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The Price of Football

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The BBC Price of Football study was published today. Will Jones has a look at how Reading compare with the rest of the Championship and everyone's favourite case study Borussia Dortmund.

Dennis Grombkowski

It’s that time of the year again when BBC Sport reveal their annual Price of Football study and the whole English game take their turn to claim how shocked they are by how much clubs charge their fans. We all then marvel at how cheap it is to watch football in Germany, and in particular Borussia Dortmund, where the "fan is king".

Now none of this of course is news to the regular football fan in this country. It has long been grudgingly accepted that watching the beautiful game is now an expensive pastime.

Prices in the Premier League are increasingly ridiculous. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Reading fans do not need to worry this season whether they can justify paying £50+ for an away ticket.

According to the BBC, the most expensive match day ticket in the Championship is £45 at Fulham. An absurd price but thankfully away fans are rarely charged the most expensive prices.

By comparison, Reading’s most expensive match day ticket is £35. Only eight clubs in the Championship have cheaper most expensive match day tickets.

Reading’s cheapest season ticket price this season was £375, 9% more than the average comparable cost for the Championship of £343. The club’s most expensive season tickets though are the fourth cheapest in the league.

Price options

What is most striking about Reading’s season ticket prices is the lack of variety. No other club has such a small difference between their cheapest and most expensive season ticket.

Your pricing options at the Madejski are £445 for the Upper West, or £375 for everywhere else in the stadium.

It is the same with match day tickets. You get just two price options for every game.

This is in stark contrast to the much fabled Borussia Dortmund who, as the image below shows, have eight different ticket prices for their upcoming game against Hannover 96.

Dortmund ticketing prices

Source: https://www.eventimsports.de/shop/20/45315/pricelist

The average price for a ticket at the Westfalenstadion is £35.60. Not as cheap as the media would have led you to believe. However, the range in prices is almost unseen in English football. From £13 to £61, fans have a real choice in their ticketing options.

If you want the best view in the house then you'll have to pay a premium price. But if you don’t care about your view, or standing, then you can go for a price not much more expensive than a cinema ticket.

Falling average attendance

After five home games, Reading’s average attendance is down 2,457 from last season (12.9%). That it is down is not too surprising. The last time the Royals entered a second season after relegation from the Premier League their average attendance fell by 12.7%.

Given the historical precedent it has to be questioned why the club have not tried to be more imaginative with their ticket pricing. A Tuesday night November game against Rotherham is surely a match crying out for reduced ticket prices.

Sheffield Wednesday made such a move in our encounter at Hillsborough in September. With adult ticket prices starting at £10, the Owls enjoyed their biggest crowd of the season with 29,848, a 30% increase on their average attendance.

The club do deserve some credit. If you were to buy a match ticket, programme, pie and cup of tea (according to the BBC this is what constitutes a day out at the football) then you will be set back £25.20. Only seven Championship clubs can boast a cheaper cheapest day out.

However, as football fans know, it is the price of match tickets which really matters. Reading certainly compare favourably in the Championship but it would be good if they started to give their fans more pricing options.

Should games against Leeds and Rotherham be charged the same price? Probably not. Should a fan sat in the front row right in the corners really pay the same price as someone sat in row Z on the halfway line in the East Stand? Not in my opinion.

A radical change in the ticketing pricing would of course be difficult to do mid season. Changing the pricing categories for the stadium would be unfair on those loyal fans who have already paid for their season ticket. But that doesn't mean the club couldn't do a few special cheap ticket offers like Sheffield Wednesday.

More imaginative ticket pricing next season may be needed and surely wouldn't harm Reading’s attendances, and more importantly could only be good for fan relations.

With it looking like we’re in for a season of entertaining but inconsistent football resulting in another season in the Championship, anything that can help boost falling attendances can only be a good thing.