© The Fan Experience Company 2022
Cost of living crisis: Five football fans being priced out of the game
With the cost of living rising at its fastest rate for 40 years, people are having to make difficult choices and for many football fans, that includes deciding if they can afford to go to games.
BBC Sport asked match-going football fans for their experiences and we had more than 800 responses in 24 hours, with many saying they were being priced out of the game.
Here are five fan stories reflecting those themes.
Daniel, 28, from Swindon
Daniel and his partner are Southampton fans who have been forced to give up their season tickets this year because the cost of attending games is too much.
“Last season I was really excited to finally be able to get myself and my partner a season ticket in the Northam Stand on a nine-month payment plan,” Daniel said.
“But it soon become clear that we couldn’t afford the monthly cost of the season tickets and the cost of travel, food and drink expenses.
“We now have a baby and I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back to St Mary’s and support my team.”
According to Daniel, a ticket is a minimum of £35, the price of petrol could cost more than £35, parking is £5 and £20 could be spent on food and drink during the matchday.
“That’s nearly £90 every other week that I need to spend on other things,” he said.
“As they say ‘football is the most important of the least important things’ so now I dog-sit for my dad when he goes to games and we find a stream online somewhere.”
Suraj, 29, from London
As a Brentford supporter, Suraj was excited to be able to follow his team up and down the country when they were promoted to the Premier League in 2021, but he only attends home games.
Last month journalist Daniel Storey wrote about how “spiralling costs” were threatening English football’s “greatest asset” of “away-day culture”.
Suraj told BBC Sport: “I’m paying more for pretty much everything in most of my life so I couldn’t justify going to away games while having to cut back on other areas of my life that aren’t as trivial as football.
“Going away with my team to Anfield, Old Trafford, Emirates – it’s not possible unfortunately because I can’t afford to do it.”
While Suraj says he will always support Brentford, he believes fans have been forgotten.
“I could definitely turn my back on paying for football, which pushes me down the avenue of should I just stop going to games and watch them at home? Should I even pay for watching them at home or should I just find an illegal stream?'” he said.
“Football doesn’t care where the money is coming from or the fans at all – so why should I care?
“Too many games. Too much money. Fans are forgotten.”
Lee, 46, from Nottinghamshire
“I used to take my two boys to Wolves matches, but by the time I had bought tickets, paid for petrol, parking etc, it was costing me in excess of £100,” Lee said.
“They love football but I could just not afford it any more.
“As I am a full-time dad, money is most definitely an issue with the cost of living increases. For example my gas and electric has gone up from £80 a month to £400 since January this year.
“That’s a lot of extra money to find.”
With the rising costs, Lee and his children have started going to watch non-league sides Ilkeston Town and Sandiacre Town, where it costs them less than £20 to go to the games.
“OK, so the quality of football isn’t as good but at least we still get to go and watch the matches together,” Lee said.
“My boys are 13 and 10 now and they definitely miss the atmosphere of a Premier League game.”
Ben, 37, from Milton Keynes
Ben, a comic book retailer, says he is used to missing out on Arsenal games having grown up in a family who weren’t interested in football and never took him to matches.
However, with the cost of tickets, he and his wife Lowri have chosen to miss out on going to Arsenal games and watch them at home instead.
“Given that my job is still relatively low income and with other necessities being priority we only choose to go to games that are cheaper,” Ben said.
“I have been on the season ticket waiting list for many years but deep down know I’ll likely never afford it. It’s always remained a dream to have at least a year as a season ticket holder.”
Ben is one of the many who have turned to non-league football to deal with rising costs.
“I became a season ticket holder at Newport [Pagnell Town] this season for just £100, there would be another 0 on the end of that at Arsenal,” he said.
“The modern game at the top level is quickly forgetting about fans in stadiums and watching on TV is easier and cheaper, even if I would like to be at the game.”
Andy, 29, from Sussex
Andy, who works in the charity industry, is considering not renewing his season ticket with Brighton next year because the financial toll of the cost of living crisis is taking his enjoyment away from football.
“It’s harder to enjoy the day out and the game when your mind is on finances,” he said.
“Football is something to enjoy as a release from normal life, a couple of hours a day with mates watching a game and being part of it.
“If I were to start struggling financially, I would need to get additional employment in order to top up my income.
“By not renewing my season ticket I would be saving a bit of money and my weekend would then be free to allow for some extra time to work weekend jobs.”
What else did fans say?
The cost of tickets and travel was top on supporters’ list of considerations, with some having to choose to attend home games only while others said they had resorted to car sharing to help reduce petrol fees.
There were also lots of fans turning to non-league matches in order to still get their football fix, but that can pose a financial problem for some.
A survey of 762 fans, conducted by the Football Supporters’ Association and the Non-League Paper, revealed that 57.5% said the cost of living crisis had impacted how much money they were able to spend on football.
Around 24% of fans said they expected to attend fewer non-league fixtures over winter while more than half said they would reduce their matchday spending on items such as food, drink and merchandise.
The fans watching non-league football
Christopher, Stockton Town fan: “Non-league season ticket holder. Step 4, Northern Premier League. £100 per season. Reasonably priced food and beverages inside the ground. Good football to watch. If the cost of following professional football is becoming too much for anyone, seriously, give non-league a go!”
Phil, West Didsbury and Chorlton fan: “It costs £6 for me and £4 for my daughter to go and watch our local non-league team. £10 for some excellent entertainment. If we went to see one of the Premier League teams in Manchester, it would cost at least five times as much, probably a lot more. Transport, parking and refreshment costs are also a fraction of the top clubs prices. Advice for fellow fans; go and support your local non-league team. Put your money into the local economy and support grass roots football.”
Colin, Luton fan: “I pay £13.50 per game at Luton, which is exceptional. But I will not go to most away games. Coach £30, entrance £20, plus food say £10. I can afford it, but it is not value for money. I now go and watch Leighton Town in the South Midlands league, cost £5. Get just as much enjoyment, and I am home early.”
John, Pontefract Collieries fan: “Given up watching Football League. I used to watch Doncaster home and about eight away games per year due to the cost. I now watch Non-league Football, Northern Premier East Division where the cost per game as an over 60 is £6. Good grassroots football and no VAR.”
The fans struggling with matchday costs
Paul, Oxford United fan: “It’s the fuel costs which are crippling, closely followed by the matchday tickets. Went to Exeter the other week, £55 in fuel, £50 in match tickets (two), food and parking. In excess of £150 for a day out. All this for division three football. Have to pick and choose the games we can attend now as I simply can’t afford to travel to them all.”
Jamie, Norwich City fan: “Currently costs £35 for an adult ticket. £10 to take my three-year-old son. I find it absolutely disgusting for Championship football. Under-16s should always be £1 to encourage the next generation. Adults capped at £20. Only go to 2-3 games a season now. No longer affordable. Very sad as can’t take the whole family at once.”
The fans going to fewer games
Alex, Liverpool fan: “I have had to scale back on matchdays. I used to be able to drive to Liverpool for a match and a tank of petrol would cost me £65/£70 now that’s nearly £100. It’s made me change my habits, so I now may only go 2/3 times this year rather than the 8/10 games.”
David, Southampton fan: “I’m a Southampton fan and I’ve cut right back. No home games as the prices are obscene and only go to local away games. It’s not just the ticket prices, it’s the getting there and due to the rail strikes you cannot rely on the trains. For my lad and me, even a local away game is the best part of £80 and that’s with tickets capped at £30. I’ve been to two games this season. Same stage last season it was four. I can only see me going to another four all season max. And we aren’t even a low income family. Two above average salaries and a mortgage paid off.”
Steven, Preston fan: “£30 just for the ticket for the game. With buses to the ground, a drink and pie before the game or at half-time I’d be spending at least £40 every game just for myself. I’ve not been able to do any games at all this season unfortunately because of how much it costs. The one only thing I enjoy doing in my spare time, I’ve now been priced out of. I miss it.”
The fans missing out on the social side of matchdays
Andy, Brighton fan: “In previous seasons I would certainly spend more, arriving at the ground early, having a few drinks and socialising. Now due to costs I arrive much closer to kick off and leave straight after the final whistle.”
Andrew, Shrewsbury Town fan: “It costs me £10 per match, on top of my season ticket (£300). I save money by taking my own food and limit myself to one pint before game. The cost pressure means there’s a lot less pre/post-match socialising, which is a shame.”