Sports Minister Helen Grant says the Government are committed to helping football fans who face rising ticket prices.
Chelsea and Fulham fans pay some of the highest ticket prices in their leagues, according to the BBC’s Price of Football study released this week.
The chairman of the Chelsea Supporters Trust highlighted the impact of high ticket prices on young fans in particular.
The rising price of football has drawn a response from the two main political parties, with Mrs Grant saying the Government was ‘completely committed’ to helping fans have more of a say in how their clubs are run.
She said: “This is exactly why we have been working with Supporters Direct and the football authorities to establish an expert working group on the matter.
“It will be launched imminently and include representatives from across football and fans groups to see what more we can do to improve supporter engagement across the board, not just in terms of ownership.
“Since 2010 we have worked closely with the football authorities on improving facilities and on governance and have seen toughened up ownership tests, improved financial transparency and stronger rules to ensure clubs are sustainably run.”
Labour are proposing a ‘Right to Buy’ scheme, which would allow supporters to purchase up to 10% of their club’s shares if it changes owners, as well as giving supporters’ trusts the power to appoint up to a quarter of their club’s directors.
Fans’ group Supporters Direct welcomed Labour’s initiatives as signalling ‘the establishment of the formal relationship between supporters’ trusts and their clubs, which we have sought for many years’.
Chairman of the Chelsea Supporters Trust, Tim Rolls, supported the aim of fan representation in the board room in the long term and his organisation has an ongoing dialogue with other supporters’ trusts to advocate change for fans.
“This expert group has been talked about for two or three years and nothing’s happened,” he said.
“If you’ve got supporters’ trusts from most of the main Premier League clubs working together that is potentially quite a powerful group.
“It’s a lot better to be speaking with a united voice rather than twenty disparate voices.”
Mr Rolls noted how rising ticket prices have altered the demographic of the Stamford Bridge crowd.
He said: “It’s certainly pricing young people out. You’ve got a huge problem between the ages of 18 and 25; they simply cannot afford to go unless their parents pay for them to go.
“I think the average age of Chelsea supporters is about 43 at home games.”
Mr Rolls cited Stamford Bridge’s capacity (41,837) as an obstacle to reducing ticket prices, and Chelsea have commissioned a study into the possibility of expanding Stamford Bridge.
“Because of the size of the ground every game sells out, so they might argue, ‘we’ve obviously got it right because we’re still selling out’.
“I personally don’t think that’s a strong argument, but if they did redevelop Stamford Bridge and we ended up with 55 – 60,000, that would be the opportunity to do more attractive ticket prices,” he said.
“A generation ago it cost the same to go to football as it did to go to the cinema. It’s priced so many people out of going regularly and an awful lot of people out of even going occasionally.”
He added: “Everything eventually has a price, and I know people who have stopped going.”
The BBC’s study- which considered match-day tickets to be those available to the general public on the day of the game – showed Chelsea’s cheapest match day-ticket has risen from £23.50 in 2011 to £50, the most expensive in the Premier League.
Chelsea’s most expensive match-day ticket costs £87, second only to Arsenal. The Blues’ cheapest season ticket costs £750, an increase of £155 since last year, with their most expensive costing £1,250, the third highest in the division.
Fulham’s cheapest season ticket was reduced by £100 to £299 this year, but at £25 their cheapest match-day tickets are the joint highest in the Championship.
Fulham’s top-end match-day ticket (£45) and season ticket (£839) are also the division’s most expensive.
Chelsea were not available for comment, but a Fulham club spokesperson said: “The highest season ticket price at Craven Cottage relates to 3% of the ground’s capacity, of which a limited number remain.
“This allows for competitively priced season ticket and match-day ticket availability in all other areas of the ground.”
Featured picture courtesy of NoHoDamon, with thanks