THE price of attending football matches has come under renewed scrutiny as the cost-of-living crisis bites more fiercely into everyday Scottish society.

Yesterday, the St Johnstone ­ultras group Fair City Unity (FCU) boycotted their side’s match at Ibrox ­Stadium ­citing ­“unwarranted and ­extortionate ticket ­pricing” adding “whilst society suffers in a cost-of-living crisis, we feel that clubs are crucial ambassadors to the local ­community they serve and should be leading in the fight of ­making watching live football affordable to all”.

The statement ended with the slogan “Twenty’s Plenty”, the clarion call of ­football groups across Scotland. Adult ­tickets at Ibrox were priced at £31.

Because its Scottish football the ­statement was met with the usual pitiful ­humour – jokes about the cost of diesel to fill a tractor in Perthshire and lame ­remarks about whether anyone would even notice the boycott.

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Once the predictable stereotypes had faded back into the internet, many more focused on the complexities of the issue and as ever, what seems simple never is.

Firstly, the blame cannot be ­uniquely placed at Rangers’ doorstep. They are among the most expensive clubs to watch, but St Johnstone are one among many clubs that hike their prices when big teams are in town. We hate their ­exorbitant ­pricing until we can benefit.

Some fans even delight in “bleeding them dry”. Ross County and St Mirren are two clubs that have reconfigured ­seating arrangements within their ­stadium to maximise visiting fans from Rangers and Celtic.

The plot thickens. Many of the big clubs have a long waiting list for season ticket application and would secretly love to see the back of visiting fans.

The big clubs including Hearts, would not openly admit it, but some on their board would be happy to see noisy away support confined to the dustbin of ­history. Home fans only would allow them to maximise income and end the loss of revenue from segregation, which requires columns of empty seats to meet police and stewarding requirements.

All of this is happening around two unrelated dynamics. Clearly the cost-of-living crisis and the threat of in-work p­overty is one huge issue, but another is the changes to ticketing processes across all forms of entertainment.

Most venues now offer some form of ­online ticket sales, but they vary ­enormously and, in some cases, add ­further cost by way of administration fees.

Attending football can be a sheer ­lottery of experience. Although you may be able to book and pay for a ticket ­online, ­collecting it can be a Kafkaesque journey into the absurd.

A recent match featuring Ross County away to Hearts required the visiting fans to collect their tickets in Dingwall the day before the game. Achievable enough if you live in Dingwall and have an ­accommodating boss who lets you sneak away from work for an hour. What if you are from the Black Isle and studying at ­Heriot Watt University are you seriously expected to travel home to Dingwall to get your ticket and motor back overnight for the game?

Last weekend, I went to see St ­Johnstone away at Motherwell, tickets were available in advance online but to ­receive a physical copy of your ticket, you had to queue at a nearby ­temporary cabin, provide proof of purchase then with a printed copy, eventually walk one-by-one through a security corridor and ­eventually enter the ground.

Most clubs have similar arcane systems and the person most likely to be on call is the army of SLOs – supporters ­liaison ­officers – whose job is to liaise with fans to resolve problems like run-down ­batteries or forgotten passwords.

Nor is it clear whether clubs believe that dropping prices at the gate would lead to more supporters, it probably would not. Football spectatorship has declined steeply since before the war, and although Scotland has proportionately among the highest rates of support in Europe, it is more likely that income for sponsorship will rise more than crowds.

Although they are obvious fall guys of the Twenty’s Plenty campaign there is much to say in defence of the clubs.

Firstly, they have had to abandon a cash-at-the-gate system and replace it with a full proof barcode system at all points of entry. One of football’s nostalgic sights was the turnstile manager circling the ground with a leather pouch stashed with money. Those days are over and with it goes the not infrequent suspicion of ­money laundering and the systematic under-declaration of crowds.

Unlike shops, where there is often a ­single point of payment or a a centralised set up where purchases can be made, ­football has turnstiles around the ground, often up to 30 in number, marked out for home and away fans or for main stand and disability access.

Simplifying this is not easy and those that think it can be magically replaced with a contactless payment machine do not understand crowd management, the time it takes to digitise devices and the stewarding or the often emotionally ­volatile behaviour of crowds at matches.

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All of which brings back to the cost of living. As Boris Johnson lazes through his last days in power and Rishi Sunk and Liz Truss snipe their way towards becoming prime minister it has been down to the consumer rights campaigner Martin Lewis to highlight the harsh realities of the crisis and insist that the Tory contenders free themselves from their tribal bubble and commit to doubling the support available to families.

Poverty has never really gone away but now it is back with an alarming capacity to touch whole sections of society.

Football is far from immune. Although we often dwell on the eye-watering ­transfer fees and inflated salaries of the bigger teams, especially those in England, most footballers in Scotland, whether full-time or part-time are closer to the average wage than to the super wealthy.

Some younger players in their first ­season as professionals, are earning ­closer to the minimum wage and are just as ­likely as fans to be caught in the ­crossfire of an economic crisis.

Campaigners say football fans are being fleeced out of too much money for a match ticket

Nor should we imagine that the top league clubs are sitting pretty. Most will tell you that the two biggest factors in season ticket sales are the success of the team on the pitch closely followed by the wider economy.

Those that are worried about energy bills, or the cost of food might consider stopping monthly payments on a season book, choosing the games they attend, or cutting back on club merchandise. Many have already sacrificed TV subscriptions in the rush to shed cost.

Whilst the Twenty’s Plenty campaign is aimed at the clubs it would be hugely judgemental to cast them in a wholly bad light. Football clubs and their ­supporters are remarkable activists within local ­communities. Fair City Unity who are leading the boycott are one of several ­ultras groups in Scotland that run food bank collection and fundraisers.

On the opening day of the new season at Perth, Hibernian fans from the Dnipro Hibs groups brought Ukrainian orphans to the game. Only a few weeks before, they were fighting the Home Office’s intransigence to gain passage for the ­orphans ­allowing them to settle in Scotland.

Big Hearts, the Heart of Midlothian charity arm, have just concluded an ­astonishing summer of activities for needy school kids in Edinburgh and yesterday my own club’s Community Arm were offering free haircuts to kids returning to school. All of this might seem a far cry from last minute goals and end-to-end stuff, but it is a reminder that football is nothing of it is not rooted in community.

As the cost-of-living crisis ravages communities across Scotland we may need our football clubs more than ever.