a match programme.