The growing popularity of the English Premier League is evidenced by upward matchday attendance and a 31% increase in the total spending of match-going fans to follow their teams over the last five seasons. In the 2019/20 season, match-going fans will spend an estimated GBP 1.3bn following their club, according to the eToro Fan Financial Statement, a recent analysis by trading platform eToro, prepared in association with KPMG Football Benchmark. The report explores the financial commitment UK football fans make to support their Premier League clubs and how much it has changed over the last five seasons. It looks at various expenses that fans face, including ticket prices, in-stadium food and drinks, car and rail travel, merchandise and TV subscriptions.
The bigger overall spending of match-going fans is a consequence of some other factors beyond the increases in price points paid by fans, too: due to the rising popularity of the EPL, the number of match-going fans has increased by over 9% since 2014/15, and the expansion of some stadia also allow for higher attendance. In addition, a different set of clubs competing in the league can lead to increased overall spending – for example, the combined spend of supporters of the three newly-promoted clubs, Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United, is estimated to be GBP 26m more than that of the three relegated clubs from last season, Fulham, Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, the report reveals.
Between 2014 and 2019, the overall cost of tickets has remained stable, as a 14% rise in home ticket prices was compensated by a 16% decrease in away ticket costs – seen as a direct result of clubs and supporter groups working together to cap away ticket prices in the past several years. The biggest individual spend increases per match-going fan have been in TV subscriptions (40%), merchandise (21%), and food and beverage (11%).
Total spend on merchandise (scarves and replica shirts) is forecasted to reach GBP 29.5m this season. Regarding TV subscriptions, whilst the number of games being shown has increased, with approximately 29% more being shown live, the overall cost of TV packages has continued to grow since 2014/15, too. For the 2018/19 season, to have access to all broadcast EPL matches, fans would need to pay in total GBP 1,032 on annual subscriptions across BT Sport, Sky Sports and Amazon packages (not counting discounts or package deals). These costs of TV subscriptions are estimated to make up 25% of spend by the “dedicated fan”. Such cost increases impact every Premier League fan across the UK, not just those able to attend live games regularly, and thus make the financial impact of these increases even more significant.
The chart below shows the changes in average spend per match-going fan by category in the past five seasons. (Change in average spend on away match tickets and on travel by car or train to away matches captures investment made by fans attending away games only, not all fans. In-stadium food and beverage also includes spending on matchday programs.)
According to Andrea Sartori, KPMG’s Global Head of Sports, and leader of KPMG’s Football Benchmark team, a contributor to the eToro Fan Financial Statement, the research also reveals that it is not all doom and gloom for Premier League fans.
“The data show that not all costs have risen equally and that the most significant increases are due to external factors outside of the clubs’ control such as travel, TV subscriptions and merchandise. Initiatives, such as the price cap on away-game ticket prices means that the overall cost of tickets has risen only 1% since 2014/15, which is significantly below inflation,” Sartori commented.
From the clubs’ perspective, growing overall match attendance and the rising costs of home tickets and in-stadium food and beverage all contribute to significant matchday revenues.
The chart below shows the matchday revenue of EPL clubs, and its share in their overall operating revenues.
With a EUR 37.7 million average matchday income (753 million in total), EPL clubs cash in the most from this revenue stream compared to the other big five domestic leagues – the average matchday income in the Bundesliga is 29.9 million (538 million combined for the 18-clubs of the German top tier, who also boast high overall attendance), EUR 26.5 million in the Spanish LaLiga (530m total), while only EUR 13.4 million (268 million total) in Italy’s Serie A and 12.9 million (altogether 257 million) in the French Ligue 1.
The eToro Fan Financial Statement also analysed the spend of the most faithful supporters. ”Dedicated fans”, defined as adult fans who attend all 19 home games and travel to five away games, spend on average GBP 1,888/person this season, 8% of the average UK take home salary.
For “dedicated fans”, Arsenal are the most expensive team to support with those fans paying GBP 2,238 per season. However, that cost has risen by just 2.4%, the least of any current Premier League club since 2014/15. Newcastle United are second on the list, mainly due to higher travel costs and a 16.7% increase in total expenses since 2014/2015. Travel plays a major part in the overall higher costs for dedicated supporters of Bournemouth and Southampton as well, who are 6th and 7th in this list, respectively.
Interestingly, Manchester City, despite being EPL champions for the past two seasons, are only 17th on the list: their GBP 1,665 spend per “dedicated fan” is 12% below the Premier League average, and is largely down to cheap home ticket prices and below average food and beverage price points at the ground itself. The cheapest clubs to follow are Aston Villa (at GBP 1,605) and Burnley (GBP 1,641).
However, in terms of value for money, Manchester City are way ahead of their rivals – their fans got the most entertainment for their money, paying GBP 16.90 per goal and GBP 16.30 per point last season, compared to relegated Huddersfield Town’s supporters having to pay GBP 69,80 per goal and GBP 96 per point.
“The financial commitment of UK football fans is remarkable, and it would be interesting to see the cost of fandom in other major domestic football leagues, too. Although the Premier League has become a global entertainment product with a worldwide audience, dedicated and engaged returning fans are still the heart and soul of clubs. Therefore, maintaining and nurturing ties with the local community and providing the right customer experience to the most devoted supporters should be priorities for any club,” Andrea Sartori commented.
You can download the full report at etoroFC.com.