The Spiraling Cost of Following Football

Liverpool fans recently held a banner aloft with the immortal words of the late, great Jock Stein proclaiming “Football without fans Is nothing.”It’s a sentiment I totally agree with, and I’m sure every football fan who travels the length and breadth of the country following their teams will say the same.

I no longer belong to that Band of Brothers. It’s not that I don’t want to be or that I’m anti-social. Frankly, I can’t afford it.

As I sat in the comfort of my armchair on Saturday, I felt a pang of guilt as the cameras panned on to the evergreen Hoops supporters who had travelled to support the team. The attendance figure reads 6,501. Could I have made it 6,502? Possibly. But I would have needed to spend upwards of £50 to enjoy the pleasure.

And it’s not just the money. It’s the demonisation of the football fan in general. If it’s not the government passing laws about what we can sing, or the police and their now constant harassment of the Green Brigade, or the way every incident in the stands is highlighted, or idiots on radio shows or in the papers talking about how the “hate” between fans is at an all time high – as though we don’t work beside rival supporters, and live with rival supporters, or share friendships with rival fans – it’s the shocking number of buses being stopped on motorways and searched for drink.

Do you ever see buses carrying Hen Parties or Stag Do’s being stopped on the way to Blackpool or Newcastle? The point being, these are ordinary folk, doing what they like best, being treated like animals – and spending a lot of money in the process.

With a wife and two kids to support, I’m one of many who can barely afford the home outings and to take this kind of money out of the family kitty is simply unsustainable. Ordinary fans are being priced out. It’s that simple.

I really do envy these diehards who are willing and able to spend so much of their hard-earned cash on this game, and I have no doubt they have bleeding ears from their better halfs about it. I cannot fathom how they manage it in times of austerity. It really does show what a true supporter is. I am simply unable to join them.
I was recently asked by a fan of another club what it means to support Celtic.

I replied, “I support Celtic because of their attractive cavalier football and it is in my blood. When we win big games like the Barca one , it is the greatest high and defeats genuinely hurt. I feel part of the Celtic family and I believe Celtic is more than a club, it is a passion and a cause.”

I am not an armchair fan by choice. If I could go to away games I would. I’m no longer the marauding teenager or singleton in his twenties with a huge amount of disposable income. Nor am I the high-flying exec on a six-figure salary. I have many fond memories of travelling to Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and, of course, Europe. The money I spent was obscene. I remember traveling to Easter Road in 1996 to see Celtic take on Whitehill Welfare. I set off with £80 only to wake up on the Monday morning with £3 in my pocket, no memory of getting home and a half-eaten donner kebab for company. That kind of excess is bad enough, but these days … increase the price of a match ticket to present levels, and almost half the average council worker’s weekly wage is gone … on a single game and its drunken aftermath. For a man with a family, it’s a non starter.

I take my bhoy to Paradise every second Saturday. There’s a ritual of course. Few pints before we leave, cola for the wee fella. Carry out for the bus and then there’s the fags. I’m probably £25 down BEFORE I get to the game. Bus for two, around a tenner – bearing in mind I’ve already shelled out £630 for an Adult and Junior Ticket.

I nearly choked at the last home game. As half-time loomed the wee man tugged the jacket.

“I’m starving”.

So we nipped down – 2 Pies and Bovril with the customary fries (yes, fries – you know the skinny ones, not the chippy numbers). It cost over £8. I nearly choked on the lukewarm pastry as I wearily handed over the last brown note on my person. There I was, the game at the interval, and I was over forty quid down … at a season ticket match.

Thank God he never asked for the customary hat, scarf, badge or tape.
Football clubs are businesses and I’m sure I understand simple economics. How much are Celtic buying pies and the like in at? I know we need to build in staffing costs and other overhead costs, but you can buy a pie in Greggs for about 80p….almost three times less the cost. Football fans, whilst being treated like second class citizens, are readily, and all too easily, exploited. For that kind of dough, if you pardon the pun, it be expecting Ciabatta with prime steak infuse with foie gras with a large glass of Chianti.

Well….Back to the away games. It’s irksome that Celtic fans are charged more than other teams fans for away games – it’s a Category A game you know. What makes the average Celtic fan more able to afford a £30 ticket than say a Motherwell fan? How can it be right to increase prices one week and drop them like an anvil the next week, just because a different team is coming to town? Of course, Celtic, as a club, are guilty of charging
visitors a few quid too ….

The hierarchy at all Clubs need to take stock in times of austerity. There’s the one-off gestures of goodwill that may get a few more punters through the gates. Why not look at the German model? You would never pay 30 Euros never mind 30 quid to see a Bundesliga match. What’s more, the product is a bit more refined than the SPL.Why not fill a 10,000 seater with people paying £15 a ticket as opposed to half-filling it with tickets at £30. Let kids in for free or a nominal fee – after all you can’t lift them over the gate now. You might not make as much money as you’d hoped but travelling fans deserve someone to goad and shout at after a hard week at work! The intensity of a hostile home support baying for your blood cannot be beaten. Look at Tynecastle the other week.

Basically, the average working class man is being priced out of the game. Although your average Rangers fan will wave the Big Attendance Trophy in front of you on a weekly basis, I’ll be intrigued to see what their average attendance will be should they move up divisions and charge more. Charles Green certainly won’t be charging £15 a skull. He’s a Yorkshireman you know, someone who looks after the pennies. There will be similar exploitation of the masses.

Just make the game more affordable. Give guys a chance to follow their teams away. Treat the fans with the respect they deserve, they are your audience.Or football, without the fans, will be nothing.

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Gavin McCann

A dipsomaniac funambulist steadying himself on life’s tightrope through the medium of writing. I “suffer” from diphallic terata with mild polyorchidity. Like a dug wi’ two dicks.

3 thoughts on “The Spiraling Cost of Following Football

  • 12 December, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Gav, Celtic have outsourced their catering. They get paid whether we buy pies or not.They have no control over the prices. I decided long ago it was overpriced for food and drink at the game and stopped buying anything (hard with kids at the game, I know). Coupled with the fact you aren’t allowed to take in your own drinks, they have us by the danglies. Stop buying and they might get the message.

    ……………and it’s about time you chucked the fags!

    Hail Hail

  • 12 December, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    You have just described my fortnightly outings to Celtic park down to a tee. Stopped away games many years ago due to cost and 2 new siblings. Took the survey about catering but don’t think anything will change. I’ve another kid due in march so not sure how much longer I can justify the money I’m spending, and that’s with a kids 50quid ticket which I hear won’t be available next season.

    Hail Hail

  • 12 December, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Ah….that explains the further inflated pricing. Still…they pay their workers a minimum wage no doubt…it’s a hell of a lot of money for a pie!

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