What is happening to the cost of watching the beautiful game?

The BBC has recently published the results of its third report on average ticket prices for football for the top ten divisions in the UK. These include all four professional leagues in England (The Premier League, The Championship, League 1 and League 2), the top division in English non-league football (Conference Premier), the 4 professional leagues in Scotland (The Scottish Premier, The Scottish Championship, Scottish League One, Scottish League Two) and the top league in women’s football (Women’s Super League). Most of the headlines have focused on evidence of falling ticket prices in the 4 professional leagues in England.

The BBC study focuses on four different categories of ticket.
– The most expensive adult season tickets
– The cheapest adult season tickets
– The most expensive adult match-day tickets
– The cheapest adult match-day tickets

The average price in each category is simply calculated as the price charged by each club in that category divided by the number of clubs. For example, the most expensive season ticket offered by Arsenal last year was £1955, whereas at Swansea it was £499. The average price was lower in all four categories for the three leagues in the English Football League (The Championship, League 1, League 2). For example, the price of the cheapest adult season tickets fell by 8.4% in the Championship, 1.6% in League 1 and 7.6% in League 2. Prices were also lower in three out of the four categories in the English Premier League (EPL). The only exception was the price of the cheapest adult season tickets which actually increased by 4.3%.

The overall trend in falling prices is in marked contrast to the previous year’s report that had found evidence of rising prices. For example the 2012 survey found that the average price of the cheapest adult match-day ticket increased by 11% on average across the EPL and EFL.

One factor that may be driving the apparent fall in prices in the English Football League is the falling attendances at games. Average attendance in 2012-13 was down 5% on the previous year – the second consecutive fall. It was 9% lower than in 2009-10 season. In complete contrast, attendance at EPL games were slightly up on the previous year and there were also record season ticket sales.

The increase in the average price of the cheapest adult season tickets in the EPL has received criticism from supporters groups. For example, The Football Supporters’ Federation called for far larger cuts in ticket prices, which they argued could have been funded by the big increase in the revenue from the latest TV deal. BskyB and BT paid a combined total of £3.018bn for the rights to show live games from the 2013-14 season to the 2015-16 season. This was an increase of £1.773bn on the previous deal. Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said

The Premier League has had an eye-watering increase in its media income. For example, they could knock £50 off the price of every single ticket of every single game for every single spectator in the Premier League this season and still have the same amount of money as they previously had.

Some have argued that it may also be in the commercial interests of the clubs to reduce prices. Professor Simon Chadwick from Coventry University commented that:

Lower prices and more fans can mean an increase in overall revenue, and there is also the secondary spend to consider: club merchandise, food and drink and so on.

However, care must be taken when interpreting this data because the report does not state how many fans actually pay the most expensive or cheapest price in each of the four categories. For example, the report found that Arsenal charged the highest price of £126 in the most expensive match-day ticket category. The club responded to this finding by stating that less than 100 people would actually pay this price at any given game!

Burton Albion was also reported as having the highest match-day ticket price of £30 for both League 1 and League 2. Once again the club responded by stating that only one or two of these tickets would be sold and car-parking, food and a programme were included in the price. Perhaps it would be more accurate to title the report “The average ticket price of the most expensive and cheapest seats for a football match”.

Some weighting system, such as that used to calculate the retail price index, would need to be used in order to obtain a more accurate picture of what is happening to average prices. It is possible that the price of tickets covered in the BBC report could be falling whilst the average price of all tickets could still be rising.


BBC Price of Football 2013: Average ticket prices fall BBC News (12/9/13)
Price of Football: The Premier League – then everybody else BBC News Matt Slater (12/9/13)
Price of Football: The Premier see some rises in cost BBC News Andy Cryer (12/9/13)
Price of Football: The Premier see some rises in cost BBC News (13/5/12)
Average ticket prices fall reveals Price of Football survey but Premier League continues to live in a world of its own The Independent (12/9/13)
Ben Robinson questions accuracy of BBC “Price of Football” survey BurtonMail David Broome (12/9/13)
Survey finds average prices of football match tickets have fallen The Independent (12/9/13)
Arsenal top BBC’s Price of Football table The Football Supporters Federation (12/9/13)


  1. Consider a number of factors that might determine the price of tickets for a particular football match.
  2. Draw a demand and supply diagram to illustrate what has happened in the market for tickets for matches in both the EPL and the EFL over the last couple of years.
  3. What non-price factors might have lead to the fall in demand for tickets for games in the English Football League?
  4. What does the evidence suggest about the income elasticity of demand for tickets at English Premier League games?
  5. In the article Professor Chadwick is quoted as saying that “Lower prices and more fans can mean an increase in overall revenue”. Using the concept of price elasticity of demand explain how this could be the case.
  6. Using a simple numerical example explain why the average price of tickets may be rising even though the price of tickets in the 4 categories in the BBC study are falling.