COLIN WATT with A CELTIC STATE OF MIND – Scottish Football: A Rising Problem

Paul the Tim recently posted on Twitter that he had attended all 582 competitive games that Celtic had played from 2010-2019. An incredible feat which should be commended; however, Paul will be the first to tell you, that it isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap being as dedicated as he is.

In next few weeks, Celtic will play five games away from home – Partick Thistle, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Hamilton and Motherwell – with the combined cost of those tickets coming to just short of £130. Throw in the Last 32 clash with Copenhagen, which will be coming out of the accounts of those on the Home Ticket Cup Scheme on January 31st, (you’re welcome for the reminder) and you’re talking £167, in what can only be described as the most difficult time financially for fans, especially with many having been paid the weekend before Christmas and then not again until the last weekend of January.

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To be completely honest, the cost of Scottish football has become absolutely ridiculous over the last few seasons. Tickets for the Glasgow Derby are £52 for opposing fans, with the average away ticket at a Scottish ground coming in at £30 for an adult.

Here in the table below is the cost per team for an away ticket when Celtic or Rangers come to town.
 
Team: Adult Ticket (Concession)

Aberdeen: £30 (£22, U18 – £14)
Hamilton: £25 (£15)
Hearts: £34 (£25)
Hibs: £32 (£16, U16s – £14)
Kilmarnock: £27 (£19, U16s – £10)
Livingston: £25 (£16)
Motherwell: £30 (£21/18, U16s – £3)
Ross County: £25 (£16)
St Johnstone: £29 (£23)
St Mirren: £27 (£17)
 
Celtic have played every team away from home this season with the exception of St Johnstone. That means to follow Celtic in the Premiership so far, the most dedicated of fans will have spent £850 on tickets. That takes into account the average Season ticket of £550 along with around £300 in away tickets. Add in travel, food and drink per game of say £20 as an average, and to follow Celtic purely in the Premiership this season, you will have spent close to £1300. Guess what? That’s only half the season so far! It’s an absolutely staggering amount of money and, despite the rising costs, the demand for tickets continues to grow.
 
It’s an absolute fact that when Celtic or Rangers come into town, it’s a guaranteed money-maker, not just for the club in question but for the local area. The shops selling carry-outs for multiple buses heading back to Glasgow, the local food establishments and, of course, the pubs which are always jam packed with fans for at least an hour before and sometimes after the games.

St Johnstone released a statement recently confirming that they would be selling three stands to fans of Celtic and Rangers when they visit McDairmid Park for future games, which works out at around 7000 tickets available for visiting fans. 7000 tickets at an average of £26 a ticket, means that, per game, the Saintees are pulling in just over £180k per match. Four matches against the Glasgow sides means that they can pull in around £720k a year or, having looked at the Perth side’s accounts, around 20% of their annual turnover every season.
 
Even the most ardent of St Johnstone fans could understand the reasoning behind the move to offer more seats to the teams from Glasgow. In the current climate where the average fan is struggling to keep up with the costs of football, even the teams themselves are feeling the pinch and looking to get as much revenue as possible. Having followed Celtic around the country, with the exceptions of Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen and Rangers, it’s safe to say that away fans outnumber the home fans, regularly by around 2:1. However, this becomes a worrying trend when it comes to visitors to Celtic Park.
 
Over the course of the last few seasons, it’s been clear to see that teams are not bringing a great deal of fans to Celtic Park. Fans will say there is a plethora of reasons behind this, from the restricted view (which, personally, I haven’t noticed any fans in that area this season), the likelihood of their team getting a result or, what I would say is the main reason, the price. For most games this season, Celtic have been charging £30 for an adult ticket, something which was picked up by Lewis Cumming and the other Twitter idiots when highlighting/taking shots at the Bhoys’ ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ protest that they have been highlighting since the start of the season.
 
When it comes to the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ programme, it really is something that Celtic should take the initiative on, start a trend, become the first team to introduce this for all away fans to Celtic Park. Even including Rangers’ visits – Celtic welcome an average of somewhere in the region of 300 travelling fans per game. That means that a £10 reduction in tickets would cost Celtic somewhere in the region of £3,000, if the level of fans remained the same. Across a full season, a rough cost would be £57k, again if the supporter levels remained the same. By reducing the ticket cost, you are encouraging fans who would otherwise be priced out of attending, or those who had been put off for other reasons, to support their team. Recovering the £3,000 cost would mean an additional 150 away fans per game, which isn’t a large amount, however, as a club with a turnover of close to £100million every year, the hit of £57k to become a leader in changing Scottish Football is a small price to pay.
 
I know there will be some readers who will be going, “Oh, but they won’t change their prices for us… Why should we pay more than what they are to be at the game?” and I do fully understand that argument. This whole article highlights the issue that the cost of Scottish Football is becoming far too high and we are, at some point, going to price some fans out of the game. If the Celtic experiment was a success, who’s to say that it wouldn’t encourage more fans to return back to the game? And if it did, who’s to say that £20 won’t become the standard across the rest of the league and perhaps even become legislation for the league? That would be similar to the English Premier League, which has capped away tickets at £30 across the league.
 
There needs to be a team who takes the initiative and sets the standard across Scottish football and there’s absolutely no reason why Celtic cannot be the shining light and lead from the front. The cost of Scottish football has spiralled out of control and the average attendance across the league is down on average 930 per game, with only Rangers, Motherwell, St Mirren and Ross County not seeing a decline in attendances. It’s time to make a change before we price a generation of future fans out of the game.

Twenty is Plenty, let’s make 2020, the year of £20 away tickets across the board.

Colin Watt

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