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The Real Price Of Football In The Championship

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On Wednesday the BBC announced the results of its annual Price of Football study with some obvious flaws so we decided to conduct our own study to see how much it really costs to watch football in the Championship.

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As a 27 year old who no longers lives in Reading and so cannot afford a season ticket I was delighted when the club announced the new ticket bundles. £80 for four games in the Championship seemed a cracking deal. At least that's what I thought.

When the BBC published the findings from their annual Price of Football study I was taken aback when they declared "If you are a Derby, Reading or Huddersfield fan, you can buy a match-day ticket for £10 this season - an offer which cannot be bettered across the top five leagues in England." How had I missed these £10 tickets and why weren't the club advertising them?

Of course I hadn't missed them and the club were not missing a trick or hiding this amazing offer from me. The price quoted applied to the member price for 18 to 24 year olds. The BBC headline was misleading and highlighted a number of flaws in their study. I do not know why the BBC used a concession price for Reading when they used adult prices for other clubs.

It left us puzzled at the Tilehurst End and wondering what other things the BBC study had missed. Just like last year, they once again highlighted how cheap it is to watch football in the Bundesliga compared to England, whilst ignoring that the cheap tickets so often celebrated are limited in availability. I will leave criticism of this easy and misleading comparison to the tweet below which was retweeted by Phil McNulty, the BBC's chief football writer.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/philmcnulty">@philmcnulty</a> I&#39;ve been a FCB member for about 10yrs you can&#39;t buy the lowest season tickets quoted. Never available</p>&mdash; Darren (@DarrenArsenal1) <a href="https://twitter.com/DarrenArsenal1/status/654411944586280960">October 14, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Match-day tickets in the Championship

It was the Championship results which were of more interest to The Tilehurst End so I decided to conduct my own study into the real costs that fans face. I have ignored the extra costs like programmes, pies, teas and merchandise. I wanted to compare season ticket prices but some clubs have removed their prices.

Instead I looked at match-day tickets. To make it fair I only took the price of adult tickets for a single game bought in advance, which discounted offers like Reading's ticket bundle and Wolves' midweek season ticket. I also did not consider one off offers, like Rotherham's 'Friends for a Fiver' or Huddersfield's £10 promo tickets, but did include discounted prices offered to members like I take advantage of at the Madejski Stadium.

Whatever methodology used can probably be accused of being biased but it seemed fairest to only look at regular match-day ticket prices for a single game. The average cost takes into consideration every price category within a stadium for every match-day price category. But enough of the terminology here are the results (click on the table for a larger version):

The headlines

  • Reading have the joint most expensive cheapest match-day ticket.
  • The average price of a match-day ticket at the Madejski Stadium is below the Championship average.
  • The most expensive match-day ticket at Reading is £5.50 cheaper than the Championship average.

The figure that sticks out from the table is the price of the cheapest ticket at Reading. At £25 it is the joint most expensive cheapest ticket in the Championship. That is pretty amazing considering the headlines from the BBC survey. The Royals have gone from the cheapest to the most expensive.

There were better results when looking at the most expensive match-day ticket. A ticket in the Upper West costs £30 and only two clubs can better that.

One of the more interesting findings was the simplicity of the pricing at the Madejski Stadium. Reading are one of only six clubs to have the same prices for every game. They were also one of the four clubs to only offer two different price categories every match-day: the Upper West at £30 and the rest of the stadium at £25.

By comparison, Bolton fans have five different prices for different areas of the Macron Stadium and have four match categories. The two approaches have their own advantages. Reading have the simplest price structure in the league but fans who are hard up do not have the option to pick games based on price rather than opposition.

Conclusions

As already said any method used is going to be flawed in someway. Lots of clubs in the Championship run offers and promotions throughout the season. Only a few clubs offer membership schemes like Reading which offer fans discounts. I included these prices as I was trying to look at the prices which a long term fan without a season ticket would face if they wanted to buy a single match ticket in advance.

The results from my study would seem to be bad news for Reading FC considering the results that the BBC were reporting but we do not know why the BBC used concession prices for the Royals. It should also be noted that the study shows how competitive Reading's ticket bundle offer is.

The club also deserve praise for extending concession prices to those aged 24. This was an excellent move and showed an awareness by the club that the twenties is an age when a lot of fans stop going to football regularly.

I have long thought that the prices at the Madejski Stadium compared favourably to those on offer elsewhere in the Championship. The average match-day ticket price shows this to be true and the only criticism I can offer is the lack of pricing options on a match-day. It seems slightly unfair to me that someone sat in the corner can be charged the same price as someone on the halfway line.

There could also be an argument for different prices for different matches. Rotherham are a less attractive opposition than Leeds which perhaps makes it strange that the prices charged for both games are the same.

Overall I think most Reading fans will have few complaints at the club's ticket prices. It could even be argued that the poor home turnout against Everton, when tickets were just £10, shows the price structure is working. After all if a quarter of the home end was empty for a game against Premier League opposition then it would seem unlikely that a similar price for Rotherham would bring in a much bigger crowd than will already turn up with tickets starting at £25.

What are your thoughts on the ticket prices at the Madejski Stadium? Do you feel you're getting value for money or are you being overcharged? Would you like to see more price options? Let us know your thoughts below in the comments section.