Average fans of Premier League clubs paying up to £2,000 per season

15 September 2023 Consultancy.uk 5 min. read
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The UK remains in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis – yet many of the country’s top football clubs are seemingly unmoved by the plight of their fans. A new study suggests that the spiralling costs of tickets, club merchandise and food and drink are seeing the average fans of 10 Premier League clubs pay upwards of £800 for the privilege of supporting their team for a single season.

In many ways, the 2022/23 season was bittersweet for fans of Arsenal Football Club. After a six-year absence from the Champions League, the club finally reclaimed its seat European football’s top-table. Having headed up the Premier League for the majority of the campaign, however, supporters will not want to dwell on the galling manner in which their title challenge fell apart in the final weeks of the season.

While the fans might have had to make do with being second best in last year’s Premier League – 19 years after they last triumphed in the competition – though, Arsenal has finally found a table it is able to dominate. Of all the teams in the top-flight, no club’s fans fork out as much as Arsenal’s.

Average fans of Premier League clubs paying up to £2,000 per season

According to research from Ticket Compare, the average Gunners fan spends more than £2,300 each season. That is more than double the amount Liverpool is able to milk from its own fans, in a distant fourth place. Breaking down the key expenses for Arsenal supporters, Ticket Compare found the price included a club membership fee of £818, a mid-range season ticket priced at £1,435, and an official kit top costing around £95. 

Perhaps equally as surprising is which clubs flesh out the rest of the top-three, though. Ticket Compare found the mid-range price for the membership fees, match-day tickets, season tickets, online retail shop, and official kit tops for all 20 Premier League clubs. From that, it determined that Fulham fans spend an average of more than £1,800 on following their club each season – an eye-watering sum, especially for a team which was competing in England’s second tier two seasons ago. That makes the Cottagers a more expensive team to follow than Tottenham Hotspur – a team which featured in last season’s Champions League.

Of course, none of these princely sums are to be sniffed at. Suggesting Crystal Palace fans “only” pay an average of £833 to follow their club through its annual relegation-battle would be absurd. Meanwhile, in Newcastle – where 42% of children were deemed to be living in poverty even before the pandemic and hyper-inflation of the last two years – suggesting a cost of following the Magpies being £871 per fan is ‘a more reasonable price’ would be similarly ludicrous.

All of this is leading to some experts to express concern that the Premier League may be hampering its engagement – and pricing some fans out of the game. At the end of last season, a survey by Saxo revealed that 46% of fans attended fewer live sporting events due to the cost of living crisis, and another 41% cancelled at least one TV sports subscription.

Liran Froind, the co-founder and CEO of Ticket Compare, said, “Being a football fan has always been expensive, but now, with the cost of living skyrocketing, some people are being priced out of their passion for the sport. There are so many payments required to attend a match, from club memberships to season tickets, and then, of course, you have to budget for travel, food and drink costs. Fans who can’t afford match-day costs will likely try to watch from home, but that often still requires a fee when using streaming services.”

As long as attendances do not fall, though, this may not matter to clubs. Amid the continued cost-of-living crisis, making it harder for fans to afford non-essential spending like attending football matches as a spectator, only Brentford, Chelsea, and Spurs have frozen the price of their season tickets – Chelsea’s decision coming with the caveat that the club has removed a subsidy for its fans to help cover the cost of travelling to away games.

Behaviour like this might be seen as suggesting that broadly, Premier League clubs are happy to bank on simply replacing faithful fans with visitors with more disposable income – who may be less interested in the on-pitch action than the matchday hospitality. Statista research suggests even if clubs are pricing out their die-hard supporters, average matchday attendance in the Premier League in England has steadily risen from 34,215 in 2009/10 to 39,472 in 2021/22.

At the same time, running football’s top-tier in this way might arguably be up to the clubs and broadcasters. After all, some may say that they are mostly private businesses, allowed to make their own decisions. But those decisions do not come in a vacuum. The current state of play is disaffecting would-be fans – particularly young supporters – in a way that sees them less concerned with wanting to emulate the skills of their heroes, as amateur players.

Football pricing its fans out may therefore be feeding into a broader trend which is seeing overall participation in the sport fall across England – something which has worrying implications for the wider health and wellbeing of society. According to another study from Statista, in 2016, 2.3 million people were playing football in the country – but that fell to just 1.4 million by 2021. Over that same period, fees for attending games as a spectator boomed – with research from Football Benchmark finding that the price of TV subscriptions, merchandise, home tickets and in-stadium refreshments had all risen at well above the general inflation rate of the UK Consumer Price Index.