DAVID PYE: Atmosphere will turn stale unless football tackles pricing and TV
11:00pm Friday 23rd August 2013 in Sport
AS football transfer fees spiral out of control again this summer, clubs and players are in the money more than ever.
But what about us, the fans – or customers as some clubs like to refer to us now?
While the beautiful game remains in a bubble safe from an ongoing recession, it is a completely different outlook for Joe Public having to make a decision on whether to keep that season ticket when the pinch comes or spend that away day travelling long distances to support the team.
It has felt for a long time, with prices remaining high, that fans are the last thought in clubs’ minds.
Okay, so a ticket in the Championship may not be in the realms of the £63 charged at Arsenal but, relatively, it is still costly – particularly for away fans.
The Premier and Football Leagues like to boast about the unique atmosphere in English football stadia, and Jose Mourinho even cited it as one of the reasons he wanted to return from Real Madrid this summer.
But that atmosphere will only deteriorate if something is not done about pricing structures and television scheduling.
Just take tomorrow’s Wanderers match for example. A kick off just after noon is not ideal for the Whites faithful, but even worse for the QPR fans who will have had to sacrifice a Friday night down the pub to get up at the crack of dawn to head north from west London.
You could say nobody forces them to attend and it is on TV, but for many loyal fans the away day is the cream of following the team – heading on the road with like-minded souls for a bit of bonding and a few beers.
I doubt that will be the way QPR followers are feeling at 5am tomorrow.
There is no disputing the money from Sky TV has enhanced the profile of the English game but the authorities should make a stand for the common fan instead of pandering to the armchair ones.
When Sky first agreed a deal for the new Premier League back in 1992, we were told part of the agreement was that fans would not travel more than 75 miles for a midweek live match.
The first two live Monday night games were Manchester City v QPR and Southampton v Manchester United. So much for that.
Little has changed and ticket prices continue to rise – the average away ticket in the top flight is now around £45.
Wanderers fans know all about that and even in the Championship, the prices for the derby at Blackburn on Saturday week have risen to £25.
There have been tentative talks to try to address the prices for away fans and I hope they come to a sensible solution.
Grounds without away followers will be stale and then where would that unique English atmosphere stand?