The company’s Football Fans Price Index shows the cost of going to matches has risen by 17 per cent since the start of 2006. And the trend is set to continue in 2007, with one in seven supporters saying they will go to at least 10 fewer games this year because they can’t afford it.
Premiership supporters are most likely to have cut back - around 46 per cent say they’ve gone to fewer games, compared with 41 per cent in the Championship, 37 per cent in League One and 35 per cent in League Two.
Supporters of Chelsea, Man City, Watford, Portsmouth and Spurs are the worst hit in the Premiership, while Sheffield United, Wigan, Arsenal and Man Utd supporters have cut back the least.
Says Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation: “I only hope club chairmen, the FA and the leagues sit up and take notice. Fans are fed up to the back teeth of being treated as turnstile fodder. Their loyalty is being exploited with even higher prices.
“Football won’t be the people’s game for much longer in this country if this keeps up. The rate of inflation on Planet Football is three to four times higher than here on Planet Earth. It’s time for the match-going supporter to be given a break. Ticket prices have got to come down. Football’s live audience is aging. Where’s the next generation of fans going to come from?”
At the launch of Virgin Money’s Football Fans’ Price Index last year the matchday basket of goods cost £77.95 - now it’s £91.46. An increase in the cost of replica shirts, match tickets and food are the main reasons behind the increase.
Says Virgin Money spokesman John Franklin: “Football fans’ loyalty is legendary, but eventually something has to give. The rising costs of following the game are starting to hit home and people are being forced to cut the number of games they go to.
“The FA Cup third round saw plenty of examples of games where there should have been bumper gates, but attendances were down. The quality of football is not worse than last year and the cup still produced some shocks - so it has to be down to costs.
“Premiership fans are the worst hit, but there’s also evidence that other fans are staying at home for games where previously they would have been at the ground. Clubs need to listen or they’ll pay the price in the long run.”
Analysis of average Premiership attendance figures for 2006/2007 against 2005/2006 shows total attendances per club are up 18,274 in total. But once Man Utd and Arsenal’s capacity increases are stripped out, total average attendances are down 10,522, with 10 clubs showing drops in average attendances. They include Newcastle, Everton, Bolton and Wigan.