Michael Southey is joining the race to the lowest-priced season ticket, regardless of the football team he really supports.
The prodigious cost of watching professional football has become something of a fixture. Since 2011 the average price of even the cheapest stadium tickets has risen at nearly twice the rate of the cost of living. On 3rd October more than 30 supporters’ clubs staged protests against further increases at their respective grounds.
But I may have found a solution to the problem: forget fan loyalty (all that guff about lifelong devotion to a single club), and sign up for the team that offers the cheapest seat.
Since childhood my team has been Liverpool, but I had been thinking of showing a card to the Reds and ordering a season ticket for Charlton Athletic…until I heard about the new value-for-money deal now on offer from West Ham United. The Hammers are moving into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford next season, and their cheapest 2016-17 season ticket is priced at £292. This is more than £400 less than my beloved Liverpool (without mentioning the cost of travelling to Anfield), and lower even than the current lowest-priced season ticket in the Premier League: £299 for a season-long seat at Manchester City.
Will the atmosphere suffer? Quite possibly, depending on how many people do the same as me and go to watch ‘live’ football at West Ham rather support the team. Currently in seventh position with an average of 81 decibels, it’s likely that the move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium will mean West Ham slipping down the league table of loudest fans. On the other hand, on those rare occasions when I have ended up with south London friends at Selhurst Park, I have found my voice soaring in support of the Eagles of Crystal Palace, even though they’ll never roost in my heart like Liverpool.
Even armchair viewers can get swept up in the moment. The atmosphere at West Ham might just improve along with the move from 35,000 to 54,000 capacity.
It may appear as though I am being disloyal to Liverpool by even contemplating the idea of buying a season ticket at another Premier League club. But the prohibitive priced charged by Liverpool (and other clubs) is not my responsibility. If this is the only way for me to get physically close to top quality football, that’s the way it will have to be. And anyway, who says that being a football supporter has to be such a singular affair? In a multi-faceted world, surely we should be allowed to have multiple connections without being accused of treachery.