The price of watching professional football in Scotland is an issue that comes under regular scrutiny and criticism. The level at which ticket prices has risen to is arguably not mirrored by the quality of the footballing ‘product’ on show. Are clubs preying on the immeasurable customer loyalty shown by their fan base in order to maximise their match day revenue, or is it simply another sign of money’s ever strengthening stranglehold on the governance of professional football?
The Scottish game is certainly not one of the strongest leagues across Europe – not even close – but it is worth comparing ticket prices in this country to that of England, Spain and Germany, as well as countries more on Scotland’s level; Belgium, Portugal and Netherlands to name a few. Ticket price increases has been commonplace throughout these nations since the introduction of blanket television coverage in the 1990s – but just how much value for money is there to be had in Europe and how does Scotland stack up when compared to their continental neighbours?
Below shows the average cost of watching professional football in the top division in Scotland and England; both for a match day ticket and a season ticket.
Data: bbc.co.uk & theguardian.com
Scottish Premiership match day ticket price range – £16 – £30
Scottish Premiership Season Ticket price range – £200 – £609
English Premier League match day ticket price range – £15 – £126
English Premier League Season Ticket price range – £275 – £1,995
It is when looking at the price of season tickets that the void between Scottish and English prices becomes stark. You can watch a season of current champions Celtic for less than half of what it costs to watch perennial underachievers Arsenal in the Premier League. With the average match day ticket also significantly lower north of the border, Scottish football is a more affordable league than its neighbour. However, whether it can uphold a claim as a more value for money ‘product’ is debatable. The Premier League can attract some of the best players in the world, with its best sides regularly competing in the latter stages of the Champions League. Scotland has one club capable of competing at all in UEFA’s premier competition and even that is accomplished on a very modest budget when compared to the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.
Despite its lowly standing in European football, how does Scotland compare to other, leading European leagues in providing an affordable form of entertainment for fans?
The information below gives you an idea of what football supporters across Europe have to pay in order to watch their domestic leagues.
Average match day ticket price – £22.34
Cheapest match day ticket price – £8.20 (Bayer Leverkusen)
Most expensive match day ticket price – £73.40 (Hertha Berlin)
Cheapest season ticket price – £109 (VfL Wolfburg, standing)
Most expensive season ticket price – £823 (Borussia Dortmund)
Spanish La Liga
Average match day ticket price range – £24.68 – £121.87
Average season ticket price range – £232.80 – £800.73
Cheapest season ticket price range – £126 – £167
Cheapest Real Madrid season ticket price – £183.90
Cheapest FC Barcelona season ticket price – £103.10
Cheapest Atletico Madrid season ticket price – £268.10
Italian Serie A
Average match day ticket price range – £14.50 – £92.20
Average season ticket price range – £164.89 – £1654.78
Now admittedly, Scottish football is not competing with these nations in terms of the quality of football that can be offered to supporters, but it does give context to the prices facing Scottish fans. The German Bundesliga has long been held up as an example of sensible and affordable pricing, but unless you’re looking to take in a match featuring one of the top sides in Spain or Italy, you won’t have to reach too far into your pocket. It should be noted however, that there isn’t the same away support culture in countries such as Italy and Spain as there is in Britain; fans aren’t as willing to make 500 mile roundtrips to see their team.
So that gives Scottish football prices some context amongst the European elite. However, considering the size of the country and the inferior financial might, it is far more relative to compare these ticket prices to that of nations of a similar stature. For the purpose of this article, we’ll look at ticket prices in Belgium, Netherlands and Sweden for three of the biggest sides in each country;
Belgian Jupiler Pro League
Anderlecht average match day ticket price – £18.10
Club Brugge match day ticket price range – £12.30 – £49.20
Standard Liege match day ticket price range – £13.10 – £35.30
Ajax match day ticket price range – £16 – £64
Feyenoord match day ticket price range – £19.30 – £39.80
PSV Eindhoven match day ticket price – £20.50 – £49.20
Malmo FF match day ticket price range – £12.67 – £35.74
AIK Fotboll match day ticket price range – £7.24 – £45.25
IFK Goteborg match day ticket price range – £4.52 – £10.86
Compared to Scotland, the three countries detailed above all fall into a pretty similar pricing structure. It would also be fair to say that the quality of football in each league is of a similar stature – perhaps with Belgium and Netherlands ahead of Scotland and Sweden.
Perhaps the argument against the price of football tickets in Scotland is not in comparison to other nations and leagues, but to where else supporter’s disposable income could be spent. Would a parent rather spend the money taking their children to a football match over spending less on a day to the cinema or the local swimming pool? Football clubs have got to understand that other clubs aren’t there competitors in this regard; it’s any other business that could potentially lure supporters’ money away. The unique customer/business relationship in football means that fans are highly unlikely to watch another team, even if their ticket prices are lower.
In the English Premier League, fans are willing to spend more due to quality on offer. The Premier League is box office; the best players in the world playing for some of the world’s best teams in front of crowds of up to 77,000. Scotland and other similar-sized nations can’t compete with that and therefore the pricing structure comes under greater scrutiny. When the quality is palpably not of high standard more questions will be asked. Improving the level of football is a long-term strategy that is fundamental to the health of the sport in Scotland for generations to come. Short-term however, lowering prices to try and bring back more supporters, as well as introducing a more diverse ticket structure to engage with families and young fans would be a bold and positive move by those that govern Scottish football.