THERE are few more emotive subjects for football supporters than the price of tickets. And for good reason, too.

Last week, having a rare Saturday off, I took the wee man along to watch Motherwell take on Hibernian at Fir Park and was charged £24 for the privilege. In fairness, my eight-year-old’s season ticket cost me just £20, but even so, the one-off adult ticket price seemed a little steep for a match between two mid-table Scottish Premiership sides.

Those in this profession are fortunate we don’t often have to pay into games, but what was a one-off shock to my wallet is unfortunately the weekly reality for fans who follow their side week-in, week-out. Football is an expensive hobby, alright.

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And yet, still they come. Even at £52 a ticket for the away end at Ibrox last week, you could have packed it out 10 times over with Celtic fans desperate to see the game. But where is the tipping point? When will supporters turn their backs on clubs who seem indifferent to the creeping reality they are biting the hand that feeds them?

In Scotland, cash from ticket sales is one of the main lifebloods for clubs, contributing a higher proportion of revenue than contributions from broadcasters. And yet, while this makes the slavish devotion to the desires of TV companies all the more baffling, it also highlights the high-wire our clubs are traversing when setting rates at the gate. Particularly smaller clubs who would dearly love to grow their fanbase.

Do they drop prices and hope that an increase in footfall will plug the gap, or do they continue to milk the hardcore support who they know will turn up come hell or high-water?

Unfortunately, history has shown that clubs who have experimented with slashing prices have lost out on money as not enough floating punters are attracted by the tenner at the gate offer to supplement the price drop. It seems unfair that the cost of running clubs to their current level is then passed on to the stoic hardcore, but if they want their team to be competitive in a league where other clubs are charging around £30 a ticket, then what are they to do?

Given clubs are unlikely to attract new regular fans as adults, it seems sensible that some are at least trying to grow the number of young fans with attractive pricing, thus leading to a larger base support down the line. But that is hardly universal.

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A ticket for a child at the forthcoming Edinburgh derby at Easter Road, for instance, will be £14. A pricey day out for a parent taking their kid when you factor in the £32 for their ticket. Hamilton even charged £15 for kids to attend the recent Lanarkshire derby.

Our biggest clubs can’t afford to take this unquestioning devotion for granted either. Rangers fans will probably still snap up the £111 three-match package for their home Europa League fixtures released this week, which comes in at a full £39 more than Celtic fans are being asked to pay for their games. But the warning signs are there that our clubs may pay an even bigger price the longer they take their paying fans for granted.

Among many eye-catching headlines in the UEFA report ‘Polarization in European Football’ that was leaked yesterday was the finding that the “attractiveness of the Big Five league matches on television could at least partially account for a drop in stadium attendances this decade across the 45 lowest-ranked leagues by revenue.”

In other words, with games from England or Spain on the box all weekend, fans may keep their 30 quid in their pocket and decide to get more value out of their Sky subscription. And that’s before considering what the proliferation of Amazon Firesticks that can beam EPL games into your living room at 3pm every Saturday for £50 a year could be having on attendances.

Oh, and just a note for Celtic and Rangers, apparently their own club’s TV channels are also available on these ‘IPTV’ platforms. Being an upstanding law-abiding citizen, I couldn’t possibly know that for sure though.

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The point is that clubs don’t seem to recognise they aren’t the only show in town anymore, and as prices creep ever higher, more fans are realising what they could be doing with the best part of £30 (or more if factoring in the kids) of a weekend.

How costly that turns out to be for our clubs remains to be seen.


A massive few days awaits Scotland as Steve Clarke looks to pull off a feat that would make Lazarus's stunt look tame in comparison by resurrecting our automatic qualification hopes for Euro 2020.

The good news is that the game tonight and the match on Monday are both at Hampden. The bad news is that they are against Russia and Belgium.

This country being as it is, if Scotland are defeated in both of these matches - as it is quite possible they will be - Clarke will be a dud, our players will be hopeless and there will be calls to rip it all up and start again. But as much as it goes against our national character, a little patience is required.

If we do get results, then great. We have the luxury of a play-off already up our sleeves, but it would be brilliant if we were somehow still in with a shout of pipping Russia to second spot come Tuesday morning.

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Even if it has all gone wrong though, there should be no rush to judgment. This is only Clarke's second camp. The opposition is formidable. Half of our already impoverished central defensive pool is injured. These are not excuses, but reading Robert Snodgrass's comments this week, Scotland won't be looking for any.

That's the aim anyway under Clarke, to make sure our preparation and approach to these games is as professional as it can be so that no excuses are available or desired.

For too long the Scotland team has been a bit of a joke. Given time, Clarke can change all that.