Football clubs facing "demographic time-bomb"

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Football clubs are facing a “demographic time-bomb” warned an MP today ahead of a Private Members' Bill he is putting before the House of Commons tomorrow.

Labour's Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port & Neston, is proposing a number of measures to help football supporters with a new “10 Minute Rule Bill" to be heard in Parliament after Prime Minister's Questions tomorrow (Wednesday 30th December).

If it became law, the Bill would require all football clubs to provide tickets at discounted prices for young adults. Local authorities would also have to consider the needs of match-going fans when games are moved for TV while a small levy would be placed on transfer fees to fund grassroots development.

Figures released by the Premier League show that the average age of adults attending top-flight games is 41 and the Bill is designed to ensure that young fans are not priced out of the game in future.

"This nation invented football and with the Premier League we have the world’s most popular football league, but I am concerned that despite all this success, fewer and fewer young people can afford to attend games," said Justin, who is also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters, to which the FSF acts as secretariat.

"The average age of season ticket holders in the Premier League speaks for itself and is only going in one direction at the moment.

"It is a demographic time-bomb so we need to reverse that trend and make provision for younger supporters or we risk empty stadiums in 20 or 30 years’ time because the fans of the future have been driven away by sky high prices."

The Bill would require clubs to reserve 10% of general sale tickets for those under-22 and make them available at a discounted price. 

"The match-going ritual was part of growing up for my generation, I don’t want to see the next one lose out on that," Justin said.

Changes to kick-off times to allow more games to be broadcast live on TV has become a huge issue for match-going fans and Justin's Bill would require local councils to look at the impact of fixture changes.

Councils would be forced to make an assessment of transport links available before a kick-off time is changed.

"We have all heard the tales of fans being prevented from going to watch their team because of late changes to kick off times," Justin said. "Everton and Manchester United fans were left furious ahead of the FA Cup semi-final in April this year, after a late 5.15pm start time meant that they risked being left with no train home.

"This can happen at any level of the professional sport. At the start of the season in the non-league, Eastleigh FC found their game against Barrow being moved to a 12:30pm kick off, which was a 10 hour, 600 mile round trip.

"How can anyone seriously expect fans to travel to and from that game on public transport?"

The third part of the Bill would require clubs to spend more money on grassroots facilities for local clubs and young people via a levy on transfer spending.

Private Members' Bills are unlikely to become law as they are granted less Parliamentary time than the Government's legislative programme but they can draw attention to key issues.

You can read Justin Madders MP's full speech to the House of Commons here.

  • The "Football Supporters (Access): Ten Minute Rule Motion" reads: That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require football clubs to provide tickets to matches at a discount for persons under a specified age; to require local authorities to consider the needs of match going supporters when approving kick off times; to require football clubs to set aside a proportion of transfer fees paid for the development of football facilities for local clubs and young people; and for connected purposes.

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this article.