'Take a look around you next time: how many pensioners do you see? There are also fewer children than at our rivals. Lack of youth development does not only apply to the playing side. Add to these groups the fans who feel marginalised by the changes and the price increases and we have a significant disenfranchised minority. [...] In the long term, Chelsea’s pricing policy will damage the fan base. A fairer and more accessible pricing policy is needed. The fans are not another tool to exploit. [...] One thing is certain though, the repercussions of high pricing in football will have a long-term effect on football supporting culture.’
- quote taken from Matthew Harding’s Blue And White Army issue 1, February 1, 1999.
I’m a nineteen year old student from Hereford, although at university in Hertfordshire, who supports Chelsea and Hereford United. Some will instantly dismiss me based on this, accusing me of exhibiting ‘modern football fan’ behaviour, but believe me, I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted by many aspects of the contemporary game. With Hereford’s problems and the struggle for fan ownership being well documented, it is Chelsea that I wish to discuss here.
My biggest gripe, as it is with thousands of people up and down the country, is the extortionate ticket prices that we are having to put up with, with Chelsea sadly being an example of this. I started my first year at university last year, with getting to Stamford Bridge and proximity to London being a major factor in my decision to come down south. After doing some calculations, I worked out that my finance only allowed me around £30-£40 a week to live on, after rent. With the weekend being my only real free time and nightclubbing being less enjoyable to me than going to watch football, I tried to economise as best I could to get to as many games as I could afford. Throughout the season, I only managed to get to five Chelsea games, none of which were in the league and none of which were bought for the price bracket that the club deems I ought to be paying. Ticket prices were frozen this summer, which was a good move from Chelsea, but it simply isn’t enough. It really frustrates me, and countless other Chelsea supporting students and young adults that I know of, that there is no student/youth price range at the club. For instance, a category B game (Sunderland, Swansea, WBA etc.) goes from £17 for the cheapest under 18 ticket, to £48.50 for the cheapest adult ticket. The same is true for our other price ranges A and AA, with the cheapest under 18 ticket being £18.50 for a game such as Arsenal at home, to £57.50 for someone who is just eighteen or nineteen. With my travel to and from the Bridge, a day out to watch the football can easily cost around £100, based on adult ticket prices, a few beers with your mates, food and the train. £100! Of course, even if you ignore the travel, drinks and food, there are not many students who can budget for £50+ a week to go and watch the football.
This is the same for a lot of non-students around my age, who simply can’t afford to go to every game and subsequently Chelsea, as a lot of Premier League sides also are experiencing, are having an ageing support, which comes as a consequence of inability to get tickets for a fair price and with a good availability. Even at Chelsea, where junior tickets may seem well priced, they are only available in the vocal Matthew Harding and Shed Ends, for Champions League group, League Cup and FA Cup games, therefore sixteen and seventeen year old supporters are often forced to buy tickets in the East Stand, which is a family section and is typically not very atmospheric and standing is clearly not possible, with everyone in the East Stand at Stamford Bridge sitting for the whole game, as opposed to the Matthew Harding Lower, where everyone around the goal spends the whole game on their feet. As for doing something about it, we’ve petitioned and I’ve emailed the club, who just raise the point that cup tickets are cheaper, but the movement is getting stronger. We can only hope.
So, last season finished and I found out that my finances were significantly better for this university year, so I’d be able to go to Chelsea every week, right? Wrong. Even if I could afford it, I still honestly don’t think I could justify paying it, when I don’t have the stable weekday jobs that most supporters at Chelsea have and even then, I know of a fair amount of Chelsea fans through Twitter who do potentially have the money to go, but they have more pressing concerns such as children, mortgages etc. So, off I went to my first Chelsea game of the season when I returned to Hatfield. Chelsea vs Aston Villa. £53.50. Admittedly, the game was great and it was good to meet up with some mates and have a beer, but still once all was said and done, I’d spent about £80+ on a day at the football. Chelsea were playing on a Sunday a few weeks later, so I decided to head to Watford v Brighton at Vicarage Road. It set me back £15 for my concessions ticket. £15 to watch the side that were top of the Championship. Great value, personally, especially in comparison to the ludicrous prices that we are subjected to, at Stamford Bridge. The following weekend, I went to watch England play at Wembley against San Marino for the same £15 sum and I went to AFC Wimbledon v Bury at Kingsmeadow for £10. Overall, those three games cost me less to get into the ground than a single Chelsea ticket, by nearly £15, with the Wimbledon game in particular having a great atmosphere, with a 3-2 scoreline. As I’m busy during the week studying, Saturdays are my only real day off, so I try to get to football where and when I can, with Dartford, Luton, Stevenage, Dulwich and Aldershot being grounds I visited last season on weekends when Chelsea weren’t playing or didn’t have a 3PM kick off.
The non-and-lower leagues are very under appreciated I think, by the majority of ‘big club’ supporters, particularly younger adults, from my experience, who simply dismiss the notion of going to watch a local game, where their money actually matters to the club, when their side isn’t playing that day. I for one would much rather go stand on a terrace and go watch a game of football, any game of football, than sit around on a Saturday afternoon watching Murdoch’s Sky Sports Soccer Saturday, but hey, that’s just me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love going to watch Chelsea, and they are my team, but the ticket prices are driving me away from going to the ground as much as I’d like to. That said, as I don’t get to go every week, I feel that I don’t take it for granted as much as some, and I always have a great time in SW6, regardless of the result, as there is still something special about coming up into the stands and looking out over the hallowed turf. I just wish it was more economically viable for me to do it more regularly, with an introduction of a young adult price scheme at Stamford Bridge.
By Spencer Preece - @