Football is no longer the “working class” game it used to be

by James Bayley

Football has advanced well through the “technological age,” with the dramatic transformation of how we perceive the game on the pitch.

This has seen the improvement of the Premier League, as the “greatest league” in the world, with a crop of some the world’s “greatest” players. Money may have played this important part in the advancement of our game on the pitch but it has also controlled the game of the pitch, which has negatively, driven away the average “working class” supporter who can’t afford to compete with their football clubs hike in ticket prices for example.

This raises the questions - what happened to the days fans were more important to the football club than the money coming into it? The top level game is slowly turning into a business of greed at the very top and something radical needs to change, for the sake of the average “working class” man who supported his team for years being priced out the so called “beautiful game”. The main catalyst for this change was the emergence of, billionaire owners and rich tv sponsorship deals from Sky Sports. This points to another example of the negative effect which money is having on our game.

This diverse change in the game reflects the trends in capitalism,within society with the neo-liberalism of Thatcherism and Blairism. The aim of the chairmen of the big clubs such as Manchester City or Chelsea is to ‘rationalise’ the football industry by the unleashing of brutal market forces. But the real fans, “working classes” in society, are gradually being cut off from attending the game because of the greed of money, cutting the new generation off from watching top level live football.

The bubble is starting to burst. Football clubs have always played an integral part of working class communities. BBC Sport’s “Price of Football” has shown that fans in the Premier League are paying between £15 and £126 for match day tickets this season, with season tickets costing up to £1955. It’s a sad state of affairs to see hard working and dedicated football fans from “working class” backgrounds who love the “beautiful game” being driven away by ticket price hikes.

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the FSF, with regards to this issue said:

We want football to be available to all income levels. Certainly at some clubs that is not the case. We are in the wrong ballpark for prices of tickets. I hear all the time of long-term supporters who have given up season tickets because they resent paying the money they are asked to pay. There is a danger that supporters feel alienated.

Football clubs in the high end of the ticket prices in the Premier League such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United won’t make any radical change in their ticket prices and season tickets because they fill their stadiums every week, so it makes no difference if that means the “working class” supporter who can’t afford the sudden hike in prices misses watching their team they supported all their lives. Why do clubs in Premier League, who are part of “working class” cities, charge their fans such unrealistic ticket prices which in majority the average “working class” fan can’t support? Some Premier League clubs such as Stoke CityandWigan are an example to most “working class” cities, that rational and affordable ticket prices can be part of the modern game of football.

As a fair game on the pitch, football should also be level playing field of the pitch for all sections of society. This greed in profits of clubs like Arsenal or Chelsea shouldn’t price out the “working class” fans. Football is above anything else, an ideal vehicle for working with the working class sections of society such as minority communities, offenders and people with disabilities because of its glamour and intrinsic, near-universal appeal. Instead the game is being further pushed away from the “working class” roots.

It seems now in the modern age of top level football, particularly the Premier League, the game belongs to the rich business men like Roman Ambromvich and big sports TV companies like Sky Sports, who set the agenda and have truly changed the game beyond belief and have actively tried to squeeze the working class roots out the “beautiful game”. It has become a multi-billion business and it seems the emphasis is made on how much money can now be made from ‘their customers’ and they will do anything in their power to achieve this, without any thought to the “working class” supporters who were the original foundations of the game.

1 Response

  1. Rich Johnson says:

    “what happened to the days fans were more important to the football club than the money coming into it?”

    My question would be when exactly was that? I grew up in the 80s when the fan was seen almost as a necessary evil, which they would happily have dispensed with if they could have done. I don’t disagree with what you say regarding pricing etc (I tend to only attend games with special offers), but I’m not sure there ever was a time when the fans were anything other than a means of revenue, given that the rationale behind their treatment always seems to have been ‘get as many of em through the door and comfort / safety etc (i.e. the entirety of the fans’ wellbeing) be damned.

    I’d say that what’s changed is not clubs’ attitude towards fans at a class level, but the realisation that instead of piling them high and earning your ‘wonga’ through volume, you can be more selective and attract a smaller number who will spend more when they’re there. It’s a simple shift of business model and sadly, I believe fans have only ever been that…a box on a flow chart or a column in a balance sheet. We never really mattered beyond that.

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