The Last Word – v Hibs 31/8

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Summer is an expensive time of year and the ever increasing price of football is doing little to alleviate the pressure.

The list of costs associated with the summer months feels almost endless. Those with children are faced with the dilemma of how to keep them fed, watered and entertained for six weeks, before the cost of new uniforms and equipment ahead of the new school year comes to the forefront of our minds. Many will head off on a summer holiday to take a well-earned break from the stresses of work and everyday life, while also enjoying a short break from the weekly routine of following our football team up and down the country on the weekend.

An addition to our summer expense is renewing season tickets for the upcoming season, a big outlay in demonstration of dedication and devotion through whatever the campaign ahead brings. At least two new shirts every summer has also become common place too, gone are the days of a team keeping a shirt for more than one season, the summer brings full scale change.

It doesn’t stop there either, with Scottish sides entering European competitions earlier and Betfred Cup group stage games for the rest of us – the break from football has become even shorter.

Last weekend’s £25 entry fee at Hamilton brought the cost of paying into Motherwell games so far this season to £115 (five Betfred games and two away Scottish Premiership fixtures). £115 extra without considering the cost of taking along the kids as well as the cost of travel, food and drink.

Those in charge at Fir Park have emphasised the importance of the support from the younger generation and their desire to entice young fans is clear in initiatives such as ‘WELLevate’ where free kids season cards are issued following the purchase of an adult or over 60s card and in pricing under-16 entry into the stadium at £3.

Both Motherwell fans and Hibernian will benefit from these sensible prices this afternoon, but with adult tickets priced at £24 (£30 for fixtures against Celtic and Rangers) then it would be remiss of me to fail to acknowledge that some tickets at Fir Park are also too expensive.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that clubs have to make money and a big part of their income is generated through the turnstiles. It could also be argued that if you don’t agree with the pricing then simply don’t attend, though feeling torn over following our football teams is a feeling that is very difficult for a fan to consider and last weekend’s Lanarkshire Derby felt like a real tipping point. 

As Motherwell fans we are lucky in the sense we rarely get caught up in a scramble for tickets, if you want to go and see the team then you shouldn’t have any issues doing so, though it was clear from the reduction in numbers behind the goal at Accies that supporters are being faced with a dilemma when it comes to following their side.

Last season 2246 ‘Well fans made the short trip to the fixture at New Douglas Park in late December while the fixture between the teams in October 2017 attracted 2138 visiting supporters. In comparison 1409 made the trip for last Saturday’s 3-1 victory – representing a drop of 38%.

The £25 adult entry clearly irked some supporters into voting with their feet and the £15 entry fee for under-16’s was even more infuriating. How can we possibly expect to encourage the next generation into following their team when the pricing presents a huge quandary for parents as to whether they can afford to take them along?

Perhaps there would be a degree of understanding if it was the case that some of the extra revenue from admission prices was going towards enhancing the match day experience, however that simply is not the case. The only source of entertainment on offer outside of the football at most Scottish grounds is comparing who has least burnt pie or has found a bit of fizz in their Coca Cola. 

We often vent our frustrations at comparisons made to the English Premier League. The manufactured nature of the over-hyped product is driven by wealth and the astronomical sums of money invested by broadcasters and sponsors – to compare that to Scottish football is comparing two drastically different worlds. 

That isn’t to say that the game in Scotland doesn’t have a lot going for it and the beauty of our game is how ingrained it is in our culture, it’s a game for the people and accessible to all, the passion every single one of us has for our team is immense and perhaps more significantly is real. Selfies with the opposition, half and half scarves and dreadful atmosphere? We leave that for the EPL…  

This is our game and our game is often brilliant, crazy, exciting and quite often downright ridiculous – there’s never, ever a dull moment. Though it’s imperative with the ever increasing risk of pricing out those who love following Scottish football, the connection between empty seats and rising prices has to be acknowledged.

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