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£3,500 to be a blue s**** mascot

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It is the dream of every young football fan: to lead your heroes out onto the pitch while holding the captain's hand, join in the players' pre-match kickabout and experience the applause of a massive crowd.


Sadly, though, most children wanting to enjoy the thrill of being a matchday mascot at a Premier League club this season will have to pay for participating in one of the game's time-honoured rituals. An Observer survey of the mascot policy at England's top 20 clubs has revealed that the majority charge for the honour, with the dearest, Everton, demanding an astonishing £3,525 for the privilege at games against arch-rivals Liverpool and Manchester United.

While seven of the country's biggest teams still offer the service free, including Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, 12 others make the families of young would-be mascots pay heavily, while Newcastle United only allow sponsors to choose mascots.


Of those that charge, Charlton Athletic is the cheapest, from £60 for junior club members to £250 for others, while the £176.25 at Chelsea is relatively good value, given the prices charged elsewhere and their status as the reigning Premiership champions. Tottenham Hotspur maximise their revenue by having 11 mascots for each home game, one to escort every player, who pay from £195 to £295, depending on the quality of the opposition. Even lowly Fulham charge up to £995, while at newly promoted Watford it is £195 to £250. Traditionally clubs selected youngsters at random to act as the mascot for a match without payment as a goodwill gesture. But in recent years, as football's popularity has boomed, charging has become more widespread and prices have crept up.


Disclosure of the amounts being charged sparked claims that clubs are exploiting their fans and denying youngsters from poorer backgrounds the chance of such a memorable experience. The National Consumer Council, a government-funded watchdog interests, was astonished to learn that charging was so common, and the fees so high. 'It's incredible that it costs as much as £3,525 to be a mascot. It's an eye-opener to realise that these policies are operating. It's almost like profiteering, isn't it? Football is meant to be the people's game', said council spokeswoman Janice Allen. 'The idea of charging huge amounts of money means that some sections of the local community are excluded because they will never be able to buy their way onto the pitch, so it discriminates against people on lower incomes.'


Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation, said some of the prices were 'totally gobsmacking'. He added: 'We regret the recent tendency for clubs to start charging for something they should offer for free as a contribution towards their local community. When my two daughters acted as Stoke City mascots in the Nineties it was free, and it was almost unknown for clubs to charge. Even Everton, who charge the most, will only make about £50,000 a season, and that's what they pay some of their top players in a week, so the money raised is chicken feed compared to their other sources of revenue.'


Clubs justify the prices by pointing out that a 'mascot package' typically includes several match tickets, a pre-game meal, and a replica strip, signed ball and photograph, as well as the traditional visit to the changing-room to meet the players and a stadium tour. A few, such as Portsmouth, Manchester City and Sheffield United, have some free mascots - usually fan club members - and others whose families have to pay. Middlesbrough, in contrast, reserve the honour for terminally ill children and members of their junior supporters club. The Football Association, the governing body in England, refused to comment on the amounts charged by Premier League clubs. But a spokesman pointed out that, for England matches, the FA uses the chance for children to be one of the 11 mascots purely as a thank-you to fans. Parents cannot pay. The chance of leading the team out is shared among the 3,600 children under 16 who belong to the FA's official supporters club, England Fans.


For each game they can enter a competition and the names of those answering a question correctly go into a hat and are chosen randomly. All 11 receive three free tickets each. In addition, 11 mascots to accompany England's opponents onto the pitch are drawn from local schools, and they, too, get three free seats each for themselves and parents or friends.


The price of a dream


Everton £1,762.50 to £3,525


Bolton Wanderers £400 *


Fulham £300 to £995


West Ham £350


Portsmouth £300


Sheffield United £250 to £350 *


Reading £250


Tottenham Hotspur £195 to £295


Watford £195 to £250


Chelsea £176.50


Aston Villa £175


Charlton Athletic £60 to £250


* also offer some free places


Free: Arsenal; Blackburn Rovers; Liverpool; Manchester City; Manchester United (but sponsors choose the mascot in 75 per cent of league games); Middlesbrough; Wigan Athletic.


One Newcastle United mascot is chosen by the Northern Rock Building Society as part of its sponsorship deal; the other is chosen by the match sponsor, who pays £6,825 to £11,550 plus VAT


from 'the Guardian'




'The Peoples Club'

Edited by Barnesy_10
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