The fan's view: Premier prices drove me away

From Villa to Cambridge City. Adrian Smith explains why he gave up on the big league

I am proud to support Aston Villa. I'm originally from Solihull and now live near Cambridge, but my visits to Villa Park are becoming something of a rarity. Indeed, the last time that I attended a game there was on 7 February 2004, when Villa beat Leeds United 2-0. That was also the last time I went to a Premiership fixture.

There are many reasons for such a poor record of attendance. The commute to and from Aston B6 is getting steeper, the Premiership is becoming boring and in some regards uncompetitive, fixtures are altered largely to cater for an armchair audience, players' salaries are hitting ridiculous heights which alienate the fans; it's simply all too expensive.

To be fair, Villa's home ticket prices compare favourably with certain other clubs, but when we're being asked to pay, for example, £45 to follow Villa to Birmingham City or Chelsea, that's out of my league.

I consider myself as part of a generation that is becoming priced out of top-flight football. I'm 32, married, have a three-year-old daughter and we're expecting our second child a week before Christmas. It's all a question of priorities. To us, £45 equates with a pair of new shoes for our daughter and a takeaway on a Saturday night, and it also allows me to watch Cambridge City in the Nationwide Conference South at 3pm on a Saturday.

My dad and I have been watching non-League football for years, and so as well as watching the Villa, it was natural for me to seek out City on moving to Cambridgeshire in 1998. In recent years, however, I've noticed that I've been watching more City, and less Villa, and so has my dad.

Again, there are many reasons for this, but City offer value and convenience and operate in a competitive league. Adults currently pay £9 to watch City's home games, and there are some impressive offers for others: concessions are £4, under-12s pay just £1, and it costs £15 for a family (two adults and up to three children). It'll cost you £1 to park your car at the ground, there's no extra charge for a seat, and you can share a drink with opposing supporters and City's players, manager and chairman. There is a connection, a bond that the top division lost long ago.

City's chairman, Arthur Eastham, has strong views on the modern game. "Sky television and the money that they have introduced is the main reason why attendances are falling," he told me. "Several top international stars have greatly added to the English game, but along with these imports have come a plethora of Joe Ordinaries. Joe O's mean that clubs like ours no longer get £100,000 for the likes of Neil Harris, as the money in the top clubs' pockets from Sky and the like allows them to scout overseas to make more exciting buys.

"Most clubs at our level spend more than they earn, and because people are lost from the live non-League game to the armchair game on Sky, we need to look at different initiatives to get folk in. It's probably an easier task plaiting sawdust, and the lack of response to initiatives is always frustrating, but we have to keep trying."

Such initiatives were typified by an offer to City fans for this weekend's trip to Nottinghamshire and Eastwood Town in the FA Cup. The cost for return coach travel? £5. Such schemes and the dedication of all at City will hopefully help the club prosper.

Meanwhile, I'm joined on the terraces by fans of several bigger clubs, including a Swansea City supporter, "Swanseajack". Although a loyal Swans fan, Swanseajack is now also hooked on the non-League game. "It was the welcome I received at the club," he says. "Everyone from the barman to the guy on the gate had a smile on their face, and it was nice to be treated with a bit of respect."

Clearly, respect is key in football's troubled climate. I'll always support Aston Villa, but, like many others, I have been turned off by the Premiership experience.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...