There were 900 Wolves fans who took on the 324 mile round-trip to Ipswich on Saturday to watch Wanderers play out a 2-2 draw.
A respectable gathering considering the form of the club and the importance of the game which frustratingly was a mid-table Championship clash – even Soccer Saturday didn’t send a live TV feed such was the apathy towards it.
But it’s not the result that this is about nor our ever faltering promotion push, this is about a subject that many football fans have allowed to thrive with relative minimal challenge – ticket prices.
Ipswich Town, a club that has an average attendance of around 19,000 of their 30,000 seater stadium (so demand isn’t high), were charging visiting supporters as much as £37.50 to attend the game.
To put this into context, Ipswich Town, who are currently 10th in the second tier of English football, were charging more than FC Barcelona are for their Champions League tie at Camp Nou against Roma (£37.14).
So believe it or not you would be left with more change out of £40 to watch the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez than Brett Pittman, Daryl Murphy and Christophe Berra.
This is where we are with the cost of football in England. It now costs more to watch a mid-table game in The Championship than it is to watch two of the biggest clubs in Europe take each other on in the premier club competition in the world.
When Ipswich Town are charging more for a football match than Barcelona surely this is moment where English football needs to take a hard look at itself.
We have now come to the point where £37.50 for a second-tier football game is no longer an outrage. To pay as much is now a badge of honour, to pay so much is to separate the fair weather fans from the hardcore supporters. But what this creates is a demand and therefore we are contributing to the problem rather than solving it.
The more fans willing to pay £37.50 gives clubs such as Ipswich more justification to charge such a ridiculous amount to away fans and therefore the fight for fairer tickets becomes increasingly difficult.
The Football Supporters’ Federation’s (FSF) ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign to get clubs to agree on a £20 charge for adult away fans is something that is growing in strength.
In October the FSF carried out a week of action to highlight the spiralling cost of travelling to support your football club. It now has the ear of the Premier League and has held talks about making this a reality. However there are another 72 football clubs in the Football League that need to be brought to task too and Ipswich, I feel, have managed to slip through the net.
The Twenty’s Plenty campaign would have to have the Tractor Boys by the throat and up against a wall to get them to reduce their tickets by almost half. Will this happen? Extremely unlikely, the reality is that Ipswich are just a few pence away from charging £40 for away fans rather than taking a £20 a hit per ticket.
The BBC recently carried out a comprehensive review of the cost of football highlighting the cheapest and most expensive tickets at football clubs and with it has brought the matter into the national spotlight. It showed that you could go and watch Bayern Munich from £11.19; Barcelona from £17.16 or Juventus from £18.66. In comparison the cheapest ticket available in the Premier League was £22 at Leicester City and in The Championship only three clubs offered tickets less than Bayern’s cheapest admission.
The reality is that fans are being priced out of going along to watch their team and the Football League and the FA need to step in and outline a charter on the cost of match tickets in football. While focus has been on the Premier League, the rising cost of the game in the divisions below has creeped up on the blindside of the powers that be.
Before a price is agreed things such as the cost of travel needs to be taken into account; the day/time of the kick-off and if the game is being televised. These are areas which weren’t as much as an issue 20 years ago with games taking place regularly at Saturday at 3pm and train/petrol costs far more affordable – but this simply isn’t the case any longer.
Football fans in England are more aware than ever before of the game outside these shores. And as it emerges it costs less to watch football on the continent than in the UK more and more will be willing to desert a Saturday away day weekend at Sheffield Wednesday (£33 a ticket by the way) for a cheaper alternative in Spain, Germany or France.
And if this seems far fetched try telling that to Borussia Dortmund. The German club reports more than 1,000 Brits are attending each of their home games and the figures are on the rise.
Stronger rules set by the Premier League, The FootballLeague and the FA will cap the spiralling cost of football and temper the money thirsty football club bosses cashing in on the UK’s love of the game.
And if you don’t see it as a problem ask yourself, would you rather watch Lionel Messi under the lights at Camp Nou or pay more to see Christophe Berra in the rain at Portman Road.