Exclusive: Older football fans feel price squeeze

Paltry discounts offered by clubs threaten to drive away a generation
  • @jackpittbrooke

The Football Supporters Federation and Age UK have condemned ticket price levels for elderly fans at Premier League grounds. As Liverpool's proposal for individual international broadcasting deals has shown, Uefa's Financial Fair Play reforms have left the clubs desperate to increase revenue. In many cases, this has led to costs being passed on to spectators, with discounts for older supporters being shrunk to the point of irrelevance.

While some clubs sell half-price tickets to the elderly, others offer as little as 10 per cent off the full ticket price, an investigation by The Independent has revealed. Football Supporters Federation chairman Malcolm Clarke described this inconsistency as "bizarre" and believes it will be a "significant deterrent" to many elderly fans. If life-time supporters are priced out of watching their clubs, that may risk exacerbating social exclusion, according to the charity Age UK.

The Premier League's worst offenders are Queen's Park Rangers. Even with reductions under the new ownership, attending Premier League football at Loftus Road is painfully expensive. For Category A games – those against the Manchester teams, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool – non-members aged 60 and above have to pay £40, £45, £55 or £60 depending on where they sit.

Not only are these the highest prices asked of seniors in the Premier League, they also represent the slimmest discounts: of 14, nine, 10 and 11 per cent from the full price respectively.

Category B matches at Loftus Road – seven visitors, including Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle – are not much cheaper. The range there for senior citizens is between £50 and £30, expensive enough itself and again at discounts of between only 11 and 16 per cent. Tony Fernandes has lowered prices at QPR since taking over, and recently admitted that the club "need to sort out the ticket prices".

Three miles away at Fulham the deal is almost as bad. The range of senior citizens' prices at Craven Cottage for Category A Premier League games is between £35 and £45, discounted from between £45 and £60: a reduction of between 22 and 27 per cent.

This is not entirely a London issue either. For Liverpool's seven Category A league games (including the visit of Aston Villa), over-65s pay £34 in the Kop and £36 for the rest of the ground, a reduction of only a quarter. Similarly, top Premier League games at Manchester City cost over-65s between £30 and £39, at discounts of between 19 and 27 per cent.

It is rare that the ticketing policies of the larger clubs are to be applauded, but in this case they are rather more generous than some of the smaller sides. Manchester United, despite price increases under the Glazers, are in fact among the country's most generous clubs regarding their older supporters. They give 50 per cent discounts on Premier League tickets, but with a maximum price of £20, meaning that some seats cost as little as £14, and some are discounted as far as 60 per cent.

Chelsea also offer 60 per cent off, selling Category A Premier League East Stand tickets for £19.50 and £27.50. Arsenal sell seats for Category A league games in the family enclosure to seniors for £22 and £27, again roughly 60 per cent off. Of course, it is easier to offer larger discounts when the full price is higher, but Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all impress in terms of the price of the seats and the relative discount.

For children, admittedly, the prices are better. Manchester United let junior official members in for £10, while Liverpool sell Anfield Road seats for £15 for Category A games providing there is an accompanying adult. QPR, even for Category A games, let under-8s in free in parts of the ground, and charge less than half price for others.

It is the variation between the discounts for the elderly that is most striking. The FSF's Clarke bemoaned the inconsistency that allowed some clubs to charge almost full price. "Most people's starting assumption might be for a discount of half of the normal price," he told The Independent. "There seems to be absolutely no justification for such a wide range of variation between clubs."

This range means prices which only the well-supported elderly can afford. "You certainly couldn't comfortably go to Premier League games – unless you had a big discount – if you were wholly reliant on the state pension," said Clarke. "At QPR's prices, you would have to have a pretty decent work pension as well to be able to carry on being able to afford it."

Times are already harder for the elderly. "They face a higher rate of inflation than people in their 20s and 30s, because of what they spend their money on," said Greg Lewis of Age UK. "It becomes more expensive as you get older."

Barriers to attending football risk exacerbating a serious social issue. "It is important that older people have the opportunity to go out and be entertained," said Lewis. "It is an important aspect of tackling social exclusion among older people." And the inevitable, disheartening effect of these prices would be the severing of life-time ties between fan and club. "It would be an awful shame if people who had given a lifetime of support to clubs find that they're dropping out because they can't afford it," said Clarke.

The only real solution, as proposed by the FSF, is league regulation of prices. The Premier League is keen to leave ticketing policy to the clubs, though, and until that changes there is little prospect of reform.

Football is a public good, and a bond in families. If the elderly are priced out, and grandfathers can no longer take their grandchildren to a game, something important will have been lost.

Rip-off? Senior service

Club/Elderly price/Discount

Chelsea £19.50-27.50/57-61%

Arsenal £22-27/57-59%

Manchester Utd £14-20/50-60%

Swansea £17.50/50%

Tottenham £27-30/43%

Everton £23-26/34-37%

Blackburn £17-28/28-39%

Wolves £20-28/28-34%

Wigan £20/28-33%

Aston Villa £21-32/26-32%

Stoke £24-32/25-32%

Bolton £21-24/25-31%

Liverpool £34-36/24-25%

West Bromwich £32/24%

Sunderland £23/23-34%

Fulham £35-45/22-27%

Norwich £35/22%

Manchester City £30-39/19-27%

Newcastle £21-33/19%

QPR £40-60/9-14%