Echoing the quote from former Celtic manager and club legend Jock Stein “Football Without Fans Is Nothing”, surely few could argue with this?
Due to the actions of Croatian Fans and the sanctions imposed, 2018 saw the England V Croatia game played behind closed doors. Without a single fan in the stadium the atmosphere was more like that of a morgue than a major international football match.
The importance of fans to the game of football seems obvious right? Wrong! It might surprise you that the importance of fans to the clubs themselves might not actually be all that relevant.
The financial impact from supporters is decreasing, our hard earned money we spend going through the turnstiles, buying food/beverages at the game and wearing our favourite football teams colours is becoming less important.
It asks the question, are fans necessary for clubs to make money? The balance sheets of half of the English Premier League (EPL) clubs would suggest they aren’t at all.
BBC research found these Premier League clubs could have played the 16-17 season behind closed doors and still made a pre-tax profit.
Global television money broke a record £8bn this year compared to match day income which generated 20p in every £1 they earned (20%).
From a revenue point of view clubs do not rely on match day income anymore.
Despite this a constant bug bearer for fans is the cost of football and the perceived rise in it, there can be no hiding away from the fact that over the years ticket prices have grown exponentially for fans.
A few years ago the average season ticket price across the football leagues was £516. If we compare the most expensive season tickets and cheapest season tickets in the 17-18 EPL season, Arsenal had the most expensive season ticket costing £1768.50 compared to Brighton’s most expensive season ticket at £815. At the top of cheapest season ticket prices is Arsenal again at £891 against Brighton being the cheapest in the league at £495.
However the high-quality football produced by clubs, combined with the commitment of fans, led to an extremely high stadium utilisation of 96% in the Premier League last season.
Fans Are The Heartbeat Of The Club
Bayern Munich club President Uli Hoeneß famously said “Do not think the fans are like cows to be milked. Football has got to be for everybody.”
Interestingly Munich only charge £125 for a full standing season ticket behind the goals. In fact the German Bundesliga on average only charges £159 for a season ticket and £13 for a single game.
Who Is The Game Really For?
It certainly isn’t for the working class anymore. A ticket will now set you back well over 15% of your weekly wage. Even though a price cap of £30 has been introduced for away games there are no limits to what your club can charge their own supporters.
So, if the majority fans are no longer the working classes, who are they? The answer is staring us right in the face. Evidently it’s the TV audiences at home that fund the majority of the revenue through pay per view and being advertised to by TV packages they use to watch the games.
You Can’t Choose Who You Love
Football is now a global business, its more accessible than ever before and its not a requirement to watch the game from the stands every week.
Manchester United have 600m fans worldwide and it doesn’t make you anymore of fan if you watch the game from the Sir Alex Ferguson stand week in, week out or from the comfort of your sofa at 3am on the other side of the world.
So whilst your club might not need to keep the stadium full every week nor do you need to be there either. The clubs may prioritise the TV money now but the love affair is still alive and despite all of this the fans will always be there, wherever they are.