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What’s the real price of watching a football match?

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25 October 2012: As part of our football travel project, Southampton fan Matt Hemsley writes about the challenges and cost of getting to matches without a car.

Last week the BBC launched their 2012 'Price of Football' survey.  Comparing ticket prices and the costs of programmes and pies there's no doubt it provides an interesting comparison. 

For those who don't attend there is probably a gasp of amazement, or a shake of the head, at the large numbers – especially at the top end of the game.  For those who do go, be it week-in and week-out, or on the odd occasion, there is probably little that comes as a surprise.  Although perhaps we all wished we lived in Montrose.

One aspect left out of the survey is the cost simply of getting to games, which is far from insubstantial.  There's the difficulty as well – many of the newer grounds are built on the edge of towns and cities, room for 2,000 extra seats, but some distance from the pre-match pub.

Football used to be a sport where families walked from their home, perhaps via the pub, to their local ground. Now it's a game which relies on the motorcar to fill the stadium.  Inaccessible new grounds, poor public transport information and kick-off times subject to change at the whimsy of a TV executive are adding thousands of cars to towns and cities every match day. I've seen the queue of red lights trying to leave the Reebok Stadium, Bolton, on a Tuesday evening. It wasn't pretty.

It's about time football clubs and the authorities took another look at how fans are getting to games. Councils, too, could benefit from working with their local club to minimise car travel on match-days. While they might like the car parking fees, it's polluting their towns and making it difficult for those who might need to drive to get to shops.

I'm a Southampton fan. I live in Bath, don't have a car and travel home and away to almost every fixture. Yet there are so many challenges to doing this in an affordable way. Already this season I've relied on friends lending me a sofa to sleep on because there’d be no way for me to get back home from games.  Manchester City away moved to 4pm on a Sunday shows how our public transport system fails to serve weekend travellers. Everton away meant overnight stops in London because of significant engineering works.

I wish the BBC would look at the real price of attending football. Programmes and pies are optional extras, but getting to the ground isn't. Over the season I'll be sharing my experiences with the Campaign for Better Transport – I hope you will too, so we can start really making a difference to the price of football.

A guest post by Matt Hemsley (@m_hemsley), who has attended Southampton fixtures regularly since 1991 and attended almost every game home and away for the last 8 years. Matt doesn’t drive, and also works in the media team at transport charity Sustrans.


Help us tackle matchday travel - send us your stories about getting to football here: http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/football