Fans often complain that the cost of watching football matches is extortionate – and they’re probably right.
If you’d like to see Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere strut their stuff for Arsenal every week, the cheapest season ticket price is frozen at £985.
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are widely praised for their attractive football, but many would baulk at the cost of over £700 to see them play every other week.
But in 1973, the cost of watching our local team Coventry City in the Sky Blue Stand was a maximum of £28, compared to £171 in 2013 – when the club don’t even play in their own stadium.
‘Juveniles and OAPs’ could buy their tickets for just £13 – and that’s before you take into account the difference between covered and uncovered seating.
In 1973, City were clearly worried about their fans shivering in the winter, for season tickets in the open air were subsidised to the extent that it only cost £14 for adults to see the Sky Blues each week, and a mere £7 for the younger and older generations.
It was probably worth it, too. In 1973, City were in the old Division One alongside the likes of Liver- pool, Leeds United and Manchester United (who were actually relegated in the 1973-74 season).
They won 48 per cent of their home games, although a shaky away record meant they could only finish 16th in a 22-team division.
It was still well before the club embraced the likes of Cyrille Regis, Dion Dublin and Steve ‘Oggy’ Ogrizovic – club legends all – but Coventry were a powerhouse in English football.
So what went wrong?
Contrary to popular opinion, the Sky Blues have only recently fallen into the lower reaches of the Foot- ball League.
They were relegated from the Premier League in 2001 after 34 years in the top flight – a record that only Everton, Arsenal and Liverpool could match at the time.
In 1998, they ended in 11th, their highest-ever finish in the Premier League, and reached an FA Cup quarter-final.
The cost of watching City today is almost ten times as much as in 1973
The club moved to the Ricoh Arena in 2006 after 106 years at Highfield Road, bowing out with a 6-2 demolition of Midlands rivals Derby County and won their first home game 3-0 against Queen’s Park Rangers at their new venue. However, it was with this relocation that their problems really began.
In 2007, Ray Ranson and hedge fund managers SISU took over the club just 20 minutes before they were due to go into administration.
They briefly stabilised and achieved a string of mid-table finishes in the renamed Championship, but were eventually relegated in the 2011-12 season after a tumultuous campaign.
Manager Andy Thorn, who had replaced Aidy Boothroyd in March 2011, was sacked at the start of theLeague One season, and replaced by Mark Robins.
Robins then left for Champion- ship side Huddersfield Town and was replaced by Steven Pressley, the former Heart of Midlothian and Scotland international.
Pressley has had a lot on his plate since joining the club. I actually spoke to him in April after his side’s 1-1 draw with Brentford, and he was optimistic about mounting a promotion challenge this season.
Little did he know what was round the corner for Coventry City.
The club had been embroiled in a row with Arena Company Limited (ACL) for over a year over unpaid rent totalling £1.3m, but the dispute came to a head this summer.
Stunned supporters were told that due to the club’s inability to pay back the loan, their club would be moving to Northampton Town’s Sixfields to play their home games – a relocation of 35 miles.
Fans vociferously opposed the move and there were fears that the club would cease to exist in its cur- rent form.
After going into liquidation, the club were deducted 10 points for the start of the League One season by the Football League – a lenient punishment given that the stock sanction for clubs in administration is 15 points.
But City’s first ‘home’ game has set the tone for a promising start to the season. They edged Bristol City 5-4 in a televised thriller, and after Sunday’s 3-2 victory over mana- gerless Sheffield United, Pressley’s men sit 16th (and they would be fifth were it not for the points deduction).
So what deals are the club offering to entice back their disillusioned fans?
Tim Fisher, the club’s chief executive, has offered season tickets for adults in the Standard Zone at £171 – almost exactly ten times the amount of the cheapest season ticket in 1973.
In fairness to the club, they have been inventive in attracting younger members. Junior Sky Blues (JSBs) who are under seven years old have a season ticket for free in the Family Zone, if they want it.
But £17 for a season ticket? We will surely never see anything like this again.