Wigan Athletic: the fifth best value team in the Premier League

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Let me tell you how this started. It started with a spot of old fashioned debate between the message board patrons of This Northern Soul, and regular contributor Wildheart was telling us how a few of his friends weren’t renewing this season due to lack of value. They may well have a point: with only five home wins all season, the simplest measure of this value is to take the £250 invested in a season ticket divide by five and hey presto – you’re paying £50 per win because draws and losses are worth nothing.

 

This is very simplistic though, we are a small team playing in the biggest league in the world and every point is crucial and goals themselves can have a pretty crucial value attached to them as well (goal difference) when each league place is worth £800,000. And of course, you could argue that a draw against Manchester United (not that we’ve ever managed one) could be a greater achievement than say beating West Ham (and again I’m talking generally, certainly not this season)

 

We don’t even score enough goals is another familiar complaint, indeed as we shall see only relegated Birmingham scored less at home last season but then hang on a minute, aren’t our season tickets a fraction of the price of other clubs? Don’t we need to take that into consideration? I think we do.

 

 The tables which follow are not exactly rocket science but are nevertheless revealing. Let’s start with the cost of a season ticket, listed below is the price of the cheapest season ticket for each of the Premier League teams who competed in 2010/11:

 vfmtable1

Credit must go to Football Fancast for that one –  and whereas there may appear to be one or two eye popping amounts near the top for fans of Wigan Athletic or Blackburn, there is nothing out of the ordinary so far. The fact that you could buy nearly four season tickets for the cost of one for Arsenal is stretching the value for money concept a little but London prices and pretty football must count for something. Latics as you can see offer the second cheapest season ticket in the league after Blackburn starting at £250 and this is still a very competitive rate throughout most of the lower divisions. The next table is a more conventional extract of the final Premier League table showing position, season ticket price, wins, points and goals scored.

 

vfmtable2

 

The astute among you will know what is coming next. Yes it’s three more tables! What if we decided to weight the league table based on the value you get out of your season ticket? Well as you can see, if ‘wins are everything’ then last season Wigan Athletic would have finished a mere 10th but if we also apply the same equation to work out the league table based on two other important factors, namely points gained or goals scored, Latics finish a much healthier  5th, just outside a Champions League place. Have a look:

 vfmtables3-5

 

What conclusions can we draw from this:

Well there’s probably an infinite amount of pure analysis and subjective opinions which can be added to this but I ran with this not knowing what the outcome would be and here is what immediately sprung to mind upon calculating the output:

London clubs do not fare well.

West Ham, by virtue of a dreadful season not only finished bottom of the league but finished bottom in nearly all of the value for money tables with their fans paying a minimum of £117 per home win.

Arsenal are also poor, brought on partly by a disappointing end to their season and four home defeats but also due to the sheer expense of their season tickets, which are £200 more than the next most expensive who are Liverpool.

Tottenham are also bottom half in all categories, despite finishing fifth although Chelsea get away with it to a certain degree, due to the high number of home wins and goals scored and a surprisingly cheap least expensive season ticket – if you watched nearly every game at Stamford Bridge sat in the away end, it would cost you nearly a grand but their cheapest season ticket at £550 works out at a reasonable £29 per game.

Fulham, however, sit more towards the mid-table/top half end than the three league tables due to a season ticket which is over £200 cheaper than most of their London rivals

 

At the top, three different clubs top the three different leagues.

 

Man Utd top the ‘Price per win’ table, Blackburn top the ‘price per points’ table and Newcastle sit pretty on the ‘price per goal’ charts with Geordies paying a mere £8.05 per goal scored by their team at home.

In the case of Man United, it’s got nothing to do with how cheap the season tickets are (although they are reasonably priced compared to their fellow top six clubs) but everything to do with their phenomenal home record of 18 home wins out of 19 and an average of nearly 3 goals per game scored in the process.

Blackburn of course are the cheapest in the pile by some £26, and this is a league table that will always skew towards the team that offers the greatest value. A reasonable 7 home wins out of 19 and a further 7 draws at home give them the cheapest price per point gained total at £8.00 compared to West Ham at the bottom who pay nearly £30

Bolton Wanderers, resurgent under Owen Coyle are a consistent fourth across all three tables with 10 home wins and an average just shy of two points and two goals per home game and the likes of Man City, Stoke, Aston Villa are not far behind them with a combination of cheaper end season tickets and decent home form contributing towards this.

Fulham, West Brom, Everton & Sunderland come next in mid to lower table with Liverpool also languishing, predominantly due to the premium price for their season tickets (as do Tottenham) whereas Wolves and West Brom’s position broadly reflects their league positions

The story of Blackpool very much epitomises their season. They won massive plaudits for their attacking football and this is reflected in a position of 8th in the price per goal league table but find themselves back in the relegation zone when it comes to the slightly more important points and home wins league tables.

 

And with that we move to the final table which merges the three with equal weighting and gives them an overall ranking

 vfmtable6

The conclusions of this table is that the cheapest season ticket offers the best value although I wouldn’t like the Glazers get their grubby mitts on this analysis as it might substantiate their price hikes. Bolton and City fans get great value from their season tickets whereas at the bottom, the London trio of Arsenal, West Ham and Tottenham are ripping off their fans, even allowing for a supposed cost of living premium.

 

A dreadful season has contributed to the West Ham price whereas Arsenal would really need to have a similar home record as Man Utd to justify their rates. Liverpool also come out a disappointing 16th in this table, helped by the minimum season ticket price of

£680. Conversely, Chelsea unlike their London counterparts and despite their notoriety for high prices (although this is seen through an away fan’s eyes) come out a reasonable tenth.

 

The above statement also coaxes out one flaw I have discovered in this analysis in that I have taken the cheapest ticket – not the span of prices, or indeed the dearest ticket. For example, Chelsea’s span is £550 – £1,210 whereas Liverpool’s is £680 – £785 – which means that if we were to re-state on an average price basis Liverpool’s is cheaper at £732 than Chelsea’s £880. Closer to home, and the span of Wigan Athletic’s tickets ranges from £250 – £295 whereas Blackburn’s is £224 – £393 meaning that on average a Latics season ticket is £272 whereas Blackburn’s is £308. On that basis, it is Latics not Blackburn who are the cheapest team to watch in the division.

 The key factor underpinning this is how many of the cheap tickets are available? We have loads at Wigan Athletic but if Chelsea only have say 2,000 at £550 and they are all fully taken up with the next price a couple of hundreds quid dearer then the weightings change again. But then maybe I’ll save that one for another day.

 

These are all pure quantitative factors: goals, points, wins, prices and one thing that we often hear Wigan Athletic fans grumbling about is the qualitative factors such as style of football, the sanitisation of the match day experience. Personally I am a big admirer of Roberto Martinez’s style of play but so many other Wiganers have criticised his tactics to the extent that they won’t actually renew their season tickets and sadly I can’t get in their heads to try and compute what price they put on this dis-satisfaction.

 

On a wider scale the gentrification of football up and down the country has been known to cause disillusionment amongst longer standing fans and of course the economic state of the country has an impact to such an extent that a season ticket is perceived as a luxury no matter what the price is, especially considering the wide availability of internet streams and televised coverage of nearly every live game in pubs (Sky and foreign channels).

 

The final consideration at a general level is that the above takes a snapshot of one season. Whereas prices may change in the case of some teams, and indeed there may be significant rises for some teams in pound note terms even if not percentage terms, performances do change over time. How many games will West Ham win next season for example, you would certainly expect it to be more than five, albeit it at a lower level? Will Man United win 18 home games again next year? What if Wigan Athletic win 8 or 9 home games next season? I mean really how many do people expect us to win in this league? No, don’t answer that!

 

Next year, if the teams around the middle can improve or worsen their position depending on the season they have and generally the perception of value should be measured over a longer period of time. Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are always going to struggle to represent good value for money as their entry level price is so high. Whereas if Man United do not have such a good home record, they could slip a little and if City continue to improve and not put ticket prices up by too much then the balance of power in the value for money table could also shift somewhat.

 

Final credit must obviously go to Blackburn and Wigan Athletic in this analysis for keeping season tickets so cheap. Even after applying the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ both clubs offer tremendous value for money. The fact that you can probably get a family of four in at Wigan or Blackburn for less than one adult ticket at Arsenal speaks volumes and Latics only lost two more home games than Arsenal, Blackburn just the one.

We might ‘only’ have won five home games (at £50 per time) but then Tottenham in 5th ‘only’ won 9 home games and their fans paid a minimum £650 for the privilege (£72 per home win). We will never settle the debate over Bob’s playing style unfortunately and I have not set out to prove anything here and deliberately taken a more generic football stance rather than homing in on Wigan Athletic in particular, you can all see the conclusions above and my comments are of a general football nature.
My argument on the quality of football front, whether you like the style or not – is that all football fans encounter all seasons sitting through dirge and for many the actual match is just the event to build your day around. We might have paid £50 per home win last season but I didn’t see too many people banging down the JJB ticket office offering to pay extra for their season ticket in 2002/03 when we got 100 points and scored 100 goals? Some football fans want to have their cake and eat it in this respect, and if they think there’s not going to be any cake don’t even bother turning up for dinner any more.

Regardless of this, the next time someone does claim that they aren’t coming any more because the season tickets aren’t value for money, well now you know the answer to that one. And yes as a caveat, it is difficult to assess the qualitative factors, as a unashamed Bob lover I have no qualms on this front and personally I would have paid £250 just for that second half West Ham performance alone!

 

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