Cost of watching the Albion revealed in BBC Price of Football study

New study looks at cost of following football in 2014.

AmexStadiumA BBC study into the cost of watching football in 2014 has looked at how much it costs Brighton and Hove Albion fans to watch the Seagulls compared to fans of other clubs.

The BBC Sport investigation looked at the prices of all 176 clubs across 11 divisions of British football as well as comparing the cost of following a club in this country with the top flights of European leagues, including Germany and Spain.

And it showed that the cheapest standard adult season ticket at the Amex (£465) is significantly higher than the average for the Championship, which is £334.33 and more than the cheapest season ticket at 11 Premier League clubs, including Manchester City and Everton.

That is due in no small part to the way football is financed in England. A number of Premier League clubs are being subsidised by combination of mega-rich owners and the riches generated by the TV deals negotiated by the Premier League.

For example, each club in the top flight receives an average of £75 million in TV money, compared to the Albion's £4.8 million in the Championship. Some Premier League clubs, such as Manchester City, choose to pass on some of these huge sums to fans in the form of cheaper match tickets. Many Championship clubs - particularly those looking to compete without the luxury of the controversial parachute payments - simply cannot afford to do this and remain competitive on the pitch.

The most expensive season ticket at the Albion (£715) is higher than the divisional average for most costly season tickets of £573.56 and the price of individual match tickets is also relatively high. The cheapest adult ticket for Brighton is £25 while the Championship average for cheapest tickets is £19.73. Brighton’s most expensive is £42, the divisional average for most expensive is £35.

The study, however, does not take into account the free travel which comes included in the price of a ticket to a Seagulls home match - something which provides a substantial saving to many supporters over the course of a season and is rarely included at many, if any, other league clubs. The overall cost of the free travel subsidy is met partly by a section of the season ticket price, but the club significantly funds the scheme outside of the amount it passes on to fans in terms of ticket sales.

Brighton and Hove Albion fans also benefit from the hugely-popular interest-free direct debit payment plan which allows supporters to spread the cost of a season ticket out across the year rather than pay in one lump sum. This scheme has been so well-received by Seagulls fans that other clubs are looking at adopting a similar approach. It has also helped sustain the Albion’s season ticket holder numbers. Around 21,000 fans have season tickets at the Amex - the largest figure outside the top flight. The club also allow a single missed payment without financial penalty or the ticket being blocked.

Seagulls season ticket holders are also given cash-back on purchases from the club ranging between five and 15% and the Albion have recently introduced an array of ticket deals, including cut-price fixtures for young fans and a ticket package aimed at fans who can only attend games midweek.

Prices for young fans are also particularly low and season tickets for under-10s, under-16s and under-18s were all frozen at the beginning of this season. Under-10 season tickets, therefore, start at just £70 and under-16s £125.

The club also runs a free supporters club for young fans which includes a free replica shirt on their seventh birthday.

The Championship’s cheapest season ticket is available at Charlton Athletic, where an Addicks fan can watch his team for as little as £150. The most expensive cheapest season ticket is found at Norwich City where prices start at £499.50.

Fulham sell the most expensive season tickets in the Championship at £839, followed by Ipswich Town at £805.

Cheapest individual match tickets are on sale at Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County, both of whom offer £10 tickets. The most expensive are £45 tickets at Fulham.

Arsenal sell the most expensive season ticket in the UK, with some seats at the Emirates going for £2,013 a season. Their cheapest is £1,014 and the costliest individual match ticket is also at the Emirates. At £97 it has been reduced by £29 since last year but work out at just £12.65 less than the cheapest season ticket for German giants Bayern Munich. Barcelona, meanwhile, have a cut-price season ticket on offer for just £103.38.

Brighton’s pies are the division’s costliest at £4.10, with the average a pound less. The pies on sale at the Amex, however, are considered a far superior product to those available at rival grounds and have won a string of industry awards. The pies and locally-brewed ale were also chosen by supporters.

At £3.50 the matchday programme is joint most expensive but, again, has received a number of awards in recent seasons.

The Amex itself is also a state-of-the-art, award-winning stadium in which to watch football and now boasts an array of extras rarely found in grounds in England’s second tier, including free Wi-Fi used by more than 9,000 fans every home game, luxury padded seats, matchday TV on the concourses and two high-spec big screens.

According to one football finance expert, there were understandable reasons why Albion fans are paying more than many - and they don’t involve the club fleecing fans.

Kieran Maguire is a lecturer in football finance at the University of Liverpool and a member of its prestigious Football Industry Group.

He told Brighton and Hove Independent: “The BBC Sport investigation into the cost of attending football paints the Albion in a fairly poor light, in terms of gross costs.

“The club have the most expensive pies and 'days out' (match ticket, pie, cup of tea and programme) in the Championship, and the equally highest shirt prices, following their tie up with the American sports company Nike.

“Before Albion fans form a lynch mob and head for the offices of club chief executive Paul Barber, there are some mitigating circumstances in respect of the headline figures, which, when taken into consideration, mean that perhaps fans are not getting such a raw deal, and the devil, as always, is in the detail.

“1: Extras in the price: When you buy a ticket to see the Albion at the Amex, you're getting free transport from Haywards Heath to the north, Worthing to the west and Seaford to the east. This is a saving of up to £6.70 per match from Burgess Hill, even a return from Brighton station to Falmer would normally cost £3.40. In addition to this the club have introduced interest free direct debit facility to pay for their tickets. This spreads the pain over the year, and saves fans borrowing costs. Other extras include the use of free wi-fi at the Amex, which is a facility that people expect but rarely find in football grounds.

“2: When the Amex was built, chairman Tony Bloom had the choice of going for basic facilities, at a cost of about £50 million, or using higher quality materials. He chose the latter, and the stadium initially cost over £90 million. Anyone who has watched a match at the Amex will appreciate the more comfortable, roomier, seats, concourses and facilities.

“3: The pies may be the most expensive in the division, but they are also the best. Local supplier Piglet's Pantries have won awards for the quality of their products, and fans are voting with their stomachs. The club sells 6-7,000 pies per match, a much higher proportion of fans are buying them than at other clubs in the division, who are serving cheaper options, of indeterminate taste, age, source and flavour.

“4: Tony Bloom wants the club to compete for promotion, however, the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules of the Championship restrict the amount by which he can subsidise the club (in 2012/13 this was approximately £544 per fan), and nine clubs in the Championship are recipients of parachute payments, lasting up to four years, and with a maximum sum of £23 million a season. This gives such clubs a huge advantage over the Albion financially, and to be competitive then fans, who are the first to demand investment in the playing squad, have to contribute more.

“I would summarise by saying that the Albion have tried to position themselves as the Waitrose of football clubs in the Championship, a little bit more pricey than some competitors, but offering more in terms of quality and choice. Whether this will be sufficient to keep fans happy, especially after the moderate start to the season, waits to be seen.”