Pensioners priced out of football
If you're a pensioner and you want to see a category A game at Loftus Road – that's a match against the Manchester teams, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool – and you're not a club member you'll need to fork out between 40 and £60 for a ticket. Those prices represent discounts of 9-14%, the slimmest in the top flight.
For category B matches, the price range for pensioners is between £30 and £50 – a discount of between 11-16%. Prices at nearby Fulham are almost as bad, with category A prices of £35-£45 representing a discount of between 22-27%. Outside London, the picture is not much better.
Liverpool and Man UnitedLiverpool charge between £34-£36 for top games, a discount of around 25%. At Manchester City's stadium, the over-65s must pay between £30 and £39, discounts of between 19-27%. But at Manchester United's Old Trafford, senior citizens get a 50% discount, with a maximum price of £20.
At other top clubs, there are also more generous discounts on offer. Chelsea and Arsenal offer seats for around 60% off. This has to be seen against the fact that ticket prices at the larger clubs are generally higher, so it is perhaps easier to offer discounts. But it's the range of discount policy that has attracted comment, as well as the price levels.
'There seems to be absolutely no justification for such a wide range of variation between clubs,' said FSF chair Malcolm Clarke. "You certainly couldn't comfortably go to Premier League games – unless you had a big discount – if you were wholly reliant on the state pension."
Age UKAge UK said barriers to attending football risk making the problem of social exclusion of the old worse. "It is important that older people have the opportunity to go out and be entertained," said Greg Lewis of Age UK, adding: "They face a higher rate of inflation than people in their 20s and 30s, because of what they spend their money on."
The FSF also highlighted the effect of severing the lifetime ties between fan and club. "It would be an awful shame if people who had given a lifetime of support to clubs find that they're dropping out because they can't afford it," said Clarke. And that touches on a debate central to football.
The game has grown to be what it is after decades in which it was embraced by a mass audience, and the sport benefited from the deep loyalties which the growth of club football promoted. That enabled it to develop as the business it now is, capitalising on huge demand and entrenched loyalties to maximise income.
But this, in turn, risks turning the game into just another commodity. Clubs face a conflict between following the law of supply and demand and delivering the community benefits they claim to still embrace. Unless they find a better balance, the risk is that the audience will turn away to find a more affordable commodity.