English Football Finances – 1981 to 2011

Football finance has been a hot topic for several years now, and we often cite the influx of Sky money, the formation of the Premier League, the modernisation of FIFA and UEFA, football club takeovers and of course, the rise of player wages as key indicators of how football has become more and more a business and is completely divorced from the football that we knew a few decades ago.

Part of that is true – football has indeed changed drastically even in the last 30 years (as the below infographic and research shows). But some of those changes are also a natural evolution – football’s global appeal has meant that it has attracted more and more business-minded people looking to take advantage of that global audience. This is the same in any sphere of life – where you have the opportunity to affect people at a large scale, there will always be money-men looking to take advantage. Whether this aspect of our lives – and this power grab is nothing new to human civilisations – is a necessary evil or the devil’s doing is a debate for another day.

Today we look at how English football finances have evolved in the last 30 years (1981 to 2011). We look at ticket prices, player wages, transfer fees, average british earnings as a comparison and we also look at how the laws of the game and success for football clubs has changed in this time.

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English Football Finance - 1981 to 2011

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See the full-size version: English Football Finance – 1981 to 2011.

Ticket Prices

One of the major changes in the game over the last 30 years has been the increase in ticket prices, with the average person struggling to afford a season ticket to see their team in action these days. In the last three decades, the biggest teams’ one-off ticket prices have soared also. From 1989 to 2011 ticket prices to watch Arsenal have increased by 920 per cent from £5 to £51. In 1989 the cheapest price for a ticket to watch Manchester United cost £3.50; in 2011 the least fans can expect to pay is £28. Whilst at Anfield the minimum prices have gone from £4 to £45 in 30 years. Staggeringly, a season ticket to see Kenny Dalglish’s men has skyrocketed from £60 to £725 -a leap of 1,108 per cent.

Player Wages

The amount of money that players get paid has gone through the roof; the first footballer to earn £100-a-week was Jonny Hynes back in 1961, whilst Carlos Tevez now earns £286,000-a-week, which is more than £1 million a month. Notable landmarks are Chris Sutton as the first £10,000-a-week player and Sol Campbell as the trendsetter at the £100,000 mark.

Transfer fees

To bring a new player to your club is not cheap these days, as Trevor Francis’ £1.18 million fee in 1979, then a record, now looks like a bargain. The £30.8 million spent on Andriy Shevchenko will have Chelsea fans quivering in their boots, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo is starting to look like good value for the £80 million Real Madrid shelled out for him in 2009.

Stadium capacities

Surprisingly, the highest capacity stadium in world football is the Rungrado May Day Stadium in North Korea, which holds a whopping 150,000 supporters. Other leading venues are the Estadio Azteca in Mexico and the Salt Lake Stadium in India. The new Wembley Stadium is the ground in the United Kingdom with the highest capacity with 90,000 fans able to fit in, whilst Old Trafford is the biggest club stadium at 75,811.

Average British Earnings

The money earned by the British public has increased over the last 30 years, but so has the number of low-income households. The average yearly wage of £8,566.07 in 1981 has went up to £37,580.11 in 2009, but the low income households have also increased from 8 million to 13.8 million in the same time period.

British football attendances

The increase in the capacity of football stadiums is due to the heightened demand to attend; the beautiful game has never been more popular. Average attendances in the Premier League have went from 24,682 in 1981 to 35,294 in 2011. The biggest clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have much more of a following, with the English champions seeing their average attendance grow by over 30,000 people from 45,071 to 75,109.

English champions

Manchester United lead the way in winning the English top flight, with the Old Trafford outfit crowned champions on 11 occasions since 1981. Liverpool’s success in the 1980’s sees them in second place with six titles, followed by Arsenal with five and Chelsea with three. Everton’s two triumphs are followed by the solitary glory seasons of Blackburn and Leeds.

This season’s Premier League title race is between Manchester’s two clubs, however back in the 1980’s Everton and Liverpool slugged it out for glory, with the Merseyside clubs on top for most of the decade. The 1990’s saw the one-off wins for Leeds and Blackburn, and the emergence of Manchester United as a power in the nation’s game. Arsenal had their success’ in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, before Chelsea threw their hat in the ring towards the end of the 2000’s, however Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have been a constant challenger and regular winner.

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