Home or away? A question for football fans

For value, football fans could do worse than cheer on their local League of Ireland side

Manchester United fans in happier times. Photograph: Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images

Manchester United fans in happier times. Photograph: Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 01:00

Each weekend between now and the end of next May, thousands of dedicated followers of football will cross the Irish Sea to watch their favourite English teams play, and will collectively splash out close to €80 million on the chance to see their millionaire heroes kick a ball around a park.

All told, Irish fans will take about 174,000 trips to grounds around England this season, and while it points to an admirable level of commitment to the beautiful game, such dedication – and such spending – stands in stark contrast to what is going on closer to home.

During the latter stages of the boom, it was estimated that more than a quarter of a million pilgrimages were made to football grounds across England annually (this does not include visits to Glasgow’s Parkhead by Irish fans), while the attendance figure for our domestic league was just over 350,000.

So, as a new English football season swings into gear, let’s look at exactly how much Irish fans of the English Premier League tend to spend compared with their League of Ireland-supporting counterparts.

As any soccer diehard who has earned their Spurs knows, the cost of flying to Britain has fallen over the past decade. Flights to Manchester are now available for as little as €20 return some weekends – even those weekends when Manchester United or their noisy neighbours are playing at home. A round trip booked far in advance rarely costs more than €50.

However, while return trips of €20 and €40 are available from Manchester and Liverpool respectively on game days, the only flights that will get you to and from the match on the same day cost on average about €180 for Manchester United fans and at least €100 for Liverpool fans. Return rail and sail journeys, meanwhile, will cost about €90.


Down the road

You would imagine that supporting a team down the road from where you actually live would have to be considerably cheaper travel-wise than leaving the country to catch a match. However, given the Airtricity League’s geographical complexion and complexity, it would seem that the most fanatical followers of regional clubs such as Cork, Derry and Sligo are considerably hard-done-by.

With a Premier Division of five teams in the Dublin metropolitan area (not including Drogheda), fans who avail of chartered bus trips from beyond the Pale can expect to pay about €25-€30 per match. Public transport excursions to the capital tend to come in slightly cheaper, at about €20. However, the irregularity of some services would necessitate a costly overnight stay given the prevalence of Friday night kick-offs.

Taking into account all league and cup fixtures, a regular attender of Derry City’s games could be tasked with more than 15 round trips of 500km to Dublin over a season to see their beloved Candystripes play.

For Cork fans not so smitten with the joys of communal transport, one such journey would cost about €40 in a standard family car at current petrol prices. Multiply that by 10, and the financial implications of regular trips to stadiums in England doesn’t seem so prohibitively expensive. But if flights are as cheap as chips, English Premier League match tickets are the equivalent of a four-course steak meal at Shanahan’s on the Green.

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