Debate kicking off over football club mascot charges
How much does your club charge to be a matchday mascot?
Walking on to the pitch alongside their football heroes is a memory that stays with a child forever.
But these days, being a match day mascot can also come with a pretty hefty price tag for some young fans.
Premier League sides including West Ham United and Norwich City have come under fire for charging up to £700 for the right to walk out on to the pitch with the clubs’ stars.
And there are fears that it’s putting the once-in-a-lifetime experience beyond the reach of many families.
Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, is urging clubs in the top two divisions to rethink their pricing policies.
“There may be an argument for charging a very small premium for administration but to charge these type of fees makes being a mascot the preserve of the well-off, completely against the working-class roots of the game,” he says.
Around our region, Premier League sides Aston Villa and Wolves are charging the most for mascot packages.
At Villa Park, they range from £420 to £500 for category A matches, while at Molineux they start at £320, rising to £450 for platinum-category games.
However, Shropshire’s clubs could be viewed as exemplars of how to make being a mascot fair in the age of money-grabbing in football.
Shrewsbury Town’s cheapest package, while contingent on the children already having their own kit, costs just £49, and includes complimentary tickets.
As a result parents only have to dig out an extra £9 on top of the usual match day attendance costs to watch their children grace the Montgomery Waters Meadow turf.
The club, which also has a £99 package, also gives out at least one place to its Junior Shrews members, who just need to have a kit.
“The Junior Shrews is £15 per season or free, and both have a chance of being mascot for free,” says the club’s media manager Ian Whitfield.
AFC Telford charges a similar rate of £99 plus VAT, and also covers the cost of match tickets for enthusiastic fans-in-the-making and their families.
Elsewhere in the region, West Bromwich Albion charge £250 for weekend matches and £200 for week night games, while League Two Walsall offer four packages ranging from £120 up to £400 for a party of four guests.
Many packages include tickets, a full kit and hospitality, as well as offering youngsters the chance to meet their favourite players.
Aerospace engineer Tom Priest, from Lower Gornal, treated his son Lewis to a mascot experience at Albion as a surprise for his seventh birthday.
The package for the club’s last match of the 2018/19 season against Rotherham United cost £250 and included two adult tickets and a junior match ticket as well as lunch before the game. Lewis received a signed football, goodie bag and photos, but was also required to have his own full home kit to take part.
“I can’t fault the day at all,” says the 37-year-old. “The staff were really nice and the players were really nice.
“I knew the cost before I booked and I wanted to do it for his birthday so I didn’t really think about it but I do think it’s massively overpriced.
“I only did it because it was his birthday, you couldn’t just say one day ‘do you want to be a mascot?’. It’s a big cost.
“If families have two or three football-mad children wanting to do it then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to afford it. Even if you have two children, that’s £500 plus another £60 or £70 each for the kit. It’s a lot of money.”
A spokesman for Walsall FC says the club believes its packages provide value for money, saying: “We believe our prices are competitive and represent good value for money for what is on offer and, periodically throughout the season, give these away for free to young supporters.
“We also earmark a number of fixtures in a season where mascot packages have been available for as little as £50.”
Perhaps the lower reaches of football’s pyramid are a more enticing place for football-mad families. There is no fee for young fans of Stourbridge Football Club, which plays in the BetVictor Southern League Premier Division Central.
“We run on a first come, first served basis, free of charge,” says marketing manager Steven Beech. “Our aim is to integrate the football supporters and players of tomorrow – whether it be youth teams within our own academy, or local junior sides such as Halas Hawks, Kewford Eagles and West Hagley.
“In my personal opinion, it’s quite clear that professional clubs are taking advantage of their own loyal supporters with the figures that have been released.”