English football risks losing its most prized marketable asset of an unrivalled passionate atmosphere at packed grounds unless more is done to make the game affordable to ‘noisy’ younger fans, according to the Football Supporters Federation.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said it felt like “playing in an empty stadium” during the Premier League game against QPR on Saturday, believing such an environment has contributed to the way his team are approaching home games.
Ever-increasing ticket prices has long been a thorny issue, with many fans simply priced out of the market.
FSF chief executive Kevin Miles believes the very audience Premier League clubs should be targetting are the ones being hit hardest in the pocket by the rising cost of attending matches.
“Traditionally the atmosphere generated within English football grounds has been one of the things which sets it apart from football elsewhere, and ironically is one of the main drivers between the television revenue streams,” Miles said.
“Even just looked at from the economic angle, it would be short-sighted to jeopardise that in pursuit of the immediate bottom line.
“The section of the fanbase which has historically been responsible for generating the cutting edge of the atmosphere in grounds has been young fans, particularly teenagers and those in their early 20s, who are currently the most vulnerable to being priced out of the game – and the outcome of that process is detectable at every Premier League ground.”
The FSF believe introducing such changes could only enhance the product which currently generates billions of pounds of revenue for Premier League clubs from collective broadcasting deals around the globe.
“It is the tradition and atmosphere within English football grounds which is a large part of what overseas television markets prize,” Miles added.
“If professional football wants to guarantee that it takes place against a background of passionate noise and commitment, then a few simple steps needs to be guaranteed.
“There has to be ticket prices which young people can afford, encouraging as large as possible away fan attendance and locating the nosiest supporters from home and away clubs in parts of the ground where the atmosphere they generate is felt to maximum effect.”