Ticket hike sees England fans priced out of World Cup

15 June 2018 Consultancy.uk 8 min. read
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Earlier in the year, figures unveilled by FIFA showed that travelling support for England’s football team was likely to decline by around 15,000 at Russia 2018. At the time, security issues and a general pessimism regarding the prospects of the Three Lions squad was blamed, however new research has found that the spiralling cost of a World Cup outing may have played a larger role than anticipated.

In 2014, England were one of the most heavily supported teams in Brazil, with 35,000 making the lengthy trip to watch Roy Hodgson’s men falter at the first hurdle. Since then, England have endured further footballing struggles at Euro 2016, where underdogs Iceland unceremoniously booted them out in the second round, prompting Hodgson’s resignation, and the ill-fated appointment of Sam Allardyce. The new manager lasted just one game, before being forced from the role following an embarrassing corruption scandal. With recent history making for increasingly difficult viewing for many fans, in spring 2018, it came as little surprise to many that FIFA estimated just 20,000 England supporters would make the trip to the approaching World Cup

The figure, a significant drop of 15,000, was blamed largely on the underwhelming performance of the national team – which has failed to progress to an international quarter final in six years. However, England completed an ultimately successful qualifying campaign with Euro ’96 alumni Gareth Southgate at the helm. While expectations are muted, an exciting young team has developed, which carries with it a larger sense of excitement for the future than has been present in a long time, something still capable of drawing fans out in numbers if the sell-out crowd at Elland Road for the team’s final warm up match against Costa Rica is anything to go by.

Security concerns have also been cited by a number of experts and the media as dissuading fans from making the trip to Russia. The UK is currently knee-deep in a diplomatic crisis with Russia, having ordered the exit of the nation’s embassy following a nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on UK soil in March. No concrete evidence could be provided, however many pointed the finger at Moscow – something the Kremlin has fiercely denied since. Garford Beck, the team manager of England Fans FC, suggested that while "anti-British sentiment from Russia is nothing new", as witnessed when clashes broke out between the two during Euro 2016, the frosty atmosphere between their respective governments was unlikely to help matters. Speaking to the British press, he added, "I like Eastern Europe but when we go over there we do seem to get some poor treatment from the authorities."

Category 3 tickets in 2018 prices

That said, England is not the only nation present on poor diplomatic terms with Russia, and there is little evidence to suggest such fears have perturbed other fans. Early sales figures from football’s global governing body FIFA showed the fans from the USA had purchased most tickets of any group outside the host nation at 80,000 – this was also despite the absence of the USA’s team at the tournament – suggesting a team’s performance is not the be-all and end-all either. Meanwhile, fans from England purchased around 31,000 tickets, ranking the last among the top eleven countries purchasing 2018 World Cup tickets, behind the likes of Brazil (66,000), Colombia (60,000), Germany (55,000), Mexico (52,000), Argentina (45,000), Peru (39,000), China (37,000), and Australia (35,000.)

Now, research from pricing strategy consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners has cast light on the pricing of tickets at the event itself as a major factor in the decision of fans to attend the tournament. While the World Cup has been regarded as the most important event in the footballing calendar, tickets have never been so expensive – rebounding from a slight cut in pricing at the last outing to sit at an all-time high for tickets in every round of the contest.

In comparison to Brazil – which saw group stage prices fall to £57 from £61 in South Africa 2010 – Russia’s bill for comparable games will typically be 24% more expensive in real terms across different ticket types. Even the previous record holder for the most costly tickets, the first African host nation of South Africa in 2010, had prices 15% lower than Russia’s hefty entrance fees. Despite being hosted by arguably the strongest economy of the most recent tournaments, meanwhile, Germany’s average ticket price was lowest of all – at £91 each – in stark contrast to the colossal £157 price tag attached to the average ticket at this year’s tournament.

Football's staying home

According to study author Rosalind Hunter, should England somehow navigate an unlikely route to the tournament’s final in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, a Three Lions fan would need to spend a minimum of £967 on tickets, compared to a 2006 equivalent of £565. The study also found that a category 1 ticket for the final on 15th July, amounted to the same price (£791) as a season ticket for any Premier League club bar the infamously pricey Arsenal, whose cheapest season ticket is £891.

Hunter, who is a Director and Sports Pricing Specialist with Simon-Kucher, added, “There was a massive increase in average ticket prices of 58% in real terms for lower tier ticket prices for British fans between the 2006 World Cup in Germany and 2010 in South Africa, while since then the increase between tournaments has been more modest. Prices this year in Russia for the cheaper lower tier tickets on average 18% higher in real terms for British fans than those in Brazil four years ago. Without the fall in the value of sterling last year the increase would have only been 4% as, without this, the average entry level tickets would be £20 cheaper.”

£1,000 spends have already been confirmed by the British media on multiple occasions. In one case, the BBC spoke to CJ Joiner, a Coventry City fan and member of the FA travel club for the past five years, who stumped up just over £1,000 to buy tickets for each of the seven potential England games. While he said he could return them and receive a refund should England fail to progress past a certain stage, he was notably unenthused, remarking, "England fans will have to spend a lot of money to follow the side in Russia, but under Gareth Southgate the side lack creativity."

With wages stagnating in the UK, and a weakened pound further decreasing English fans‘ consumer power overseas, the inflated pricing will have significantly impacted on the capacity of many working class supporters to attend; something which has no doubt have been compounded by the predatory pricing practices of many local businesses. Earlier in the year, another study by online holiday company TravelBird suggested that the cost of watching Harry Kane and company in Russia could range from £5,385 for back- packers to £14,000 for VIPs.

According to that study, the price is likely to have upped further since, as hotel operators and airlines ramp up prices. As the World Cup commences, it is anticipated that late-comers can expect to pay at least £13,000 per fan for budget travellers and £35,000 for VIPs. A further investigation from Cheaprooms.co.uk suggested that hotels could even hike their rates more than 1000% as the games progress entering the knockout rounds.

The story, predictably, is different for Russian fans. While travel and accommodation for native supporters are naturally less costly, FIFA also have a cheap tier of far lower priced tickets reserved for the local fans to ensure good attendance at Russia 2018. These tickets are cheaper than at previous World Cups, costing locals £15-84 each, as organisers struggle to ensure that a repeat of the sparsely attended 2017 Confederations Cup is avoided.

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