Why the outrage over this year’s Premier League ticket price increase is misguided

 

Ticket prices in the premier league are going up again. It is now a common trend year in and year out, and there is seemingly no end in sight. Today I will try to look at some of the realities of ticket prices, and look at some trends that affect the change.

First of all, let’s look at how much ticket prices went up by (source: Sportingintelligence.com):

PL-tix-14-15-prices

According to their calculations, the average Premier League club increased their ticket prices by 6.5% for their lowest priced season ticket, and 7% for their most expensive season ticket. Note that this figure is the full purchase price, and does not include any special offers or discounts. The most expensive season ticket refers to the most expensive ticket for a seat in the stands, and does not include club seats or luxury boxes.

Inevitably, these numbers have caused quite a stir. This picture has been passed around quite a bit on the internet, and was even picked up by mainstream news sources such as The Independent. There has been quite a bit of outrage over this huge increase in ticket prices, and there is a sentiment that fans are being priced out of the game. In fact, there is even an annual protest outside the Football League and Premier League offices over increasing ticket prices. However, I find that this outrage is often quite misguided, the numbers aren’t nearly as bad as they look.

First of all, if you look at the numbers, three clubs stood out the most; Burnley, QPR, and Hull. These three clubs increased their lowest season ticket prices by 47%, 14%, and 25% respectively, and their highest season ticket prices by 37%, 38%, and 27%. Of these three clubs, two of them are newly promoted, one defied the preseason predictions last season and survived one season in the top flight.

We all understand that the higher divisions charge more for tickets than lower divisions. Premier League teams charge more than Championship teams, and this is mostly an accepted business practice. After all, the on field product in the Premier League is of a significantly higher quality than the Championship. The methodology used by Sporting Intelligence was quite poor –  they directly compared Premier League ticket prices with Championship ticket prices. I personally do not believe that the two are comparable, and once you factor for this, the numbers change quite a bit.

Of the four clubs that increased their ticket prices the most, two are them are newly promoted. Their ticket prices have increased by a large margin, because well, they are playing in the Premier League now. Demand for tickets would inevitably shoot up, and these teams are simply trying to take advantage of this newfound demand for tickets and the resulting increased profit. Promotion accounts for Burnley’s 47% price increase and QPR’s 14% increase.

Some teams don’t increase ticket prices on the first season after promotion. These clubs usually increase ticket prices after a season or two, after their position has stabilized. This explains the large increase in ticket prices from Hull. Crystal Palace however, did increase their prices twice following their promotion, 19.4% last season, and 12% this season for a compounded 33.7% price increase relative to their championship prices.

If we were to repeat this survey using the same methodology with the lower leagues, the ticket prices on average do not increase. After all, the large ticket price increases we see from promoted teams are usually offset by the large price drops by relegated teams.

Now, if we were to ignore the changes in ticket prices from teams promoted this season (Leicester, Burnley and QPR) and those promoted last season who are still in the Premier League (Hull and Crystal Palace), and only consider the ticket prices for the other 15 clubs, the picture changes quite a bit.

Only 7 clubs changed the price of their lowest priced season ticket. 6 of them increased, 1 decreased. Considered separately, the 15 clubs saw the price of their lowest priced season ticket increase by 1.93%. As for the highest priced season ticket, the price increased for 7 clubs, and one club reduced the price of their highest priced season ticket. Collectively, the price increased an average of 1.73%.

From June 2013 to June 2014, the UK had a yearly inflation rate of 1.9%. Taking inflation into account, Premier League clubs didn’t really increase their ticket prices at all. The prices increased in line with what we should expect due to inflation, and the outrage over increasing ticket prices in the Premier League is really unfounded. The outrage is based on poor research methodology. After all, the ticket prices didn’t even increase this year once promotion and inflation has been accounted for.

Ticket prices have remained stable in the Premier League for a few seasons now. In my opinion, the increase in lower league ticket prices is a much bigger problem for English Football. Ticket prices in the Conference are rapidly approaching those in the Premier League! The rapidly rising costs of attending lower league games makes the ticket prices in the Premier League look reasonable, and this would probably harm the lower leagues over the long term.

 

Tags: Analysis Prices Tickets

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