Going ticket crazy: Paying $137 to watch Arsenal play

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

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Suresh Nair

THEY’RE not the hottest English Premier League club for winning trophies but Arsenal is the most expensive team to watch in all of Europe – costing the average fan a massive £74.09 (S$137) per game

Chelsea (£68.71) and Real Madrid (£55.91) complete the top three, according to a recent study by UEFA (the Europe football-controlling body).

Based on factors including ticket prices and the cost of food and drink, Arsenal easily top the pile of Europe’s priciest club.

Liverpool (£55.68) comes in fourth, following by German powerhouses Bayern Munich (£54.92).

But there are serious worrying sign for the future of football, as young fans revealed they were more likely to engage with the game by playing computer games (61 per cent) than playing as part of a team (37 per cent).

On the age-old season ticket measurement, fans of the Gunners (Arsenal’s nickname) still have to shell out the most of any Premier League outfit. The club charged £891 for the cheapest and most popular annual ticket at the Emirates, while the most expensive on offer comes in at a whopping £1,768.50 (a decrease from £2,013 last year).

Chelsea fans are forced into spending the second-most in Europe. Manchester United is the fourth-most expensive in the Premier League and sixth overall, costing an average of £53.41 per game.

PRICES OBSCENE AMOUNT

Thanks to charging an almost obscene amount to watch a game, Arsenal also topped UEFA’s list of top-earners based on ticket sale alone, at £102m for 2016-17 alone. That is in spite of having a much inferior capacity compared to the likes of Old Trafford and Barcelona’s Nou Camp.

In terms of the overall top earners in Europe, taking absolutely everything into consideration, Manchester United comes out on top.

Real Madrid fans pay the third-most to watch their side, according to the study

In fact, so dominant were United in the earning stakes, their year-on-year revenue growth of £150m would have been enough in itself to come in 23rd on the list.

Manchester City comes in sixth, Arsenal, seventh, Chelsea eighth and Liverpool ninth as the Premier League dominates Europe.

Thanks to television rights in the Premier League, even some of the mid-table clubs are up there with some of Europe’s big-boys. For example, Bournemouth’s earnings were on par with three-time European champions Inter Milan – despite only breaking into the English top-flight in 2015.

The BBC’s survey of more than 200 clubs across the UK reveals detailed information about ticket prices and 1,000 fans aged 18-24 about how they engaged with the game – and 82 per cent say the cost of tickets kept them away from the stands.

The annual study says 134 clubs out of the 190 in England, Scotland and Wales offer reduced prices for teenagers and young adults but 55 per cent of fans said it was still too expensive.

LONDON CLUBS COSTLY

Tampines Town schoolteacher Rasmah Ibrahim, 39, says the four most expensive season tickets in the Premier League are all at the London clubs, with Tottenham (£1,700), Chelsea (£1,250) and West Ham (£1,155) joining Arsenal in charging premium rates for their top seats. “It’s crazy, more than even concerts but that’s football entertainment for you in the Home of Football,” she says.

As far as the rest of the Premier League goes, newly-promoted Huddersfield fans can get the most value for money, with season tickets starting as cheap as £100.

But most fans are being squeezed harder than ever. The average price of the cheapest ticket for a Premier League match has soared by 15 per cent during the last year, while the average price across the four divisions rose 4.4 per cent.

The reason for the rising ticket prices, according to the The Times, is that sports tickets are viewed as commodities. Just as the price of gold is based on a complex set of economic factors, the price of game tickets includes a host of variables.

“Most professional teams use dynamic ticket pricing, a method that allows executives to re-price tickets based on real world factors. Much like the airline industry re-prices tickets daily to reflect factors such as the price of jet fuel, ticket prices are adjusted in response to demand and other variables. If an upcoming game features a popular opponent or the opposing teams’ major stars, then ticket prices will rise,” says Edward Lewis, sports journalist based in Manchester.

“If the team is in playoff contention or is playing another team that may get a post-season berth, box offices adjust prices for what they believe will be increased demand. Everything from winning streaks to weather conditions may affect prices.”
London-based architect Julie Mills is disappointed. She says: “There are very few people who look at the Premier League and say the one thing wrong with it is that there isn’t enough money. The latest television deal is worth so much more than the last one that these clubs could afford to let us all in for nothing and still be no worse off than they were before.

WORLD CUP TICKETS

“Yet year after year ticket prices continue to increase. Everyone in football is benefiting from that television revenue except the fans, who are expected to pay more and more. The fact that some clubs charge so much more than others, and the fact that prices in Europe are so much cheaper, shows there is room for movement.”
Even advance tickets for the upcoming June World Cup in Russia is going like hot cakes, through FIFA’s online ticketing website.

Ticket prices will range from £79 for a second-round group match up to £829 for the final. Russian residents will be eligible to obtain cheaper tickets with prices starting at £17.

Anticipating the huge global demands, FIFA has split up ticket prices for the World Cup into four different categories: Categories One, Two and Three will be available to fans across the world through the online ticket sales.

Category Four is reserved for Russian residents and will consist of at least 350,000 tickets to be sold to local fans. These tickets will cost less: for comparison, the cheapest category-four ticket is priced at approximately £17, compared to £80 for the cheapest from the other three categories.

Ticket prices in US dollars (and Russian rubles for Category Four) are displayed in the table (attached) to show the price conversion from US dollars to British pounds as of December 2017.

“We have put in place a ticketing system that will enable all fans a fair chance to secure tickets,” FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura says.

In Singapore and at S-League matches, the quality of play matches the ticket prices and majority of the tickets average about S$5 and arguably one of the cheapest things to do in one of Asia’s most expensive nations.

Yes, on match days, during the season from March to November, it is easy to just walk up and purchase tickets at stadium venues at Jurong West, Bedok, Tampines Hub, Toa Payoh and Bishan.

End of the day, the “product” counts in entertaining the football fans.

Good football, like decent actors, draw reasonable crowd. So don’t expect an English Premier League environment. Not in a red-dot-of-an-island listed a lowly 172 in FIFA’s latest ranking about 210 countries.

 

Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who has covered sports for over four decades. He regrets that as many families cut back on luxuries, the cost of going to football is the subject of much debate with the price of a day to watch your team seemingly going up and up.