Pies and lows for the bargain hunters

The BBC’s annual “Price of Football” survey has landed, calculating and comparing the cost to the fan of the match-day experience across a “basket” of products: ticket, programme, tea, pie, replica shirt. So, what savings are out there for the eagle-eyed, cost-conscious supporter?

Pies and lows for the bargain hunters

Well, if it’s a cheap cup of tea you’re after, head for Aberystwyth Town where a half-time drink will set you back just 80p — a full 50p saving on the price of a cuppa at East Fife, and less than half the price of the tea at Cardiff City, indicating that thrifty Bluebirds followers who want some money in their pockets at the end of the day would do well to get in their cars at half-time and drive to the coast.

Bargain hunters might want to stay in the Welsh Premier League to source their replica shirts as well. Port Talbot Town seem to be offering an adult shirt at £25, with a junior shirt at just £15. That represents a saving of £30 on the price of an adult shirt at Arsenal and £25 on the price of a junior shirt, for a total saving of £110 across a family of four — and, of course, you can save still further on the deal if you don’t have children. Port Talbot wear blue, by the way, which might not be to everyone’s tastes, but at these irresistible prices, that’s surely just a detail.

For your pie, the data seems to suggest that the canny punter goes to Burton Albion and pays £2.50, saving £1.60 on the cost of the equivalent comestible at Brighton & Hove Albion. Of course, it’s possible that the pie at Brighton is a gourmet experience and that the pie at Burton tastes like a soggy wallet. But the important thing is that you’re saving money and not revealing yourself to be the sap of the capitalist system.

When it comes to programmes, the clear bargain is Fleetwood Town, where the match-day magazine is on sale at just £1. That’s a £3 saving, no less, on the programme at Southampton, so Saints fans who are looking to stash their hard-earned cash might want to think about heading up to Lancashire to get their programme there.

For match-day tickets, the European clubs are nearly always where the biggest bargains are to be found, with Valencia’s price of £7.46 looking particularly good value this year, albeit that this doesn’t include flights and accommodation, which we estimate would put it up to about £673.29, based on two adults sharing and not including replica shirts and tapas. And it might be worth considering that not even Arsenal charge £673.29.

Therefore, on balance, we would suggest going for a ticket to Aston Villa Ladies, where you can get in for just £3. And if, as some people argue, “20’s plenty” where football tickets are concerned, then three really is exceptionally generous.

So, using our special match-day price totaliser (the calculator on my iPhone), we reckon you could bring in the full, game-going experience — ground-hopping, as above — for just £32.30. Plus there’ll be the price of chartering a helicopter at £11,209, including pilot and fuel, so let’s say £11,241.30 in total. Bear in mind, of course, that the tea might be cold before you get to the pie. And you’ll probably end up missing quite a lot of the second half.

Nevertheless, you will have the abiding satisfaction of knowing that you have joined forces with the BBC against the rampant commercial exploitation of the football fan and his right to pay a non market-driven price to watch a match while wearing a shirt, eating a pie and drinking tea.

Tower blocks that still stand on ceremony

Glasgow’s remaining Red Road tower blocks were levelled in a controlled explosion last weekend — or, at least, most of them were. Two of the six high-rises remained partially upright after a technical misfire and are in the process of being dismantled manually.

Well, it happens. And, of course, it could have happened far more prominently. You will recall, perhaps, the plan to make the long-scheduled demolition at Red Road a feature of the opening ceremony for last summer’s Commonwealth Games — a plan that earned the full and enthusiastic backing of this column at the time.

Talk about upping the bar. Under the lights at Celtic Park, Susan Boyle would have done her bit along with the dancing Tunnock’s tea cakes — and then the big screens would have transported us across to the northeast of the city, and boom! Thirty storeys of Brutalist architecture would have hit the floor. Party started, or what? Thus would Glasgow have become the first host city in the modern era to blow a part of itself up during an opening ceremony. Eat that, Beijing.

Ultimately, of course, and despite our best efforts, the plan was dropped after critics complained that it would have set the wrong tone. They may have had a point. It certainly would have set the wrong tone if they had gone for the explosion and it hadn’t completely worked. An explosion that didn’t explode would have been the dampest of damp squibs, setting a downer on the occasion which no amount of John Barrowman could have pulled around and entirely handing the advantage to the organisers of Gold Coast 2018.

In retrospect we humbly concede, then, that our enthusiasm got ahead of itself last year and we crudely under-assessed the risks. Like those two stubborn towers, Glasgow 2014 dodged a bullet.

A bridge too far? Not necessarily

The English Bridge Union’s attempt to have bridge formally acknowledged as a sport (and thereby gain access to National Lottery funding) was thrown out by the High Court this week, but it seems to us that the bid is still alive under the terms of the judgment, if the EBU has the will remaining to capitalise.

The judge agreed with Sport England that the classic card game lacks the necessary element of “physical activity”. But that’s easily added on, isn’t it? What if, after every few minutes, everyone gets up and moves round one? Better still, you play the game entirely chairless, or perhaps from a standing position on individual treadmills. Maybe (if you want to introduce a further physical element) you set the treadmills gradually to accelerate as the game goes on.

Let’s face it, it’s only the walking around that keeps golf on the right side of the sport/game divide. A little bit of tweaking and bridge can be all the sport it longs to be.

Schoolboy error should spare Boris retrospective action

“I felt a bit of pain but it’s OK,” Toki Sekiguchi said. Exactly. No real harm done. Which is why these calls for Boris Johnson to join the likes of Jonny Gray and Ross Ford of Scotland and be cited and banned for his actions in Japan this week seem like a woeful overreaction.

Review the images from that controversial coming together during a Tokyo street match: OK, Johnson possibly goes in a bit high on the ten-year-old schoolboy. But that’s more about disparity of size than malicious intent on the part of the New York City-born politician. Plus the line and a copper-bottomed photo-opportunity were in sight and Johnson, in full flow after going round the outside of a flailing schoolgirl with a ponytail, had every right to go for it. Part and parcel, would be our verdict, and Sekiguchi, though unquestionably young, has presumably been in the game long enough to know what he was getting himself into.

Make no mistake, we’re not condoning violent behaviour on the pitch, nor encouraging lawlessness. But it’s more a matter of when the laws are applied. The Japanese authorities dealt with the matter at the time and another disputed retrospective call at this stage of the Rugby World Cup would most likely only exacerbate the questions that are already being asked about the wider disciplinary review process and its machinery, not to mention about perceived discrepancies between punishments — eg three weeks for Gray and Ford’s tackling but only one week for Sean O’Brien, of Ireland, who threw a punch at France’s Pascal Papé. The other point to make is that it’s rugby, and rugby is, of its nature, physical. That’s why people come.

Also, you take that slightly rule-stretching blind-side element out of Johnson’s game, you lose the mayor.