The Premier League: high quality, competitive football for £30 a game

In recent years there has been commentary on how football is losing touch with its roots and pricing ordinary fans out of the game. The amounts of money spent on transfers last summer would appear to be consistent with this theme. As clubs stock up on elite players (see more on this below) one would assume it will be the fans who pay for this.

Nice theory but at odds with the facts. As the latest research by the Premier League and EY shows, the median price paid for a Premier League ticket in the 2016/17 season is estimated to be £30. For season ticket holders the figure is £26.The most common price band is £20 to £30 (over 30% of all tickets), and 75% of tickets are bought for £41 or less.

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EY and the Premier League

…yes £30 a ticket, based on in-depth analysis…

These numbers, which will surprise many people, are based on a comprehensive analysis of ticketing arrangements for the 20 Premier League clubs in aggregate. The study focused on 4 areas:

– the availability of seats and how clubs allocate these to user groups (e.g. Family, away, hospitality);

– the range of ticket prices at each club for season, match day and away ticket holders by age group, bundle etc;

– actual prices paid by fans by category; and

– rewards made by clubs to loyal supporters which result in discounts.

This comprehensive analysis supports a more accurate view of the true cost of football than has been previously reported by third parties. The work goes beyond the analysis of list prices to take into account the factors that drive actual prices paid. Specifically:

– there are 738,000 available seats this season;

– 76% of seats are standard seating, family, hospitality and away fan allocations each take up 8%;

– season tickets take up between 52% and 84% of capacity with 71% on average which is about half a million tickets, 30% of which are sold as concessions;

– beyond season tickets there are around four million tickets available in 2016/17.

…with loyal fans receiving £14 million of savings…

Around 34% of total home ticket sales are sold below list price with reward mechanisms for loyal fans being the key driver. Season ticket loyalty schemes such as renewal rewards and early bird offers generate £12 million of savings off list prices while membership reward schemes deliver another £2 million of reductions compared to list prices. Having paid the same price for my Stoke City season tickets since 2008/9 as a regular early bird renewer, I recognise these benefits.

The summer saw record levels of spending…

The summer transfer window was truly spectacular: around £1.2 billion was spent by Premier League clubs, a new world transfer fee record was set by Manchester United in signing Paul Pogba and 13 clubs broke their transfer fee records. The spending was driven by the richest clubs: the “big” 4 (Arsenal, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs) and the “big” 6 teams (adding Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool). Though let’s not forget, Joe Allen may turn out to be the buy of the window.

…to acquire quality players…

Leicester City’s success last season was clearly a shock to the system and the richest clubs appear to be keen to make sure that there will be no repeat. The money has been spent on quality. The window saw the reversal of the recent trends toward a more even distribution of elite players:

  • The “big” 4  increased their share of elite players from 32.5% last year to 39.2%, only just behind their 6 year high of 41%;
  • The “big” 6 share has gone from 50.6% last year to 54.1% this year;
  • The share per club across the rest of the competition is more evenly balanced than in recent seasons.

…increasing competition at all levels…

Analysing results after the first 11 games, just over a quarter of a season, it does seem that this is so far a more predictable season than we have become used to in recent times. Using my measure of elite players from my previous blogs, results have been more in line with what the distribution of elite players would imply than in previous seasons.

But predictability does not mean uncompetitive. The top six appear to be using their increased strength to good effect, creating a mini-league. After a weekend in which Liverpool scored six goals and Chelsea five, it is interesting to note that the top four teams have the highest number of goals scored and the largest goal difference since 2011/12. The investment in quality appears to be paying off. It is worth noting this is after a major international tournament in the summer. This usually leads to the top teams under performing in the first half of the following season – but not this year.

In the rest of the competition, teams are also closely bunched as margins between success and failure are ever tighter. West Bromwich Albion’s win at Leicester City catapulted them up the rankings, so tight are the points. I must add, Stoke City are now back in mid-table, something that looked unlikely on a bleak day at Crystal palace only a few weeks ago.

…testimony to the success of the Premier League’s cycle of growth.

I have written before about the effectiveness of the Premier League’s business model. Competitive football played in a great atmosphere generates revenues that can be reinvested in facilities, players and the match-day experience. What the latest research shows is that the Premier League and clubs have been able to generate the revenues from television and commercial activities to fund the acquisition and retention of more and more quality players. The result is an increasingly competitive and attractive competition achieved, while being able to control ticket prices.

 

 


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