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The Price of Football

Thursday 11 October 2018 Catchment AnalysisData Insight & AnalyticsDemographic Data

Nathan Edwards's picture
By Nathan Edwards

The football never ends. After an exciting conclusion to the season, a wonderful World Cup in Russia, and the return of the Champions League, we are now truly underway in this next edition of the Premier League. Supporters from across the country are packing into stadiums multiple times a week to watch the best of the best, and here we go again. 38 games to divide the champions from the rest and the relegated from the survivors, with all teams trying to give their fans something to cheer about, but who in all of this are the real winners and losers?

This is part two of my brief look at this country’s top division where I investigate some key features of the ‘Beautiful Game’ and uncover some of the hidden secrets that are only possible through data. In the first part, we discovered the secret of the derby rivalry. With only a few exceptions, the nearest team is not always the most similar team. And if you want to argue with rival fans most like yourself, you may need to look a little further afield, especially if you’re from Newcastle.
 

The Price of Football

One of the best ways to show support for your club is to buy tickets and merchandise. Nowadays, club merchandise is part-regulated by the manufacturers, resulting in the likes of replica kits ending up at a similar price across the league.

One product that the clubs have a little more freedom over, are ticket prices and more importantly, the season ticket. The Premier League and the FA have very little official regulation over home ground ticket prices, other than requesting that clubs must make a range of ticket prices available, in a system where the “more expensive [are] effectively subsidising the cheapest.”

As a result, every club sets season ticket prices at a level of their choice and in most cases, this fluctuates year on year. Noticeably, there are a lot of factors that feed into this decision including inflation, cup-competition, and matchday costs. In the case of Tottenham and West Ham in particular, the process of moving into or finalising the construction of new stadiums are huge financial challenges.

The table below shows the cheapest available adult season ticket prices for the current 2018-19 Premier League season beside their league position from the last season:
 


 

There are a few surprises in this list, with the most notable being last season’s champions Manchester City possessing the second cheapest season ticket available (although access to these low prices are often restricted across the clubs). Less of a surprise is that the top 3 most expensive are all offered by London clubs, with West Ham and Fulham being the only London clubs outside the top 6 most expensive (due to a stadium move and recent promotion respectively).

Looking at these prices in isolation, however, do not tell the full story. When it comes to affordability, the league takes another turn. In this next table, using the same radii as explained in my previous article, we look again at the cheapest adult season ticket, but now compare this against the average household disposable income for the area, taken from CACI’s Paycheck dataset:

 


 

Paycheck Disposable Income is a postcode level dataset that provides an estimate of the income available to households after tax, national insurance and other essential outgoings.
Find out more.

 

There aren’t too many surprises in this list, but the Manchester clubs are particularly interesting. The clubs produce one of the most heated rivalries in the league, and with the post-Alex Ferguson era of Manchester United now coming under fire in recent years by the indominable Manchester City, the rivalry is more prominent than ever.

Manchester United are the more historically successful club and for decades attracted the biggest stars from across the world which has led to a season ticket discrepancy of over £200 over their city neighbours. However, despite this large price difference, it represents a smaller percentage of the household disposable income in the area. If the fanbase was strictly limited to the area around the stadium, you could argue that Manchester United have planned their price point exactly right.

Fulham fans are getting an incredible deal with the cheapest season ticket as percentage of disposable income anywhere in the league

In sharp contrast to this Manchester rivalry, neither of these teams come anywhere near the troubles for Tottenham fans. A season ticket of £795 (only the second highest in London), equates to a whopping 11.4% of the average household disposable income – one season ticket consumes over 1/10th of their annual disposable income. This could be explained in part by their ongoing and delayed move to their new stadium, and the temporary home at Wembley. Tottenham’s North London rivals, Arsenal, on the other hand can breathe a sigh of relief. Despite their face value season ticket price being the highest in the league, when viewed in this manner, it is superseded by Spurs, as well as Liverpool and Crystal Palace. Meanwhile, Fulham fans are getting an incredible deal with the cheapest season ticket as percentage of disposable income anywhere in the league.
 

Summary

The Premier League is an exciting competition and one that plays a major part in our domestic culture. Fan allegiance and club affordability both tell very different stories but highlight some of the oddities in our top-flight competition.

Derby matches are a highlight of each season, but are determined by geographical location and/or a rich history of competitiveness, rather than the similarities between the club’s fans and local population. When the paradigm is shifted to this view, we find that location plays a much smaller role. Although, the Manchester and Merseyside clubs are understandably still fierce rivals, regardless of methodology.

The price of football, on the other hand, is seemingly much more strongly affected by physical location rather than factors such as success. If you’re a Fulham local, you can enjoy the cheapest relative season ticket in the league, whereas Tottenham fans are paying the price for the club’s complicated stadium move and temporary stay at the home of English football.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the insight CACI can uncover, please get in touch.

The football never ends. 38 games to divide the champions from the rest and the relegated from the survivors, with all teams trying to give their fans something to cheer about, but who in all of this are the real winners and losers?

The Price of Football

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