When I was a kid I barely missed a Premier League away game. It was largely cos my dad took me everywhere, like, but I rarely missed a game, and when I look back I remember them fondly as some of my best times supporting Sunderland.
It wasn't without it's downsides, mind. The disgusting smell of the cigarette smoke that used to fill a bus to an away game still hasn't left my nostrils, and having to stand out in the cold while we waited for recovery to arrive on the countless occasions our coach broke down still haunt me, but generally speaking away days as a kid were class. I got to visit places like the old Wembley Stadium, Highbury, Sincil Bank, Rotherham's Millmoor, Old Trafford and Gresty road - proper grounds. I was one of the lucky group that were at the Luton game at the end of the 2006/2007 season by invitation only, and have great memories of being in the crowd that day, watching Sunderland demolish our opposition and achieve promotion along the way. Travelling around the country watching Sunderland has given me some of my favourite moments as a football supporter that I'll likely never forget.
As I moved into adulthood, and had to start paying for away games myself, I didn't go as frequently but still as often as I could. We've had some great weekends away on the piss watching the lads, travelling up and down the country watching us lose, mostly, but great times nonetheless.
In recent years, however, I can probably count on one hand the amount of away games I've been to. Quite simply, I feel like I'm being priced out of the game I love and I simply refuse to pay some of the extortionate prices that are leveled at a passionate travelling fan base like the one Sunderland has.
Premier League clubs take the piss out of Sunderland fans because they know that it doesn't matter what they charge us, we'll still sell out our away allocation.
Quite often the worst part of an away day is the actual football match, and the North Eastern penchant for a good drink would probably explain why Sunderland sell out almost every away game with ease. Last season's midweek cup replay away to Londoner's Fulham, for example, sold out ahead of the game despite being organised at relatively short notice.
A friend of mine was at the Liverpool game at the weekend, and a post on their Facebook page from the game actually disgusted me. It was a picture from her seat showing the delightful view that she had paid forty-four English pounds to have the privilege to sit in.
Forty-four pounds. Forty-four. For that. Appalling, isn't it?
The worst part is that wasn't even the most expensive ticket available. To sit just three rows in front it cost you £46.
Our next away game, at West Ham United, is £45 for an adult ticket - and guess what? It's sold out, weeks in advance.
It's admirable, really. Our team constantly year after year fail to deliver on the pitch yet our fanaticism never wanes, away from home especially. The football club and the players just don't know how good they've got it with Sunderland's supporters.
Anyone in that sold out away end at Anfield on Saturday will have been more than aware of what happened in the stadium when the game reached the seventy-seventh minute. Liverpool fans - in protest over ticket prices at their club reaching as high as £77 next season - walked out of the ground in their thousands, a timely distraction from what was going on on the pitch. Those that left the ground on the seventy-seventh minute did so because they are tired of being priced out of the game that they love by their own football club.
When will Sunderland fans do the same?
I've taken the above table from an article on The Telegraph's website discussing the FSF's plans of proposing a mass walkout by Premier League fans, and as you can see, Sunderland are perhaps one of the more reasonable clubs in the league when it comes to ticket pricing.
Depending upon the categorisation of the club Sunderland are playing, tickets can be as low as £25 and as high as £40. Although it's lower than some of the other clubs in this league, is it low enough?
I think not. As the saying goes, 'Twenty is Plenty'. There's absolutely no reason why ticket prices in the Premier League need to be any higher than twenty pounds. None. If anyone can provide me with one, I'm all ears.
Clubs that are in the Premier League next season will get a staggering amount of money in television revenue, as revealed in the UEFA Club Licensing Benchmark report in 2014. It reads:
European clubs balance sheets are significantly healthier in 2014 than when the break-even requirements started in 2011, Club net equity, which represents the clubs' assets less all debts and liabilities, has increased by 50 percent from €3.3bn to €4.9bn.
The massive additional 70 percent uplift in domestic live rights recently announced for Premier League clubs combined with UEFA club competition increases will take annual Premier League club media rights to at least €151m before any increase in international rights, which are due to be negotiated later in 2015.
A conservative 30 percent increase in these international rights would mean total media rights per club would reach €165m, allowing the Premier league club average to surpass the average media rights of NFL franchises.
With TV rights across the five largest European league increasing by an average of 25 percent each cycle, it is possible that the average TV rights of clubs from the other larger European leagues could approach the level of NBL and MLB franchises by the time their next national media deals start.
Simply put, the amount of domestic TV money being plowed into Premier League clubs over the coming years is set to reach obscene levels, and as a result the football clubs have absolutely no right whatsoever to increase their ticket pricing. If anything, they should be lowering prices and offsetting the cost with the extra monies made available to them through the additional revenue.
Though the FSF have yet to reach out to the likes of ourselves, I sincerely hope that when they do we all stand together and support what they are trying to achieve.
Sunderland fans are some of the worst affected when it comes to ticket pricing and the sooner we stop accepting it, the sooner something will change. Football clubs, the Premier League, the FA and whoever else have a say just aren't doing enough about what is becoming an epidemic issue within English football.
If we don't, we risk refusing generations of kids the opportunity to watch and fall in love with their football team in the same way that I did and I suspect many others did too.