Football has changed a lot since the first international game was played in Scotland on 30 November 1872. We have seen it grow from the 12 founding members of the English Football League to a global multi-billion-pound industry in the space of 130 years.
Around the world, millions of fans watch their team week in, week out. Escaping reality, if just for ninety minutes. You can shout, cheer, celebrate winning and cry a fair bit too! These fans are the backbone of the game, but do football clubs really value their support?
For clubs who are yet to achieve a global following, they rely more on local support showing up for fixtures. For example, a team such as Middlesborough need as many supporters through the turnstiles as possible. Playing in the Championship, the club isn’t generating vast sums that a Premier League team can.
Outside of the top-flight, clubs may appreciate their supporters that bit more. Mainly due to the financial impact they have on the team. Meanwhile, clubs in the Premier League have income sources from multiple sources. This makes them less reliant on fans coming through the turnstiles.
However, that’s not stopped Premier League clubs from hiking up season ticket prices once again, many traditional working-class fans are now being priced out of the game completely. The most expensive Premier League tickets this season are Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. The London clubs asking for around a thousand pounds average for a season ticket and the Northwest sides asking for a little less than that. The average ticket price for a Premier League game is now £31. Taking a family of four to the match on Saturday afternoon will set you back almost £100! Of course, that’s before you’ve paid for a pie and bought a programme.
It appears that tensions between club owners and supporters feeling fleeced is reaching a breaking point. The most recent sign of trouble is Arsenal fans relationship with their owner, Stanley Kroenke. Supporters are calling for an end his reign of “passive” ownership. Fans claim the club has become nothing more than an investment vehicle for Kroenke.
Supporters have threatened to ‘Boycott Arsenal’ which could result in a large proportion of the Emirates being empty on match day. However, the recent signing of Nicolas Pepe may have done just enough to keep Arsenal fans content for another season. Nevertheless, It would have made a bold statement and who knows the effects it could have on the rest of the league. Even a limited Boycott would show the clubs that fans matter.
If a stadium was half empty, who would watch on TV? Would Sky, BT and now Amazon pay the Premier League huge sums to broadcast games with no atmosphere? Football has always been the peoples game, clubs need to recognise that football is nothing without the fans.