The wait is over. The Football League is back tonight!
But for hundreds of thousands of supporters, Saturday will mark the start of a nine-month rollercoaster journey across the length and breadth of our great country to watch the beautiful game. Truly no other nation on Earth comes close to our love for lower-league football.
At Fratton Park alone, there will be 20,000 Portsmouth and Bristol Rovers fans roaring in the stands for their respective sides, which bear in mind, is a third-tier fixture. Remarkable.
However, we’re in danger of losing what makes us and the EFL so special.
The cost of attending football matches in this country is an issue that has been campaigned about for the longest, and for a very valid reason.
Ticket prices have seen an acceleration well beyond inflation since the late 1990s, quickly making our game unaffordable to a large percentage of its traditional fanbase.
Whilst home fans may be able to benefit from season memberships and deals, the typical away fan has been largely impacted, feeling the full brunt of the hike in cost to follow their beloved club.
Whenever you see ticket prices bandied around social media, it is all too often accompanied by the phrase ‘Twenty’s Plenty’.
Twenty’s Plenty is a campaign by the Football Supporters Assocation (FSA) which was launched 10 years ago, arguing for a £20 cap on the price of a ticket for away fans at all levels, to recognise their contribution and keep the game a vibrant show for all.
Away fans often provide a great spectacle which is disproportionate to their number within a stadium. For any match-going supporter, you’ll know how the atmosphere increases tenfold with a full away end, and how flat it can feel without their contribution.
Bolton Wanderers are charging £28 to the 900-or-so Lincoln City fans travelling to the ToughSheet Community Stadium for the opening day fixture. For the additional cost of half a pint of beer, you could be watching football at Old Trafford or Anfield. With recent studies showing the ball is in play for an average of 50 minutes in League One, clubs can hardly justify charging more than £2 for every minute of gameplay you actually get to enjoy.
Premier League and EFL officials will add World Cup-style amounts of injury time to matches as part of a crackdown on time-wasting, at the heart of new refereeing guidelines that will be in force for next season 📈 pic.twitter.com/fnw5rQtI2s
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) July 31, 2023
Premier League clubs have agreed to maintain a £30 cap on tickets for away fans which has been in place since 2016/17, but this is set to be reviewed again in 2025. The cap is in recognition of the additional travel costs involved with attending away matches.
In reality, the vast majority of clubs in England’s top tier would still break a profit without fans attending, due to a lucrative broadcast deal, so why do those that rely on fans the most seemingly appear so keen to drive them away?
Leeds United U-turned following backlash on a near 57% increase on away prices despite dropping down into the Championship. The club has since confirmed that it has reduced fees for clubs who agree to charge the same at the reverse fixture, with Cardiff City supporters now being charged £24 for their visit to Elland Road.
I’ve seen online that Northampton Town are supposedly charging £30 as they host Stevenage in League One. From what I can tell, that is false information, with the Stevenage website advertising adults for £24. Regardless, let’s not forget that Northampton vs Stevenage was a League Two fixture last season. I think for that price I’d still choose to watch from the hill behind Sixfields.
Up to this point, all we’ve covered is the cost of actually entering the stadium, let alone the travel to get to the turnstiles in the first place. Ivan, our resident Carlisle United fan at The Real EFL, would have to travel 10,235 miles for all 23 league fixtures away from Brunton Park this season, with the Cumbrians travelling an average of 445 miles per game.
Jack Peat, a Doncaster Rovers fan, has done everything he can to see his hometown team play since moving down to the capital over a decade ago.
That included riding a tram, two trains and two flights just to see them play against Barrow AFC in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, in September last year.
He hit headlines after refusing to pay £389 for an open return ticket from Euston, and instead embarked on an 11-hour pilgrimage which included a stop-off in Dublin along the way. Is this really the extent we must go to make it affordable to watch 22 men kick a football around for 90 minutes?
What’s the answer?
With the continuation of the good news in the Premier League, as well as other major leagues across Europe, the issue of ticket prices in the EFL has come under even greater focus. The Championship is now one of the most expensive divisions in the world for away supporters.
It appears we are now in a desperate need of a price cap in the EFL too, but we must decide what is a fair price to pay. If the Premier League continues to be frozen at £30, would £25 for the Championship be just? Then £20 for League One and Two?
Let us know how much you would be prepared to pay to watch your team.