It’s a sad fact that follows football clubs around the world: the more successful you are the more you begin to alienate your core fan base.
It’s long been commented how quiet it is at the stadiums of the top Premier league teams and there is an argument to suggest it lies with season ticket prices. The loyal fans who are the most likely to make the most noise simply cannot match the fees charged by clubs in the higher echelons of English football.
I look to clubs like Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal – two of whom have moved from their original grounds to pastures new, due to the increased money and success of their respective clubs. Both have arguably seen a steady decline in the level of atmosphere created on a weekly basis and Stamford bridge is another ground where the atmosphere simply isn’t there – although their away support is usually fantastic.
Are the fans who are being priced out of the season tickets more likely to pay the one-off cost of an away ticket to see their beloved team? Or is it a case that the small majority of die-hard fans are swallowed up by the corporate audience in the home stadium to a point where they can’t express themselves?
Another sad fact is that this process is filtering down into the lower leagues and teams like Norwich are slapping higher prices on their tickets both home and away – prices that wouldn’t look out of place for a Champions League game.
I can still recall my most expensive away day, when City travelled down to Stamford Bridge for the first time since their return to the Premier League – it cost me £50 for the ticket, £20 for the coach travel. Add to that the cost of food, drink, programme and sweepstake it soon becomes a £100 day out.
The recent home match against Derby County saw the away fans tickets priced at an eye-watering £40, a decision that has been lambasted by fans and pundits alike. When you consider their travel and expenses I can imagine the cost running close to my £100. Will this soon be the case for the top teams in League One?
It’s an interesting balance, the clubs comes under pressure to spend more money in the pursuit of success but that has to be funded from somewhere. The onus is then on the fans to delve into their pockets and contribute however they want to see success and their match day outgoings remain the same or lessen.
Norwich City have enjoyed some fantastic years climbing up the divisions and settling down in the Promised Land, but that coupled with the purchase of more expensive players has seen prices hit the pockets of the loyal fans. But the question is – where else does the money come from?
Would Norwich fans perhaps be happy to see our club fuelled with cash by an unknown quantity from the Middle East? Would we want to see a consortium of rich investors pool together and splash the cash in the search of success? I don’t think so.
I’ve always had the impression that the large majority of Norwich fans have always wanted the club to succeed in the right way – and the amount of years spent wishing for mid-table Championship obscurity has provided fans with a level of appreciation for the success we’ve all enjoyed over the past few seasons.
But there also appears to be a pool of Norwich City fans – ones that more often than not voice their opinion on Canary Call – that have fallen prey to the concept of infinite wants. Every time the Canaries enjoy a period of success they demand more and fail to see the bigger picture of achieving those aims.
I wonder if Ricky van Wolfswinkel is symbolic of that. Will a player who was brought in to brand the new, “financially stable”, Premier League Norwich City – but who at a cost of £8.5 million failed to meet the weight of expectation that came with that fee – be the abiding memory of the club’s first attempt at buying success?
Football is undeniably a difficult space to do business as it’s an industry that’s run based on emotion. The assets are playing for their livelihood and the customers are investing their passion. Fans want to see exciting players and fantastic cup runs and they also want to see year-on-year progression.
The way football is going with regards to the television deals with Sky and BT means there will be an even greater need to be in the Premier League. As a fan the cost of your season ticket will rise, your Sky subscription will go up and most likely your BT broadband fee will also.
This issue won’t go away any time soon, and the fans will always suffer from the price of success.
Follow Matthew on Twitter @matthewhowman_