As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, nearly everyone is feeling the financial pinch. The cost of living crisis sweeping England, Australia and many other countries is making it harder and harder to budget for anything leisurely, and that includes the apparently rising cost of supporting your football club.
Which is why I am shocked and disappointed that on top of the price increases for training gear and season tickets (outlined here by the extremely talented Mikey Galaszia), the club today announced a fee of £45 to watch the 5 pre-season games lined up for the squad this summer. Bloody hell, someone check the Kamara transfer announcement because I think we all missed the bit where they mentioned they’d be paying his salary on the back of extortionate coverage revenue.
Now to be fair, the package does include 12 months of VillaTV, which boasts some decent content, particularly regarding the youth teams. I get why people are pointing at this fact to defend the club; at first glance, it makes the deal far more palatable. But I remain apprehensive for two reasons, the first being that there appears to be no option to purchase the preseason match passes, individually or collectively, without also getting VillaTV. Not particularly interested in that? Tough! Monthly payments, which are how 99% of streaming services operate (to avoid so transparently locking their customers to a contract), are now out of the equation.
The second reason is that VillaTV was worth only £20 last year for the whole season, meaning even if you consume this content (plenty of which is available for free on YouTube) like there’s no tomorrow, you’re still out £25 for the preseason matches. Not too bad a price at face value, but let’s remember that these matches were free on YouTube, commentary and all, only a couple of years ago. Obviously, the club has moved up in stature since then, but in a time where many are struggling to fill their car with petrol, this £45 hit to the wallet is insensitive and illogical. To declare it within a week of announcing increased season ticket prices, stupidly expensive training gear and a 9 figure stadium expansion? That’s downright vindictive.
Until now I had begrudgingly turned a blind eye to the price hikes; season tickets were never an option to me, and training gear is something I can comfortably do without. Honestly, we all make concessions to follow our football club - we can’t have everything they offer and as the club moves upwards, it is inevitable that prices will follow. But I am a broke university student, living paycheque to paycheque whilst inflation soars. With one social media announcement, myself and plenty of others have effectively been priced out of my club’s pre-season, something that was free just two years ago. And that really does not sit well with me.
Plenty on Twitter are already voicing opinions that directly contradict mine, and to a certain extent I understand – if you’re willing to pay upfront, and confident that you’ll make the most of your yearlong VillaTV subscription, £5 per match is worth it. People have every right to purchase the package, and this article is absolutely not a call to boycott the service or harass anyone involved with the pricing. But I think I stand with the majority of the Aston Villa fanbase when I say that the change to this new pricing model is coming far too quickly.
In my eyes, the fans should be charged more when the on-field results justify it – the order of this should never, ever be reversed.