Every single year, the BBC publishes a very worthwhile report called The Price of Football, and this year it is simply breath-taking in its scope and size, revealing details from every club on this island, from the largest to the smallest.
Before I start in on the full details as they apply to Celtic, one top-line figure is worth considering.
The price of attending football matches has actually gone down, on average, from last year.
Here, in Scotland, Kilmarnock became the first SPL club to announce that they’d be following a lot of clubs in England by installing the Twenty’s Plenty pricing policy, excluding matches against us, which, as you probably gathered, cheeses me off and a lot of others besides.
That fly in the ointment aside, this is a welcome move and the Twenty’s Plenty campaign is clearly one of the key factors in bringing football prices down across the boards.
This morning, Michael Gannon wrote an article on the subject in which he said that Scottish football fans are being ripped off left right and centre.
The article echoed a lot of the points I made last night.
But it got its facts woefully wrong in a number of areas.
Because although season ticket prices rose at 15 of the 42 clubs in Scotland, ticket prices as a whole fell across the boards in the last 12 months.
Three quarters of all tickets across our four divisions fell in cost.
Attendances are up as a consequence, by nearly 5%.
In fact, over 70% of clubs in the UK initiated a price freeze or better.
A full 18% of clubs actually dropped the price of match tickets, which is a welcome move as we continue to experience tough economic conditions.
Only 30% of clubs actually put prices up.
What surprised me most about the survey is that two thirds of the clubs in the English Premier League actually froze or reduced their ticket prices … but maybe it shouldn’t have.
With the number of EPL games now on the TV, and with Sky and BT Sport continuing to flood the game with cash, charging exorbitant rates to actually attend games isn’t going to fly for much longer, and a lot of clubs are looking to Germany, where a crash in TV income and empty stands forced a drastic rethink of match pricing policy a decade ago, and changed everything.
There’s also a sting in the tail, and it’s a sore one.
One category of tickets, the lowest cost ones, saw eleven of the EPL clubs increase the prices.
As a consequence, the cheapest tickets in the EPL now have an average price of £30 or more, which seems to suggest that the only people benefiting from the price freeze are the prawn sandwich brigade, who frankly don’t need it.
Here in Scotland, the average cost of a match day ticket is now around Kilmarnock’s newly set £20 mark, which makes our tickets cheaper than those in the English Championship and even some of the clubs in League One.
But season ticket prices are still way too high in most places.
The most expensive belongs to our own club, of course, priced at £559, which still represents a fall from the £600 mark of a few years ago.
In England the most expensive, by far, is at Arsenal, who’s lowest priced season ticket – albeit it comes with 7 cup games as part of the package – will set you back a cool £1000.
Their most expensive weighs in at double that … also the highest priced in the league.
The lowest priced ticket in the EPL is at Stoke, costing £294.
The cheapest season ticket in the English professional structure is to be found at Reading, who charge a mere £135 if you’re aged 18-24.
Bradford offer their tickets to all comers for £149.
The cheapest season ticket in the top five leagues of English football is Eastleigh’s, at £120, which is pretty impressive … until you read that you can get a cheaper season ticket than that … at Bayern Munich.
Like I said, following the example of German football is the way to go.
One of the things that drives football fans crazy is the number of replica shirts clubs put out, and this anger will scarcely abate when you consider that the 20 clubs in the EPL this season released a grand total of 50 shirts between them.
The average prices of these? £49.50.
Ten of the clubs in that league released three strips, including Norwich who’s imaginative designs are … err …. all yellow and green and who’s second and third shirts are quite samey, and that’s if you’re being generous.
To buy one adult and one kid’s full kit at Manchester United, with Rooney and his number on the back, will cost you a nearly obscene £249.
Of that cash, 20% goes to the manufacturer and 40% goes to the club.
The BBC graphics team offers a nice wee comparison; Leeds were the first club to issue a replica kit, way back in the 70’s. It cost a fiver.
By way of explaining part of the reason why costs are so high they’ve taken the example of Arsenal; in order to cover Theo Walcott’s weekly wage, they’d have to sell 6000 adult shirts.
At our own club, an adult replica strip costs £53, which is a scandalous 18% higher than the national average and actually greater than you’d pay for some EPL shirts.
To buy for one of the kids would set you back £40, which is 13% above the average price.
Quite how we get away with that I don’t know, and it’s especially worrying when you think that, like those ten EPL clubs mentioned above, we release three strips every year.
Incredibly, one club in the SPL has a more expensive replica shirt than we do; at Aberdeen a brand new adult kit will cost you £55 … one of the most expensive in the country, up there with the prices at Arsenal and Manchester City.
Only Manchester United, with a shirt costing £60, will set you back more.
The average match day ticket price in our league is pretty decent, at around £20 now, with ours being the highest, of course, at £23.
The most expensive tickets in the country are also ours, with high profile games now costing an average of £34.
In spite of all that, unbelievably, there are two clubs whose lowest priced season ticket is more expensive than the one at Celtic Park, and they’re to be found at Dundee and Hamilton.
Down in the Championship, in the meantime, robbed of the chance to charge his followers exorbitant rates for watching second tier football, Dave King has had to find other ways of making up the numbers. His season tickets are the league’s most costly, but that’s as you would expect.
What might surprise you is that the price of a programme is one the highest in the country, that the price of a pie is the most you’ll pay anywhere and that even a cup of tea will set you back £2.50, which, too, is the highest price in Scottish football.
God help their supporters and their wallets when they come up.
The cost of a replica jersey there is easily the second highest in Scotland, at £48, and on a par with most of the prices in the EPL.
Precious little of it flows back to Ibrox though, thanks to the sweet merchandising deal Sports Direct managed for themselves.
Dave King talks a lot about his club’s fans having to match ours in spending terms; right now their cheapest season ticket is £74 less than ours is.
It’s a little closer in terms of the most expensive tickets, with only £35 separating the two.
But if he’s serious about their fans having to outspend ours their ticket prices will have to increase by a factor of more than 30% on average …. and I wish him luck on making that case to them.
Overall, the BBC’s report paints a fascinating picture of football costs in the UK, and especially here in Scotland, where the fans are starting to drift back to games again.
Watch what happens next time Celtic play Kilmarnock at Rugby Park though.
You might well see a heck of a lot of empty seats.
You could try and recoup some of that money too by taking advantage of betting bonuses.