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The next generation of fans

Filed: Friday, 19th October 2012
By: Geoff Toates

BBC Sport have just produced a survey which purports to show the cost of watching football on a match by match basis for each of the 92 clubs in the English gameís top four divisions. It isnít a particularly scientific survey but, for me, it still raises an interesting question. Where will tomorrowís fans come from?

Theyíve taken the lowest cost ticket, in West Hamís case £36, added in the price of a programme (£3.50), pie (£3.00) and tea (£2.00), and added it together which supposedly is the cost of watching the cheapest West Ham home games. Iím using the figures for West Ham simply because thatís my club.

Now that got me thinking. When I was younger, more years ago than I care to remember, and first got hooked on the game going to a football match, even a top First Division one, was something you could pretty much do with your pocket money. A place on the terraces would cost around 50p, a programme about 10p, and even if you looked a bit older than the date on your birth certificate there was no chance of a pre-match pint! So even factoring in a few bob for travel expenses and a packet or two of crisps you could see a game of football from the top division and come away with change from a fiver.

I guess a lot of people from my generation who started watching in the late '60s and early '70s got hooked the same way I did. By going to a game. Letís face it, apart from the F A Cup Final and The World Cup every four years on TV it was the only way to watch the game.

Nowadays, however, things have changed big time. Todayís kids know as much about Barcelona, Bayern Munich and even Bate Borisov as they do about clubs in their own country. Two Sundays ago I was glued to my TV watching Barcelona and Real Madrid slug out a 2-2 draw. Apparently half a BILLION people worldwide, and I suspect a large number of those were in this country, were doing the same thing as me.

But back to the BBC cost survey. If I was 14 again, the age at which I started being allowed to travel to matches with friends rather than be taken by a parent or other responsible adult, it would cost me £18 for my ticket, West Ham do have concessionary rates for juniors, and, because I live outside London, about £6, if I could blag half fare, for travel. When I was actually 14 I got around £5 a week pocket money and going to a match cost me about half that. Do the maths and anyone can see that attracting kids to games on a regular basis today isnít going to be easy.

As I said earlier, kids today can turn on the TV and see a live game pretty much every day. And not just any old live game; they can see the very best. Barcelona and Real Madrid matches are featured live every week, every game in the Champions League can be watched live on Sky, there are two or three games from the Bundesliga and the Italian League shown live and, of course, numerous games from the English Premier League and Championship. A Hammers fan will have had the opportunity to see his team already five times on TV and, of course, even more often than that if heís got a decent laptop to pick up one of the many computer streams available.

So will tomorrowís kids be drawn to one club as people of earlier generations were? I got the Hammers bug because I felt part of the action being crammed into the ground with thousands of other like-minded people. West Ham became ďmyĒ club because of it. Would I have been hooked in the same way if Iíd grown up on a diet of T V football? Personally I doubt it. Would I even have gone to games in all weathers if I could have watched the game from the comfort of my own TV, or laptop? I honestly canít answer that but in my day if you wanted to watch the game you had to go. It was that simple.

So in my opinion thatís the challenge for the people running our football clubs today. Getting the name of your 'brand' across to the next generation of people who will become fans of your club, attend the matches, buy the club merchandise and support the franchises who sell the pies and teas.

Itís going to be a struggle but I think we should wish them well. The Premier League is a popular product worldwide but it would be more difficult to sell if crowds dwindled in the years to come and game were played in near empty stadia simply because the kids of the 2000s and 2010s didnít catch the bug to become the gameís spectators in the 2020s and 2030s.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

04:04PM 22nd Oct 2012
''I've been saying this for years. All these Premier League team owners ought to take note as the days of 60k+ crowds at all but the biggest games, will soon be over. You only have look at the faces in the crowds to see there is no future generation of season ticket/pay-at-the-gate fans coming through; there are very few kids. Spot on article.''

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