Clubs face losing next generation of fans

Over half of football fans with children say the increasing cost of attending games is preventing them from taking their kids to matches, according to new research from Virgin Money. Analysis from the company’s authoritative Football Fans Inflation Index shows that 51 percent of parent football fans are inhibited from attending games with their children because of the costs involved – a number that has increased from 48 percent a year ago. The research reveals that Liverpool is most at risk of losing its youngest fan base with a staggering 89 percent of regular match goers who are parents, claiming they cannot continue to fork out on matchdays in order to take their children. Other clubs at risk of losing the next generation of fans include Chelsea and Portsmouth, according to Virgin Money. Around 79 percent of regular attendees at Stamford Bridge with children say cost is stopping them taking the family and 78 percent of Portsmouth match-going parents are struggling. Even football legend Pele recently expressed concerns over losing young supporters from football, claiming: “We have to remember one thing: without children's love, football will die.” Fulham, Blackburn and Hull are least likely to lose their young support with just 20, 22 and 25 percent of fans with children respectively saying the cost of following their teams would stop them taking the family in future. Virgin Money’s research is published as part of its regular Football Fans Inflation Index, which has tracked the cost of attending live games on a quarterly basis since January 2006. The most recent research polled 3,887 regular football fans, over half of whom are season ticket holders. with 49 percent of fans polled saying they do not take children to games. Virgin Money spokesman Grant Bather said: “Football needs young fans but if children are going to get the habit they need to get into the game early. If costs don’t start to decrease we’re in danger of losing an entire generation of football supporters. “Clubs that have made efforts to cut ticket prices and to attract more people to matchdays should be praised for their efforts, but in the top flight a family of four still faces a hefty bill for a day out at a football match.” Malcolm Clarke, Chairman of the Football Supporters Federation, said: “Most match-going adults started watching football with a parent - usually their father in those days. It's a habit which has been handed down from one generation to the next, and one on which the future of the game relies. “If new generations of kids don't go to games with their parents when they are young, and become television football fans, or even not football fans at all, then the future lifeblood of the game is at risk. "We already know that the average age of the match-going spectator is increasing, particularly at the top of the game, and this survey gives us one of the main reasons." The cost of taking a child to a Premier League fixture can vary but, for example, a family of four supporting Everton would fork out £104 per match to watch the Toffees from the Main Stand. The table below shows the results for Premier League clubs. INDEX: Fans who can't afford to take kids (%), Fans who can afford it (%) Liverpool, 89, 11    Chelsea 79, 21    Portsmouth, 78, 22  West Ham, 74, 26    Stoke City, 69, 31    Arsenal, 65, 35    Everton, 65, 35    Tottenham, 65, 35    Manchester United, 64, 36   Middlesbrough, 57, 43    Aston Villa, 56, 44    Newcastle, 56, 44   West Brom, 54, 46    Manchester City, 52, 48    Sunderland, 45, 55    Wigan Athletic, 33, 67    Bolton Wanderers, 27, 73    Hull City, 25, 75    Blackburn Rovers, 22, 78    Fulham, 20, 80    Premier League Average  62%,  38%    Virgin Money’s Football Fans’ Price Index shows that in the past three years the cost of attending games has risen by 22.6 percent. The index is aimed at helping supporters keep track of the rises and falls in the costs of supporting their team.