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Dash De Shrimper
Feb 5, 2008
P. Brush Territory
Now, according to Virgin Money, the average regular fan of a Premiership football team forked out £1,331 (5% of average salary) supporting their side in 2007. This covered the cost of tickets, merchandise, travel, food, alcohol and match programmes. One in eight dedicated fans paid out as much as £3,000 for match tickets alone, and around one in fourteen spent between £300 and £500 on club merchandise such as scarves, posters and strips. Future versions of Virgin Money's Football Fans' Prices Index might also want to include the cost of cable TV and even take into account the impact of bills for match policing - if it is passed on.

A game of several channels
Last year, Irish company Setanta got in on the TV football action and created more competition for viewers. This season Sky is airing 92 live Premier League matches and Setanta is showing 46. You can also watch Premiership matches on Virgin Media and BT Vision. The latter has just linked with Setanta to offer free live Premier League football and England internationals to customers who have signed up to its £14 a month for its on-demand digital TV service.
But with 35 different packages to choose from, who offers the best deal for you?
The comparison people at uSwitch.com say that to view every televised live Premier League match this season, fans will need to subscribe to both Sky Sports and Setanta channels. Paying for both would give you a monthly bill of up to £46.99. Avid fans also have the opportunity to watch the matches in High Definition by purchasing a Sky+ HD box for £150 and paying an additional £10 monthly subscription. However, Virgin Media customers (on the 'M' TV package) can access the Sky Sports and Setanta channels for £35.99 a month - a saving of 23% or £132 a year compared to Sky's best offering.
Tiscali TV also remains a cost-effective way to watch all live games, offering the full complement of international, league and cup matches for £36.49 a month - 22% cheaper than Sky. However, Tiscali TV is currently only available to just over half of the UK. The company is hoping to reach 10 million homes by the end of 2008.
There are several Setanta promotions running which could save supporters money this season. Those happy to settle for just 46 live games should consider the latest deal from BT Vision, which offers free Setanta Sports 1 to those signing up to its Value Pack. For £14 a month customers can enjoy an extensive range of on-demand digital TV as well as the live matches.

Virgin Media 'XL' TV customers can also enjoy Setanta for free. Normally £19.50 a month, the package, offering over 145 TV channels plus on-demand content as well as Setanta, is currently £9.75 for the first three months, half the normal price. Those Virgin Media customers not wishing to upgrade to this package can still get Setanta for £9.99 a month. All customers would need to pay a premium for the Sky Sports channels.
Fans wishing to avoid signing up to a minimum term contract will be pleased to hear that Setanta can now be accessed via Freeview, either by activating an account directly with Setanta or buying a special 'slot-in' card or box pack from a TV retailer. Prices start from £10.99 a month for Setanta Sports 1, but both new and existing Freeview customers can currently enjoy a £5 discount for the first three months. Finally, for £9.99 month, Tiscali customers will receive Setanta Sports 1 and 2, as well as Setanta Golf.
"For cash-conscious customers who want to watch all the live games but are concerned about the cost, Virgin Media is likely to be the star player, offering both Sky Sports and Setanta for £35.99," says uSwitch's Steve Weller.
However, despite being more expensive, Sky will have its loyal supporters this season. In addition to football, Sky has an excellent selection of TV programming including Sky One, Sky News and Sky Sports News, forbidden viewing for Virgin Media customers. Sky is also the only company offering viewers the chance to watch the games in High Definition. Setanta on its own is a great option for those not fussed about watching every single match live, or those feeling the pinch this year.
At a time when the top clubs are still assessing the transfer market to get the best players at the best prices, armchair football fans should do likewise to ensure they are getting the best deal for the TV package they want this season. If it's not giving you good value, give it the red card," he adds.

Football savings and plastic
I'm showing my age here, but if there had been a Duran Duran savings account available when I was a teenager then I would certainly have opened one. I can only assume the pull is as big for football fans now that many clubs have financial spin-offs. But don't let your devotion blind you to rip-offs.
There are nearly 80 football affinity accounts available now. They work by donating up to 1.25% of the balance in the account. So if Norwich City got a capacity crowd of 26,000 supporters and every fan had a £1,000 in the Norwich City Club Saver account, £325K would be donated to the club each year. Norwich & Peterborough BS, Britannia BS and West Bromwich BS provide most of the affinity accounts in England, while Dunfermline BS provides most of the accounts for the Scottish clubs.
The attraction may be more valid for smaller clubs but does Manchester United really need your money? The 2.15% basic rate of interest they offer for savings is dwarfed by Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers, whose fans enjoy 5.25%.As the Premier League kicks off, many more supporters are likely to sign up for savings accounts or credit cards which pay a percentage of deposits or spending to their favourite team. Britannia Building Society say football fans who have opened soccer-related accounts have helped return almost £4.21 million to their clubs. Independent comparison site Moneyfacts points out that the leading non-footie instant access account, from Anglo Irish Bank, pays 6.4% gross interest.

The bill
For what it's worth, the debate on football costs could become more interesting and complex if clubs are landed with the total - rather than partial (in most cases) - cost of policing games and pass it on to fans. You may have strong views on this. If you oppose it, consider how you would feel if the police bills for controlling crowds at the Proms, rugby or polo matches topped £1million with the taxpayer picking up even part of the bill.....?