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Football is magic, prices are tragic

The cost of taking children to see premier league matches has shot up, reports Diane Spencer.

The price of tickets for premier league football has risen by more than four times the rate of inflation over the past decade. Hard-pressed parents might try persuading their children to visit the cinema or watch cricket instead.

A review of the economics of league football shows that cinema, like football, has experienced a renaissance in the past 10 years with increased investment in the comfort and style of conditions for spectators.

But cinema prices have only risen by 51 per cent in the past decade, at the same rate as the retail price index. Ticket prices for the premier league have gone up by 222 per cent. A family trip for two adults and two children to watch, say, an Aston Villa game, now costs nearly Pounds 50.

The report by the communications economics advisers Case Associates and the sports law specialists Ashurst Morris Crisp reveals that a number of clubs have hiked up their prices in the past 12 months: Derby County by 58 per cent (minimum Pounds 7 to Pounds 12, maximum Pounds 12 to Pounds 19); Sunderland by 46 per cent (top price Pounds 22); Middlesbrough by 26 per cent and Coventry City by 24.5 per cent. Chelsea, the politicians' favourite club, has the widest range of prices: Pounds 10 to Pounds 40. The much-criticised Manchester United did not raise its prices last season, but this year the best seats go for Pounds 21, not Pounds 18.

Junior rates are usually half those of adults, but many clubs, including Sheffield Wednesday in the premier division and Preston North End in the second division have special deals for families. Sheffield Wednesday offers two children's tickets free to two adults who book two weeks in advance. In Preston, parents can register for seats in the family area for Pounds 10 and are then entitled to buy adult tickets at a child's price of Pounds 7.

Then there's the cost of the replica kit, much sought-after by young fans. The price of the kit is not always in direct proportion to the success of the team: Sheffield Wednesday's young fans pay Pounds 28.99 for a shirt; but on the other side of the city, Sheffield United, in Division I, the youngsters have to pay Pounds 32.99. It makes Man United's Pounds 30 seem reasonable.

Now that Sunday League cricket has turned into a pyjama game, children can buy their team's top for about Pounds 35 - so not much difference there.

However, they can get into Lord's, the game's headquarters, for Pounds 4 on Sunday and Pounds 3.50 during the rest of the week.

The Economics of League Football is available at Pounds 50 from Case Associates, 1 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BW

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