Last month we predicted that empty seats and high prices would be the talking points of the new football season and, although Wayne Rooney has done his best to provide a diversion, the damning evidence was there to see in midweek. Football’s empty seats even made the front page of yesterday’s Financial Times
A crowd of less than 30,000 watched Chelsea start their Champions League defence against Anderlecht, while Steve McClaren was so incensed at the 14,191 turnout at the Riverside for Middlesbrough’s Uefa Cup game against Skoda Xanthi he accused fans of letting down Steve Gibson.
You could tell the club were worried about selling this fixture because they dropped the price to £20, something Chelsea have yet to do. McClaren needs to bear in mind that Teesside is not the most prosperous area of the country, that Boro were not exactly scintillating in the Uefa Cup last season, that no one outside Greece has ever heard of Xanthi, that football had been all over the television all week and that the Uefa Cup itself is a sadly devalued tournament. Bolton drew only 19,000 the same night for their first ever European game.
In the summer, Juventus signed Patrick Vieira from Arsenal and Woking signed Clint Davies, a goalkeeper, from Perth. It costs more to watch the Aussie stop the shots in a Conference game in Surrey than it does to watch the World Cup winning Frenchman at the Stadio delle Alpi. Woking £14 a seat, Juventus £13.80. Explain that.
Here are some other prices: Real Madrid ‚¬20, Valencia ‚¬18, Roma is ‚¬15, Juventus ‚¬20 for league games and ‚¬30 for the Champions League – less than half of what it cost to watch Chelsea v West Brom reserves last month.
Premiership clubs are not uniformly avaricious – Blackburn and Aston Villa have adult tickets for £15 and West Brom and Wigan have schemes where children can watch for a fiver – but taken as a whole English football is far too expensive. It is not easy to take English football as a whole – price fluctuations even within the Premiership are enormous – but when it costs more to watch Woking or Accrington Stanley than it does to see Roma or Bayern Munich, there is probably something wrong.
Adult tickets for yesterday’s QPR loss to Leeds ranged from £24-£30. Then again, they don’t charge extra for the priviledge of sitting in the same section as Mick Jones or Nick Salomon, so beat that Roma!