Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Conference football - The expensive alternative to the Premiership

Luton and AFC Wimbledon are two teams that have suffered under the incompetence of the football authorities, and this week is no different. In a week where both sets of fans should be relishing a shot at the Football League once again, many fans are having to raid the savings to fund an expensive trip north and a price hike for the biggest show of non-league football.

Whilst they can’t complain at the fact that the game is further north (at Eastlands) than Wembley for a change (after all many northern football fans encounter the same problem when their teams make a Wembley final) they can complain at the ticket prices. An 18% rise from last year, a whopping £36 for 1 adult ticket! Then you have to fork over another £5.25 for booking fee and the postage charge bringing the grand total, for 1 adult, to £41.25. That is more than the League 1 and 2 playoff finals! Then we come to the concession prices. £18 + £5.25 = £23.25 and that’s only for under 16’s. Where the hell are the concessions for the elderly and disabled?

Many people will pay the hiked up price. If I was a Luton or Wimbledon supporter I would angrily be digging down the back of the sofa to find that quid I dropped yesterday. But what of the casual supporter? Surely they would look at the price of the trip to Manchester, possibly a hotel, food and drink and the ticket price and then decide to miss it for a year? I really feel that the Conference have shot themselves in the foot here and that less people will be able to afford the trip north and some will not go out of principle.
Maybe this was a sneaky ploy by the Football Conference to get more people to sit at home watching Premier Sports to try to justify the TV deal struck earlier in the season. After all the “nominal level” of audience has not been reached and this final could receive large viewing figures if many fans are forced to remain at home. If the “nominal level” was reached then smaller clubs in the league would be able to receive some of the money that was promised to them when this deal was struck. Or Premier Sports will move the game last minute to a time which is completely unreasonable to all the fans and cost the fans hundreds of pounds in hotel bills. Anything is possible.

So what can the Conference gain out of reducing the number of fans actually in the stadium? TV ratings could improve, although they were always likely to be high for the showpiece of the non-league calendar. The atmosphere could be reduced. Oh wait that isn’t a benefit is it? Erm I’ll try again. They won’t be able to cover the costs of hosting it at Eastlands. Oh wait that isn’t a benefit either! Ok, ok, I think I have it this time. They want to show that non-league is a better alternative to the tripe on telly? Oh wait more people will be watching it on telly. Hm. Aha! Got it! They can show that non-league can be an affordable, fun, enjoyable, family experience for the upper middle classes who like a lot of space around them and little to no atmosphere. Scratch affordable and I think there might be an answer in there, somewhere.

Isn’t it funny that these two clubs have both suffered at the hands of the football authorities and are doing so again? Watching Luton slide out of the league and Wimbledon being moved to Milton Keynes was terrible for the normal supporter of the respective clubs. Through no fault of their own the fans were royally fucking shafted by the F.A. Now they are being hit in the pocket for the audacity for wanting to watch their team have a big day out that both sets of supporters deserve. And they say the Premiership has lost sight of what football is about.


  1. I won't claim to be an expert - only non-league game I've been to was Wrexham vs Barrow - but perhaps the reason for the switch was that the Wembley prices had taken an even bigger hike, and the next best alternative (infrastructure, location, value, ease of access) was Manchester? Also if Wrexham or anyone in the north had made the final there would have been the same old argument about it always being staged in the south, so a political decision made before the finalists were decided upon? Good read tho, keep it up!

  2. Cheers for the comment Rick. I think the reason for it being in Manchester is because Wembley is unavailable this year because of the Champions League final. It's nice it's up North for a change, although it's not very practical for the two teams involved! But these things do have to be planned months in advance.

    It's just the massive price which is ridiculous. It's been annouced after the two teams involved were pretty much known and done purely to maximise the amount of money the Conference make off the final. It's disgraceful to be honest.

  3. The rows of empty seats at the Conference play off final probably show that I was right which is a huge shame. Really good game though and I was really pleased for Wimbledon. Just shows that supporter run clubs can work and leaves me more hopeful for the future of my club Chester FC.