The price of football

Today saw the now annual BBC Price of Football report released. It's always an interesting snapshot of where the game is and taps into a wider feeling of the growing expense of football.

Football being football, everyone will find an opportunity to pick holes (mine is that by just focusing on the cheapest and most expensive it's still not entirely representative of ticket prices as a whole), but it's a mammoth job to compile that data and despite the criticisms you can level at it, it feeds into an important debate.

However, where there are substantial holes, in my view, is in some of the analysis, both by the BBC and by commentators elsewhere - and this largely comes down to the simplistic comparisons made.

Take, for example, the headline that tickets to Bristol Rovers are more expensive than Barcelona or you pay less for a Manchester City season ticke than you do at Cheltenham. It's a bit like walking into your local corner shop or cafe and asking why they're not as cheap as Tescos or Wetherspoons.

At one end of the game, the sheer size of TV money alone means, oddly, fans in the stadium aren't quite as important, revenue wise. Yes, it's good to have them, the contribute to the bottom line and the atmosphere but financially some of the richest clubs would still make eye-watering revenue if the stadium was empty.

At the other, you have a Conference or League Two team scrapping for their lives with no TV money or rich benefactor and are seriously dependent on numbers through the gates. Cut the admission too fine and you could be storing up cashflow issues later in the season. Put it too high and you'll alienate the casual fan. It's a hugely difficult decision.

Bristol Rovers and Barcelona operate in such different worlds it's pointless to compare them. Arsenal and Spurs can charge such high amounts because their stadiums and season tickets usually sell out. Man City, through a combination of an oil-rich billionaire and a knowledge that they won't always fill their stadium can be a bit more creative with pricing.

Similarly, the "but foreign leagues are cheaper" argument can be a bit misleading. It largely stands up for Germany and the biigger clubs in Spain, say, but once you move beyond the bigger clubs, many of the smaller sides, even in top divisions, rarely sell out meaning their pricing is forced to be a little lower (for an excellent of example of this, and with apologies to Andrew, this conversation between Andrew Gibney and Ryan Keaney highlights the point perfectly).

Finally, one of the biggest issues is the clubs - and the BBC - are asking the wrong question. Yes, Exeter may be more expensive than Dagenham, but a Grecians fan is less likely to decide to switch allegiance to the Daggers based on price. However, fans of either of these two clubs may well lose fans to Sky Sports subscriptions (monthly, the price of two championship games, not including extra purchases like food, drink and travel). Netflix, the cinema, other sports, the internet - there's never been more distractions competing for the leisure pound. Against these expenses , football holds up especially poorly. That's the question cubs have to answer, not how they can be cheaper than the richestt club in England.