Hillsborough is cheapest day out for Yorkshire football fans

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FOR the second season running, Sheffield, a city which represents the cradle of the game, offers the cheapest day out in the whole Football League.

But this year, the crown belongs to Wednesday, not United.

BBC Sport’s latest Price of Football study, in its fourth year, has been published, covering 176 clubs across 11 divisions of British football and 31 clubs from 10 different leagues in Europe. And, as ever, it has come up with some head-turning findings.

According to the 2014 statistics, the average price of the cheapest match-day ticket from the Premier League to League Two is now £21.49; that figure increasing at almost twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011.

The most expensive place to watch football being Arsenal, where the most costly match-day ticket is £97 and the highest-priced season ticket is an equally staggering £2,013.

Arsenal’s cheapest yearly ticket is £1,014, a figure higher than 17 top-flight clubs charge for their most expensive one. By considerable contrast, the cheapest yearly ticket at La Liga giants Barcelona is a mere £103.38.

Value can also be found in Yorkshire, more especially at Sheffield Wednesday, whose cheapest day out price is £17.80.

The survey includes information on ticket prices, price of pies, programmes and a cup of tea, which is all used to calculate the cheapest match-day experience.

Last season. the Owls’ city rivals Sheffield United provided the best value for money Football League day out at £17.70, followed by Huddersfield Town, whose total day out cost in 2013 was £17.80.

The best value this year firmly belongs to the Owls, with their £10 adult match-day ticket – albeit for specified matches only – representing the cheapest in the top four divisions of English football alongside Derby County and a figure only matched by Conference side Southport.

Owls director of communications Trevor Braithwait said: “We are delighted to learn that we offer the cheapest day out for our supporters in the local area.

“The prices of our season tickets for Championship football compare favourably too, while emphasising the significant savings on offer during the Early Bird purchase period. Overall, the survey reflects very well on Sheffield Wednesday, underlining our ethos as a football club with its community at heart.”

After the Owls, the next cheapest average across the White Rose is at Hull City (£24), with only Newcastle’s figure of £23.30 representing better value in the top-flight.

The cheapest match-day experience at Huddersfield (£27) and the Blades (£27.90) represent significant rises since last season, although Town’s programme price at £2, is the least expensive in the Championship.

Comparable to those average ‘day -out’ figures are the statistics at Middlesbrough (£28.80), Leeds United (£28.20), Bradford City (£28.40) and Barnsley and Doncaster (both £28.10).

As for the most costly match-day ‘day out’ in Yorkshire? Step forward Rotherham United, with their figure of £33 ensuring that it is the fifth highest in the second-tier after Brighton, Fulham, Bournemouth and Norwich.

Millers chief operating officer Paul Douglas is the first to acknowledge that price increases were seen as a necessary step to enable the club to compete with a host of bigger rivals in the Championship following promotion.

But equally he is adamant that the figure is slightly misleading and needs to be fully taken into context alongside various incentivised offers to Millers fans.

Douglas said: “First and foremost, I think the survey is a good thing and it is right that clubs are held to account regularly like this.

“But it is a difficult analysis to do in a way that is comparative.

“We have invested hugely in our facilities over the last two or three years with the newest stadium in the country and that has coincided with two very successful years on the pitch.

“That has allowed us to massively grow our fanbase and season ticket base.

“We have tried through this period to ensure fans aren’t priced out and are also aware we are in an area which always seems to get hit disproportionately by economic difficulties. At the same time, we are competing at a level with clubs which are a lot bigger than us and with more resources.

“While one could be critical of us with some survey headlines, it is important to bare in mind that 80 per cent of our season-ticket holders bought tickets for £355, not £450 (cheapest Millers season ticket) mentioned in the survey, which is only £20 above the divisional average .

“Our season-ticket proportion of support has gone up from 30 per cent to almost 75 per cent in three years and there’s been a huge upturn largely because of the way we have encouraged our fans to purchase them and take advantage of the excellent rates.

“We accept there are certain people who won’t buy a season ticket and we do not want to discourage people if they do not.

“While we are on the higher end of the cheapest day out Championship category, I would be very surprised if the percentage of people who come to a game and buy a pie, programme and cup of tea and match-ticket and it will cost them £33 is high. I think we are talking less than five per cent of those in the stadium.”

Sports Minister Helen Grant wants clubs to look at ticket prices, so they don’t price fans out of the game.

“I can see why fans are cross. I’m cross, and I feel that clubs really must not take their fans for granted,” she said.