Food for thought

Football. The working man's game, the game of the people, our national sport. Or at least that's what it used to be. My concern is we are going to lose a whole generation of young supporters to online gaming or lead to a disinterest in the beautiful game, by pricing out the average fan and family. 

This is not a problem unique in any way to Rangers, this is an issue that exists across the board the length and breadth of the country, but I am a Rangers supporter so will use my club as an example here as it's what I'm most familiar with. 

This week, for example, will see Rangers take on Kilmarnock in a Scottish Cup replay, tickets are priced at an incredibly steep £27 pounds for an adult, that is even more expensive than the cheapest single ticket for a Scottish Premiership match, all to witness the sides taking on each other for the fifth time this season, and on a midweek. Now, I know this is not Rangers doing, far from it the club was keen to reduce prices in order to show appreciation for the fans continued to support, this was another example of the Kilmarnock chairman ( who claims he can't afford grass) seeing pound signs and the chance to make a quick buck riding the coattails of the Rangers gravy train. It shows a complete disregard for his own fans, who alongside the £27 pound ticket price will face ( like many Rangers fans ) travel costs on a Wednesday night, coming just four days after their sides previous fixture. 

When does this insanity stop?. Cup attendance is already down across the board, just look at the early rounds of the Bet Fred cup as evidence of what the fans think. Part of it is in my view there are too many fixtures, that could be cut back as I spoke about in a previous article, but the major issue is pure and simple economics. Early rounds of the League Cup often take place when many families are just returning or still looking ahead to summer holidays, the income required to take kids is just not there, no matter the want or desire. When I was young all league cup games were included in your season ticket, together with the first Scottish and European games. This was a thank you to loyal fans for their continued support year in year out. Those days will never return, I understand that and respect the reasons why however sensible pricing must be introduced across the board at all clubs or we will lose the youth. What incentive is there to attend a match when you can watch it on tv with your mates at a fraction of the cost?

This is not aimed at me I will always go, I caught the bug at a young age and the feeling of sheer excitement, climbing up the stairs to get to my seat and witness the stadium in all its glory won't wilt. My concern is for the ones who will miss out due to high pricing. 

Looking ahead Rangers will play four games in the space of ten days, not for the first time this season either. Many supporters will attend all four meetings, some the three home games. If we take the average price of £25 for an adult and £15 for a concession and say they will only attend the three home games with one child that works in at £120 in the space of a week. That is an awful lot of disposable income for a family, in a very short period of time. This does not include travel and food and beverages. People may well argue if you can't afford it, don't go. True, but football clubs were built to bring communities together and be for all people, not just a few. 

We don't have the players or managers as some of our European counterparts on show, yet we charge considerably more on a number of fronts. A ticket to Dortmund can cost you as little as €11, Valencia €9, Bayern Munich €12 or A.C Milan €14. These sides also can boast of far superior matchday experiences than our own. Many clubs now operate a smartcard for food and drink system in order to speed up waiting times and do away with cash issues at the tills. 

We should be encouraging the fans of tomorrow, not just in friendly games but sensible prices for all games. The clubs must work together on this or risk losing a whole generation of match going fans. 

Now, to my next point. The food on offer at Ibrox. We are miles behind now in terms of quality and value for money than many of our peers. That is not acceptable to me. 

The quality and range of food available in the rest of the world really do put ours to shame, this is something I have written about before and will continue to bang the drum about. Glasgow is one only behind London in the UK for restaurants in terms of variety and quality for me, yet what we continue to serve in our ground looks straight out of a school cafeteria, mass-produced, sold high, cheap food. 

In Germany a Wurst can be bought for €1.80, here a soggy hotdog bidding starts around £5. Atlanta United in the MLS have recently just moved into a state of the art stadium complete with all the comforts a modern fan can dream of, yet prices and quality of food are kept low. Hotdog $2, popcorn $2, pizza slice $3 and a basket if chicken and fries for $6. 

This Saturday during our home game with St Johnstone I decided to venture down from my seat to purchase a cheeseburger and a juice, the bill came to £7! that can get you a gourmet burger with all the trimmings in 5 guys or a gourmet burger. The pie stalls look dated and shabby along with the uniforms worn by the staff who work on them. I fully appreciate that this will not be of pressing concern to the current board, who in fairness are making changes and trying to put right over a decade of neglect. It will take time, I just feel we are being left behind. 

Why not simply rent some of the stalls out to say a 5 guys, Gourmet Burger co, Mcdonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut or a Taco Bell, let them manage the staff and all we can take the rent or a percentage of sales. I don't think its far away to suggest that in the not to distant future some clubs will offer the chance for food orders be delivered to your seat, following ordering via your phone. We must move with the times. 

In my youth, we had a menu and facilities that put other clubs to shame, we were at the forefront, the lead dog. What we witness now is the neglect of both the facilities and the fans who are supposed to dine here. 

If you want the fans to spend money, then you must offer quality, not just quantity. 

Steven Harrigan 

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