JOURNALISTS hectoring clubs about low attendances has a touch of the Marie Antoinette about it. It is easy to be critical about supporters staying away – often on the grounds of cost – when you never have to dip into your own pockets to gain admission. “Let them eat pie,” as the bold Marie might have said to any PSG fans moaning about ticket prices.

First of all, though, a few caveats. Members of the media shouldn’t have to pay to get into matches as it’s their job to be there. And who wants to stump up to go to work? Secondly, there are some among the Scottish press pack who – on a rare day off from chiselling away at the coalface of truth – have been known to go and watch their team. And, contrary to speculation, they don’t all get lifted over the turnstiles.

It is only through going to matches every week, however, that the full cost implication of a lifelong commitment to football can be properly felt. And it’s not cheap. On a recent year-long sabbatical from journalism that gave me my Saturdays back, I endeavoured to get to as many St Mirren games as possible. Rather happily, it coincided with the team’s only season in the past 15 where they weren’t fighting relegation.

As Jack Ross and his players coasted to the title, the cost of travelling to Inverness, Dundee, Brechin and the rest felt like a solid investment. And doing so in the company of old pals made those experiences even better.

But even in a stellar season like that one, it wasn’t possible to get to every game. Family commitments sometimes had to come first. There were other times when the distance involved or the weather served as a deterrent. Cost was a consideration, too.

When you consider those myriad factors and other distractions, it should be hailed as a miracle that so many people attend football in this country, rather than peering critically at those who don’t. For a country of circa five million, it is some achievement to get 100,000 of them going to a match every weekend.

That’s not to say, though, that there shouldn’t be a forensic examination into the process to see what could be improved to bolster those figures even more.

But maybe in some cases this is simply as good as it gets. Clubs like St Johnstone, Hamilton Accies and Livingston must be scratching their heads and wondering what they have to do to get more of their townsfolk through the door.

Saints, in particular, can point to a decade of success – top-six finishes, European football and a Scottish Cup win – without sparking a stampede through the streets of Perth.

Hamilton continue to defy relegation year after year and still struggle to attract 1000 fans to home games despite having one of the most energetic media guys in the business shouting loudly about their achievements. Livingston are another whose home form deserves a bigger audience.

Maybe the out-of-town location of St Johnstone and Livingston puts people off. Maybe new clubs like Livingston have struggled because of their lack of historic pedigree. With time that could yet grow.

Maybe there are just other things going on that are more appealing to the locals in these places. What any of these clubs, and most around the country, can’t be accused of is a lack of trying.

The one variable, though, that can be changed is price. And it is the hardest one of all to gauge. Clubs have tried different models over the years. Some have trialled dropping the ticket price right down without always noticing a discerning rise in attendances. There have been other schemes – under-16s get in free, bring a friend etc – but nobody has yet alighted on best practice.

Like all basic economic models, it comes down to supply and demand. For as long as there are more supporters willing to go to a match than seats inside the ground, then clubs can effectively charge what they want. We can’t be far off an Old Firm ticket breaking the £100 barrier. The Edinburgh derby will reach £70 soon enough. And Celtic and Rangers fans will continue to be ripped off at every away ground they visit.

It is when supply exceeds demand that clubs have to get a bit cuter. A group of St Mirren fans – the Northbank – decided the other night that £25 for entrance at Livingston was too much and boycotted the match. And for any hardcore group of supporters, staying away when your team are playing is the toughest thing to do.

But sometimes it is important to make a stand to bring about change. The Twenty’s Plenty campaign has been on the go for some time now but it will take a combined effort from supporters of all clubs if it is to start to have the desired effect.

If clubs are worried about losing revenue by dropping their prices to more affordable levels, then why not make the first 1000 tickets, for example, available at £20 a head and then charge more thereafter? It would encourage early sales and help create a demand.

There are many reasons why supporters can’t always get to a match. Let’s not make pricing one of them.