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What Is the True Cost of Being a Football Supporter?

27/07/2014 22:17 BST | Updated 26/09/2014 10:59 BST

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They say spotting a Newcastle United fan is easy - he (or possibly she?)

will be the supporter who isn't wearing a shirt. Chances are the black and white strip will be replaced instead by 'NUFC' emblazoned somewhere across the supporter's chest.

Sporting your team's colours on a shirt (or your chest) is something the thousands upon thousands who flock to the terraces every weekend during the football season do routinely. And whilst some who don red shirts on strategic occasions may be described as "glory hunter" fans, others go to great lengths - and cost - to own shirts worn or signed by their footballing heroes.

Trade in new and pre-owned footy shirts is very healthy, according to statistics launched by eBay. Sales of Premier League club football shirts over the year, starting in June 2013 and ending in June 2014, exceeded 251,000 units through the auction site and totalled sales of £4,428,667 for the period.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Liverpool and Manchester United topped the chart for the number of Premier League club shirts sold through eBay UK, reflecting the international appeal of these institutions. Including the sales of signed shirts, match shirts, new and worn, as well as older and rare collectable strips, Premier League shirt vendors netted total sales of £4,428,667 for the year.

So, online vendors are making a buck or two on selling signed shirts, and fans are clearly keen to own a piece of sweaty-or-otherwise memorabilia from their favoured club, but what is the true cost of being a footy supporter these days?

Buying a replica club shirt is only the beginning of a long list of expenses that go along with being seen as a loyal supporter. A survey into what it costs to be a fan has been running since 2006, when Virgin Money's Football Fans' Inflation Index started tracking its 'basket of goods' associated with following a football club.

The price of the basket, which includes a gallon of petrol, a pint of lager, a bacon roll, a train fare, a match ticket, a replica shirt, the cost of watching football on television and a match programme, cost £77.95 in 2006 and has risen to £113.98.

This constitutes a rise of 46 per cent per match day, according to Virgin, meaning football inflation is rising faster than the Government's Consumer Price Index. The rising cost of season tickets - a big contributor - hasn't gone unnoticed by followers.

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Research indicated one in 10 Premier League season ticket holders would not renew their tickets for the following season. The difference between what fans thought was a fair price to pay and the actual average cost of a ticket was huge.

Holders of season tickets for top division clubs thought a fair price to pay was £456; however, the actual price for a 2012/13 season ticket averaged £669. The most expensive season tickets were for Arsenal and Tottenham, at £1,470 and £1,285, respectively. Northern counterparts Manchester United and Manchester City's season tickets sold for around half that, at £741 and £605. Bear in mind that, between them, these two clubs have won the last four league championship titles.

Commenting on fans' financial predicament, Graeme Tones, Virgin Money spokesman, said:

"Fans remain passionate about their teams and the packed Premier League stadiums show people have been willing to pay the price. But clearly many feel they are being overcharged. Money is tight for a lot of people at the moment and football clubs, despite many freezing season ticket prices, risk losing fans."

This outlay by avid fans who can't imagine not following their team can be put against the backdrop of income for clubs in the Premier League. Revenues of £2.4 billion were generated in the 2011/12 season, the highest of any League in Europe, according to the Football Supporters' Federation.

But it's not all about the money, it seems. True fans also dedicate time to following their team. A lot of time. Fans of Premier League sides spend, on average, 15.3 hours a week on football, and the average across all leagues is 13.8 hours - or the equivalent of two working days.

This dedication includes time spent travelling to the match, watching footy on TV, searching the internet and talking to friends about the game, and culminates in fans spending the equivalent of an incredible extra working week on top of their job. Get paid for being a fan and you would easily cover your match day expenses (plus inflation), no problem!

Nailing your colours to the mast has caused many a controversy and fight over the years, but it seems that a sense of pride and belonging is coming through stronger than ever among football fans. One thing's for sure, fans are still paying out to show their allegiance, no matter what the cost of being a football supporter is.