The BBC have revealed the findings of their 'Price of Football' survey, detailing the true cost of watching football in the UK and in some of Europe's major leagues.
The findings show that, unsurprisingly, prices for match Premier League tickets are on the rise despite a bumper new TV deal swelling the clubs' accounts. The average price of the cheapest Premier League season ticket has increased by 8.7% since 2012, from £467.95 to £508.55.
The most expensive season ticket was at Arsenal - £2,013 the cost to watch the Gunners in the posh seats at the Emirates this season. Their 'cheapest' season ticket is also the most expensive in the league at £1,014.
Everton find themselves in the middle of the road when it comes to ticket prices, reflecting the difficult balancing act required to bring in enough revenue to help bolster a team challenging at the top end of the division but also acknowledge a fan base that has, on average, less disposable income than some of their rivals.
Everton's most expensive season ticket is £719, with only eight sides in the Premier League offering their most expensive season ticket at a lower price. Their cheapest season ticket is £444, with nine sides offering a cheaper base price. Credit has to go to champions Manchester City who have a season ticket available for just £299.
Everton's cheapest match day ticket is relatively steep at £33 considering 13 other sides offer cheaper tickets for a single game. Everton's most expensive ticket though, at £47, looks like a relative bargain compared to others. Chelsea's top rate match day ticket is £87, Liverpool's is £59, West Ham is £75, Tottenham £80 and Arsenal an eye-watering £97. Indeed only six teams have a cheaper top rate ticket than Everton.
The survey has also calculated the 'cheapest day out' at a match, factoring in the cheapest matchday ticket, a pie, cup of tea and match programme, to try and get a general - if unscientific - sense of what it costs to spend a day out at the match.
Everton come in at £41.50, with 12 sides offering a 'cheaper' day out on average, though the differences are marginal and of dubious accuracy when applied to the real world.
Everton chief executive Roberto Elstone has criticised parts of the survey and clarified some of the figures relating to Everton, highlighting their efforts to keep prices as low as possible.
Elstone was quick to stress that:
- 1 in 5 (17%) of Everton's 27,500 season ticket holders pay less than £10 per game representing 1 in 8 (13%) of the paying Goodison attendance.
- 9 out of 10 season ticket holders buy early and benefit from an average discount of £85. The highest price this overwhelming majority of fans pay for their season ticket is £599 (compared to the BBC’s reported highest price season ticket of £719).
- Only 500 supporters (1.3% of the average gate) paid late and paid the reported £719 after the early-bird window closed.
- 60% of the gate for Saturday’s game against Aston Villa will be paying £30 or less.
- Only 6% of fans at Goodison Park, across the entire season, pay more than £40 per seat; and
- Over the past five years, the amount of money we take per seat – all games and all seats – has reduced by 15% when compared to the rate of inflation.
And here lies the problem with the survey - it's almost impossible to get a true picture of the cost of watching English top-flight football so Elstone has plenty of facts and figures to counter with and throw back in the BBC's face.
Elstone is right when he says that early bird offers and promotions help to bring costs down, while not all fans buy pies and cups of tea at the game, making it difficult to work out just how much money spills out of supporters' wallets every Saturday.
But you can get a general picture and Elstone's fierce defence of Everton's pricing strategy seems a little disproportionate given they come out of the survey quite well.
Watching Everton is expensive, no doubt about it, but the club do work hard to keep costs down. They have to, otherwise the supporters won't come.
Unlike the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United or even Liverpool, the majority of Everton's regular match-going fans are local supporters so there is not a queue of wealthy fans waiting to spend their cash on higher ticket prices.
You also have recognise the limited facilities available at ageing Goodison and the high number of - reduced price - restricted view seats. But given the quality of football on display last season those supporters who did fork out for a season ticket got value for money.
What Elstone cannot deny though is that league-wide, the clubs must work together to lower prices given the huge increase in income they have received from the latest TV deal. Just imagine the savings Man Utd could pass on to their supporters with a week's worth of Wayne Rooney's wages?
Clubs in La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga all offer cheaper tickets prices yet still compete at the top of the European game, it's time the Premier League followed suit.
Back to Everton though and although they are doing more than others to keep prices down, how long will it last?
With the club looking to build a new stadium will higher ticket prices be used to part-fund the move in the near future? And when Everton do kick-off for the first time in a new, modern ground, how much will the fans have to pay to see it?
And to think we thought issues ON the pitch were complicated......