Are tickets for lower league and non-league football too expensive?

26th April 2024

Lower league football is on the rise and so are their ticket prices. The fact is that you can buy a Premier League season ticket for less than a season ticket for a League Two side. West Ham have their cheapest ticket at £310 and Burnley have their cheapest at £335 whereas Gillingham have their cheapest season ticket at £340.

Non-league football teams and lower league teams always have one ambition and that is to climb up the football pyramid. To help them achieve these dreams they need the support of their fans. Gillingham Football Club, a League Two side, has an average attendance of just above 6,300 for the 2023/24 season. Gillingham average attendance, at Priestfield Stadium, is just slightly over the whole average of League Two at 6,250. It’s hard to constantly get supporters to turn up either on a Tuesday or a Saturday. Only twice this season has Gillingham had a turnout of over 8,000 while their lowest attended game was 1,388. Meanwhile at national League South side, Welling United, average attendance is 700 for the season. This is quite low comparing it to the whole of the National League South average attendance at 1,150. Out of a possible 25 home matches at Park View Road, Welling have managed to achieve over 700 supporters just 10 times this season. Another possible reason why people may not be attending games is due to the fact that lower league sides have a midweek game which could be more difficult for fans to fit into their schedule.

The price for an adult ticket at Gillingham is £22 and a season ticket price could cost between £340 and £450. This has already been increased for next year as the cheapest ticket will be £355 and the most expensive would still be £450. This means that it’s an average price of just over £15 for a league match for the cheapest seat in the 2024/25 season. This could increase even more if Gillingham seal promotion to League One this year. For National League South side, Welling United, a standard adult ticket price costs £15. This is only £7 cheaper than a team two leagues above them. Their season ticket for the 2023/24 season ranges from £225 to £260. These prices were the same as the previous year as Welling United rewarded fans with no increase as they knew that people were going through tough times due to the cost-of-living crisis. However, their tickets for next season have yet to be revealed.

Jack Jewell owns a box at Priestfield stadium and paid about £8,000 for it this year.

He said: “I mean I go every week and will go every week. Of course, some games it’s not the most busiest but then again every team has those games. You have the biggest games like when we are playing in the FA cup, this year it was against Sheffield United, and we had nearly like 9,000 in a 11,500 capacity stadium and the atmosphere was amazing. On average, our season tickets are considerably good compared to the rest of the league and teams like Grimsby and Forest Green Rovers. I paid around £8,000 for my box which is good but there are some that range up to near £13,000.

Priestfield Stadium

“I do think tickets overall for leagues One, Two and the National Leagues (North and South) have gradually increased a bit over the years and comparing to like some Premier League and Championship teams, it's not too far off. There is a difference between the teams and there should be in the prices as well. Of course, people want to go to support their club but not everybody has the money to be able to go every week.

“I do think that if clubs reduced the tickets a tiny bit more people would be willing to go and create more of a fanbase for the club.”

As Mr Jewell said, League Two season tickets aren’t too dissimilar to Premier League tickets. For example, the cheapest adult ticket for Aston Villa vs Bournemouth on Saturday, April 20th is £39. This is a ticket for a side that is the Europa Conference League and pushing for a Champions League spot. A Gillingham ticket is only £19 cheaper. Season tickets in the Premier League vary as well. For teams like Chelsea and Liverpool the cheapest season ticket is around £700. Even teams like Manchester City (the Premier League and Champions League current holders) have their cheapest ticket at £385 and Brentford and Sheffield United have their cheapest at £419. There is a £160 difference between buying the cheapest season ticket at Manchester City and Welling United.

Dean Richards attends Welling United games nearly every week.

He said: “Perhaps £15 is a bit too much for a National League South team. It is difficult to pass judgement too harshly, though, without knowing the specific financial details. I think maybe the club must need to collect something to cover the payments of the players and staff payroll. Also, the cost of playing at the stadium too.

Park View Road

“I’ve always been a Welling United fan because I’ve just always grew up in this area. I remember when a ticket used to be just a single digit figure and because my sons played through the academy they used to get in for free and now I’m pretty sure that has stopped, only under 11s are able to get in for free.
“We also have to say that teams like Welling and other National League teams are not publicised on TV. We have no revenue coming through being on TV but higher up teams, even like Leagues One and Two, are on TV.”

Any football team needs its fans to help them on the pitch and to do this clubs must focus on uniting its community to build a culture. This is why some smaller clubs have performed so well in the FA Cup in recent years, Bradford in 2013 and Maidstone in 2024. Comparing to bigger clubs, the fan bases are just as vocal despite the smaller communities.