THE BLOG

The Working Man's Game? Not Anymore

17/10/2014 16:05 BST | Updated 16/12/2014 10:59 GMT

England's top tier is the best league in the world, right? At least that's what the Advertising Executives and Media Moguls would lead you to believe.

Virgin Media are getting uppity about the cost of watching televised Premier League football. They're irritated by the relative monopoly that BT and Sky hold, so they've taken their case to Ofcom. Let's be clear, Virgin aren't being altruistic consumer champions. They have an obvious vested interest, but they also have a point.

Football is too expensive - regardless of how you watch it. You'll struggle to find a fan in the whole of the UK that doesn't agree. The BBC have just commissioned their yearly "cost of football survey" and the results are hardly surprising.

As fans, we've become accustomed to getting ripped off. You begin to lose a sense of what's normal. It's not just The Premier League that's to blame. Even in League 1 some clubs are charging over £25 a ticket. I'm disappointed to say that my team, Port Vale, is one of them.

Once you get into the upper echelons of English Football, the costs become eye watering. Fancy taking the family to watch one of the top London clubs? Assuming there's three of you going, good luck getting change from £150. That's before you take into account rail travel, food and possibly a pint. Football and "the working man" shouldn't even go in the same sentence. At Stamford Bridge, you'll find more lawyers and financiers than roofers and labourers.

The Germans have got it right. Beer in view of the pitch, safe standing and affordable ticketing. What's not to like about the Bundesliga? At too many English clubs, fans have long since ceased to be mere supporters. They're now "customers" and savvy commercial teams are keen to squeeze out every last penny. Does anyone else cringe when a club discusses extending its "brand"? Proud and historic Football Clubs used to be so much more. The likes of Hull City and Cardiff City have fallen foul of megalomaniac owners with grandiose marketing visions.

It's happened by stealth, really. The Sky revolution, and the riches it brought, changed football forever. Almost overnight, the way in which we enjoy the beautiful game was transformed. Indeed, this is seemingly part of the problem. For swathes of young fans, watching their team simply involves scrolling through the channels. Given the cost of watching a live game, who can blame them? A whole generation will never experience away trips, the palpable atmosphere during derby days or the eclectic banter between opposing supporters. Supposed "Super Sunday's" simply aren't the same.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all doom and gloom. Stadiums are safer, more comfortable and family friendly. The swathes of cash lavished on football clubs has helped make this a reality. But at what cost? Football is more corporatised, sanitised and money driven than ever before.

The BBC has uncovered nothing new. Football is no longer about family, local pride and backing your team. In 2014, cash is key. The Premier League may garner support from audiences abroad, but its traditional working class fan base is dwindling. With every cheque written, a little piece of English Football's soul is torn out.

Personally, I'm cancelling the satellite subscription and I'd implore you to do the same. With the savings you make, go and check out your local Non League side. For the price of a couple beers and a burger at Anfield or Old Trafford, you could have a thoroughly entertaining, and significantly less expensive, football experience. Go on, give it a go. They'll be pleased to see you.