Riding On The Backs Of The Fans

With the winter transfer window still upon us, Drew Goodsell asks how much football fans really benefit from ‘lucrative’ shirt sponsorship deals.

Football shirts don’t come cheap. £223m is the total cost borne by corporate sponsors of the Top 20 team shirts as seen on the Premier League pitch, according to sportingintelligence.com. Locally, West Ham United netted £20m over three and half years from Betway – and that’s only for the Betway logo to appear around the Boleyn ground and on 11 first-team claret-and-blue shirts.

But what do West Ham fans get out of this? Is there a pay-off for the punter as a result of these high scoring, shirt sponsoring deals? A short survey of lucrative deals and turnstile ticket prices shows there is no correlation between them.

If sponsorship deals were being used to benefit the fans, we would expect to see ticket prices being held down regardless of the high status of visiting teams. Instead, the continuing variation in turnstile prices suggests that the clubs are NOT passing on the benefits to their loyal supporters.

Yokohama Tyres sponsor Chelsea FC to the tune of £40m a year. This is more than twice the amount brought in under the club’s previous arrangement with Samsung (£18m per year). Yet this increase has made no difference to the paying customers that pack the stadium. The lowest home game ticket price remains £52; and, depending on the status of the opposition, the price of a seat rises to £87.

Despite Arsenal enjoying £30m a year in a shirt sponsorship deal from Emirates, the airline, the Gunners’ ticket price variation is even wider, ranging from £27 for low status visitors up to £97 – twice as much variation as there is at Stamford Bridge.

The same degree of variation also occurs at West Ham: £25 a seat when a low status club comes to East London; and £95 when it’s a top drawer team. As far as the fans are concerned, the £6m a year from Betway is nowhere to be seen.

The fact that the punters are not getting much benefit from shirt sponsorship deals, is further confirmed by Premier League newcomers AFC Bournemouth. Their shirt sponsorship revenue currently amounts to a measly £750,000 – 40 times less than the value of the Chelsea deal; but Bournemouth supporters are the only ones who do NOT have to pay extra when a top team comes to their ground. Bournemouth’s owners have settled on a fixed ticket price of £32 which applies to every home game throughout the season.

In short, the money put into the clubs through corporate shirt deals clearly has no trickle-down effect on the ticket prices paid by their supporters.


Club Shirt Sponsor Value Per Year Cheapest Adult Ticket Most Expensive Adult Ticket
Manchester United Chevrolet £47m £31 £58
Chelsea Yokohama Tyres £40m £52 £87
Arsenal Fly Emirates £30m £27 £97
Liverpool Standard Chartered £25m £37 £59
Manchester City Etihad Airways £20m £42 £58
Tottenham Hotspur AIA £16m £32 £81
Newcastle United Wonga £6m £27 £45
West Ham United Betway £6m £25 £95
Everton Chang Beer £5.3m £35 £49
Aston Villa Intuit Quickbooks £5m £23 £45
Crystal Palace Mansion Casino £5m £23 £45
Sunderland Dafabet £5m £25 £40
Swansea City* GWFX £4m
Stoke City Bet365 £3m £25 £50
Watford 138.com £1.4m £36 £42
West Bromwich Albion TLC Bet £1.2m £25 £39
Leicester City King Power £1m £22 £50
Norwich City Aviva £1m £30 £50
Southampton Veho £1m £34 £54
Bournemouth Mansion Casino £750,000 £32 £32


*Swansea City ticket prices not available.

Table source: sportingintelligence.com & BBC Sport