Earlier today the Mail released a look at rising season ticket prices in the Premier League. We commented on the fact that Aston Villa made yet another dumb move by raising their prices as well, but I started wondering if the tickets were actually a good deal. Certainly, the 6.6% climb in the top-tier of season tickets in the Premier League is a high number, but when you compare tickets to one of the most exciting football leagues in the world to some American sports, you realize that English fans are getting a lot for their money.
For the sake of this article, I'm going to look at season ticket prices for the reigning champions in the Premier League, the National (American) Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association. In some cases I've had to do a bit of guesswork and estimation. I chose the best seats I could find that were actually seats and not part of a special club. For instance, I did not look at courtside seats in the NBA, because there are so few and the prices are intentionally made for the absurdly wealthy. Instead, I considered seats that were in the "normal" seating areas as close to the court as was possible.
Manchester City, much to my surprise, are actually very reasonable in their most expensive season ticket. To watch the reigning champions, you will only pay the 8th-highest price in the league: £860. That works out to £45.26 per match, which really isn't too terrible. You're getting prime seats to watch one of the world's most talented and expensive teams play 19 matches in a gorgeous stadium. Sure, it's more than you pay to see Villa, but I think it's justifiable. Certainly better than the £1,895 you'd pay for Tottenham tickets.
Major League Baseball
Because they have a waiting list, the Boston Red Sox are a bit more opaque in their season ticket pricing. For this exercise I chose to look at Field Box Seats. These are the ones that, while not behind home plate, are immediately next to the field along the infield. To get the seats behind home plate, you're essentially a part of a seating club that jacks up the price to an absurd amount. We're trying to look at "normal" seats here.
The Red Sox use a tiered structure for seat pricing. On an individual game basis, the seats range from £97.31 to £67.83. Let's assume that with the inevitable discount for buying season tickets, it's somewhere closer to the bottom on a per-game basis. We'll go with £70 per game. That's already higher than Manchester City by a large margin (heck, if we were to assume £60 per game, which is less than any individual game costs, it would be significantly higher). When you take into account the fact that an MLB season ticket encompasses 81 games, the cost to see all of the team's home games becomes an astronomical £5,670.
National Basketball Association
The San Antonio Spurs just wrapped up the NBA title and you can now buy tickets for next season. Unfortunately, the very best center-court "normal" seats are sold out. So you'll have to sit off to the sides a bit. They're still wonderful seats, mind you, but they're not quite top-tier. Nevertheless, you'll be forking out a pretty hefty sum. £190 per game, to be precise. Suddenly the Red Sox are looking like an absolute bargain and Manchester City tickets are clearance items.
When you factor in the fact that an NBA season afford 41 home games, you get a grand season total on £7,785. To put this into perspective, you can get an entire season of Manchester City in the best seats in the house for the equivalent of five games of the San Antonio Spurs from their best seats.
Just for the sake of blowing your mind: if you actually wanted those courtside seats that you see celebrities in for an entire season of Spurs games, you would need to fork out £25,995, or £634 per game.
National Football League
Alright, we have choices here. Do you want the very best seats you can get at the Seattle Seahawks CenturyLink Field or would you like to have some money left in your life? If you simply look at per-game prices, the NFL isn't actually as bad as I was expecting. For the very best seats (50-yard line at 100-level) you'll pay £82.57 per game. Now, that number includes two absolutely meaningless (and terrible) preseason games, so the real total is more like £103 per game, but after the NBA that looks cheap.
There's a hitch though. To get those seats from the Seahawks, you must buy a Charter Seat License. What's that, you ask? Well, a CSL is a one-time fee that you pay simply for the rights to buy season tickets in your seat. Once you've bought a CSL, you have three options every year:
- Buy season tickets
- Sell your CSL to someone else so that they can buy tickets
- Do nothing and watch your CSL disappear
Oh well then. That sounds like a first-rate scam. Well, given that people are paying £825 per season to watch the Seahawks, what do they have to pay for the right to pay money? Well, the cheapest CSL I could find came in at £11,795. So heck, for the sake of conversation, let's say that's spread over 20 seasons. And let's play along with the NFL and assume that preseason games should count for anything. That's an additional £590 per season, or an additional £59 per game. Of course that drops a bit if you hang on for longer, but season ticket prices will also inevitably be rising during this time. NFL seats are a terrible investment!
If you're unwilling to pay for the CSL, it seems your best option is to sit behind the endzone (think: Holte End) for which you will still pay £56.52 per game.
So no matter what way you slice it, Premier League fans are actually getting far more bang for their buck than are their American sporting brethren. For easy comparison, here's a chart. You can view the difference on a per-season and per-game/match basis.
So as bad as things may seem for Premier League fans, we're really not getting robbed to quite the extent that we like to imagine. Going to matches isn't cheap, but it could certainly be a lot worse.