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Price hike forces out real fans.

IT'S little coincidence that as ticket prices have risen over the last 20 years the atmosphere in most Premier League grounds has gone in the other direction.

There are other reasons, of course, that the volume has been turned down in stadiums once renowned for their fervent inhabitants, the removal of terraces and ridiculous kick-off times to suit TV companies chief among them.

But the out-pricing of clubs' working-class support has had a massive impact.

Watching top-flight football is rapidly becoming an elitist pursuit.

Liverpool tickets that cost pounds 6 or pounds 7 in 1992 will now set you back almost pounds 50 following the latest round of price hikes.

It's a similar tale at most clubs.

At Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and Anfield, Cockney, Mancunian and Scouse brogues have been replaced by strange, middle-class, middle-England accents.

Men called Quentin and Rupert whose first passion was once rugby union or pheasant shooting can now be found in the Stretford End or Kop Jay Spearing filming those around them singing - or worse, celebrating goals - on their mobile phones.

That isn't to disregard the much maligned out of town supporters of teams like Liverpool and United, many of whom are as passionate and knowledgeable as any Merseysider of Mancunian. It's just that someone asking in a West Country accent who Jay Spearing is will stand out a great deal more.

Many have blamed the players whose inflated salaries gate fees pay. And they must take a large portion of responsibility, despite being entitled to pursue the best possible deal for themselves.

The real villains are the football agents and other greedy figures who surround the game - but fans, too, have to accept a share of the culpability.

Tickets for most foreign teams, particularly in Germany and Italy, are still relatively low.

That's because supporters in those countries would simply refuse to pay the price we face. They'd boycott games, protest even riot.

We, unfortunately, have accepted our lot.

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Jay Spearing
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 20, 2011
Words:330
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