Football is not only an important part of English culture, it’s also a powerful part of London culture. Being born and raised in South-East London, my local club, Charlton Athletic, was an important part of shaping my identity as a Londoner, just as it was for many others. It was both a great manner of developing an attachment to London as a whole and a way of connecting with and feeling a part of my local community in this big city, a difficult task in a place where so many different worlds meet. I knew first-hand how important local football and football culture was to a true Londoner’s identity and I missed it like crazy.
I had spent September waxing lyrical about English football to exchange and foreign students alike, because experiencing football culture is probably the best way of getting in touch with genuine down-to-earth working class England, something most students won’t be able to experience first-hand. All that alongside the fact that sitting in the shattering rain with a drink in one hand and a steak pie in the other while shouting obscenities at the ref is a truly life-affirming experience. Finally, I decided it was time to practice what I preach and go to a game. I knew I was spoilt for choice, so I thought it would only be a matter of time until I had been to all the grounds across London town. That is, until I saw the prices.
London is home to eleven teams in the Premier League and the Football League, namely: Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Spurs, West Ham, Brentford, Millwall, QPR, Wimbledon and Charlton. I knew that Charlton tickets were about a tenner, but I had no idea of how abhorrently expensive it could get, and how little some clubs actually try to appeal to students. To simplify things- I noted down the cheapest possible league ticket price for an Adult and for a Student for each of the aforementioned clubs and broke it down for you.
First lesson: Crystal Palace, Fulham and Arsenal are rip-offs. Palace’s tickets start off at £25 for students, Arsenal start theirs at £31 and Fulham (who got promoted to the premier league last year) have a base prise of £40. Yes you read that right- Forty of your well-earned English Pounds sterling. Mind you, at least Arsenal are actually a somewhat good side (even though their North London rivals Spurs will offer you a ticket for £24), whereas Palace and Fulham just aren’t good football teams.
Second lesson: The lower leagues know where it’s at. The cheapest Premier League tickets are £18 for a Chelsea game and £12.50 for a West Ham game, whereas in the Championship and below (with one glaring exception) you won’t have to fork out more than £12. Charlton start off their student tickets for a dozen quid, AFC Wimbledon for £11, QPR start at £8 and Brentford (god bless their souls) will let you in for no more than a fiver! The one exception here is Millwall (if you don’t know who Millwall are, their most famous chant is “no-one likes us, we don’t care” and with good reason) where there is no student price, so you’ll have to fork out an eye-watering £23 for their starting adult price.
Third lesson: Clubs don’t seem to want to cater to students. Brushing aside the issue of Millwall and Arsenal not even offering student prices, a recurrent theme is the lack of proper student discounts. Only Brentford and West Ham offer 50% or more off the price of an adult ticket, the others hovering at around 30-40% off. Palace and Fulham aren’t even trying- offering £5 off the adult ticket teach, knocking the price down to a mighty £25 and £40 respectively.
But who can blame these clubs? As much as I want every single foreign student to go to at least one proper English football game, we’re entering an era where these clubs need to secure a new generation of local supporters in an age where the local kids far too often become fans of global brands like Real Madrid or PSG. Attracting students in a city like London where most students aren’t actually locals (let alone nationals) simply won’t do any damage to the long-term issue of the depletion of the clubs’ core supporter group. We quite simply aren’t worth the money. That being said, I still implore you to go see a game in London if you haven’t yet- if you do it right then it’s guaranteed to make you feel like a proper Londoner.