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Nottingham Forest's Insensitive Season Card Price Hike

Nottingham Forest have hiked their season card prices for the second consecutive season, as their supporters continue to be sold out.

Given that for 18 months there were no supporters in stadiums, Covid ought to have taught football a lesson that without the fans, the sport was nothing.

It seems it hasn’t learned one bit.

Football supporters have always, to an extent, been treated as consumers. Once upon a time, there was encouragement towards them; think free-to-air football or affordable ticket prices. Twenty’s plenty, as the old initiative told.

You can barely get a pint for that price these days.

The Premier League was where this commercialisation of football really began. English football did need a revamp, with issues with hooliganism and access driving many people away from the game.

Sky Sports improved the quality of broadcasts and the league’s reputation skyrocketed, propelling English football to the elite status it has had for decades while simultaneously attracting some of the best managers and players on the planet.

But football was behind a paywall for the first time ever, and from there, the customer attitude only developed. You’d now have to pay north of £40 per month to view all of the broadcasted games in England, with the majority of fans still unable to watch their side due to the 3pm blackout.

That’s for the television fans, but what about match going supporters?

Kids for a Quid was an initiative Nottingham Forest stuck to for much of my childhood. It was the reason I was able to begin attending, why I fell in love with the game and what led me to become a season ticket holder for the past ten years. I even remember a Boxing Day where three or four of my friends went for a grand total of £4, with the aim of making football as accessible as possible to everyone.

How times have changed.

Yesterday, Forest announced their season card renewals for the 2024/24 season, the results frankly abysmal.

For Forest’s promotion season, I paid £95 for my season card and that price was frozen for the next season, our first in the Premier League. £95 for a season card in the best league in the world was a steal, and a price rise was always going to come…

This current season, the Reds had a restructuring of their age category, scrapping the 18-23 section in favour of a straight under 20, meaning that I paid the same price as my nine-year-old cousin because of where we sit. The majority of clubs incorporate a section for students of ‘youths’ in recognition of the difficulties of either student life or adapting to the world of work, not anymore.

Then came yesterday’s news. Forest announced they had ‘simplified’ the age brackets, meaning that the student section was scrapped entirely and anyone over the age of 17 would now pay the full price. Even in terms of minimum wage, there is a clear disadvantage for new adults, with a higher bracket (nearly £3 more per hour) for anyone aged over 21.

I love football not just because of the game but for everything that comes with it. Travelling up and down the country or down the A46 to Nottingham every week with my grandparents. The banter in the stands or laughing at my friend’s hasty and unpredictable rants at anytime in the game. However, there’s a good chance I could be priced out of making more of these memories, as I am now expected to pay £850 per season for the seat I’ve sat in for ten years. £95 to £190 to £850 in the space of two seasons. Roughly a 350% rise from this season to next.

As mentioned, Premier League football was always going to hike the price up and many supporters were aware that this increase would come. The extent of this is abhorrent, and the club has only given supporters 26 days to stump up the money, although there is a token gesture allowing payments to be spread over ten months. Ah, that makes it all okay, then.

Everyone will see an increase. The smallest jump for over-65s is £65, while the largest is £200. The cheapest adult seat now sits at £550, but that’s only a very small section of the ground, so most will be looking at £570.

Inflation is prevalent and Forest have had financial issues, as has been well documented. But price increases in this fashion can never be acceptable. The sad thing is, they know we will pay. Football is, for so many, an escape; you can’t put a price on the joy it can bring.   

But that doesn't matter these days. Forest know that there is always someone willing to pay and it’s no coincidence that a season card waiting list appeared a week before this news, which, by the way, many supporters who already had memberships with the club had to pay for.

They don’t even know what division they’ll be in next season. Yes, fans arguably paid Championship prices for the first PL campaign, but that surely doesn't excuse this.

Forest aren’t alone in this. There was uproar from Tottenham supporters as the club announced last month that concession pricing for over 65s would be scrapped in 2025, the cheapest adult season ticket there being £856. 11 out of 12 clubs had announced a rise in prices for next season, that statistic 12/13 now.

Affordable ticketing is possible. Just look at German football and how much of a say supporters have over regulation within their clubs with the 50+1 rule. A standing season ticket on Borussia Dortmund’s famous Yellow Wall cost just €250 last season, just a €10 increase on the season before.

Since Steve Cooper left Nottingham Forest, the family sense and the connection between supporters and their club has dwindled. There’s no saying that Cooper would have stopped these plans, nor should he have, but he looked to be the last one of us left.

Now he’s gone, and we’re picking up the pieces.

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