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BBC Price of Football survey: Analysis

19 October 2012

The average price of the cheapest adult ticket has increased over 12 months, but what’s the premium on a Premier League ticket?

The BBC Price of Football survey has shed light on the phenomenal cost of following the modern game.

We know that the high demand for Premier League football means top-flight clubs can command a higher average ticket price than their counterparts in lower divisions, but I wanted to see exactly how much clubs charged their fans relative to what you might expect.

Understanding demand is often tricky – does demand drive prices or do prices drive demand? – but for the purposes of this exercise I’ve assumed clubs charge fans based on their willingness to attend games.

In the absence of an average ticket price value in the dataset, I’ve created an ‘average’ price from the midpoint between the cheapest and most expensive ticket at each club. Whilst this does not exactly reflect the average price of attending a game, it correlates strongly to a club’s average attendance in the 2011/12 season – the measure for demand.

The chart below illustrates this correlation, and you can click to interact.

Given this relationship, I use a regression to estimate what we would expect an ‘average’ ticket price to be based on team’s average attendance last season, their division and the location of the club.* This estimation tells us:

  • On average across the five divisions a 10% increase in attendance results in a 2% increase in ‘average’ ticket price.
  • Playing in the Premier League increases ticket prices by 26%**
  • Playing in the Premier League as a London team increases ticket prices by a further 49%

The estimation also provides a benchmark for each club – a price expectation. Clubs can charge above or below that benchmark, giving us a ‘residual cost’. A positive residual cost tells us a club charges more than we’d expect based on their average attendance, division and location, and a negative residual tells us a club charges less than we’d expect based on these factors.

Click on the chart below to see which clubs charge above and below their estimated benchmark.

Feel free to explore the above graphic, as well as this visualisation to understand the residual cost as a percentage of ‘average’ ticket price.

A few issues with the analysis:

  • The ‘average’ ticket price may not reflect the true average ticket price, particularly if the difference between the cheapest and most expensive ticket is significant (e.g. Arsenal). This in turn would lead to inaccurate ticket price expectations and residual costs.
  • Average attendance may not reflect demand – clubs like Liverpool are clearly constrained by the capacity of their stadia.
  • Cardiff, Derby, Millwall and Braintree Town were all excluded owing to a lack of data.

The price of football may be rising, but clubs will argue that they can – and do – charge in line with demand. Only a fall in attendances or regulation will bring down the cost of attending matches.

You can explore the BBC Price of Football dataset, along with my ticket price expectations, on IBM Many Eyes.

*The estimation comes from a regression of the natural log of ‘average’ ticket price on the natural log of average attendance, a dummy variable for Premier League clubs and a dummy for Premier League London clubs.

** Ceteris paribus; a Premier League team’s tickets will be on average 26% more costly than a non-Premier League club with a comparable average attendance.

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