Supporters' groups have warned the Premier League there is a danger of "future generations being lost" to the game after a Guardian survey revealed its cheapest tickets were the most expensive of the four major leagues in Europe and more than double those in Germany or Italy.
In the wake of Pep Guardiola's decision to choose Bayern Munich over rival English suitors, the survey results were seized on by those who claim the Bundesliga does a better job of combining competitiveness with accessibility and that the Premier League is at risk of pricing out some sections of its fanbase.
The average price for the cheapest ticket in the Bundesliga is £10.33 and the average cost of the lowest price adult season ticket is £207.22, compared with £28.30 and £467.95 respectively in the English Premier League.
"If you look at the Bundesliga, you've got a very successful, competitive league with bigger attendances than the Premier League. Their clubs haven't been doing too badly of late and their national team hasn't either. Yet it remains accessible to a wide range of the population," said the Football Supporters' Federation chairman, Malcolm Clarke.
"You can have a drink if you choose to, you can stand up if you choose to. Often you get a free metro ticket included as well. It offers a model that in many ways is more successful than our own. And it is not a coincidence that most of their clubs are owned by their members."
However, the cheapest prices in the Bundesliga are invariably in the standing areas that don't exist in Premier League grounds and it would argue facilities are generally of a higher standard than those on the continent.
In Serie A the average cost of the lowest price ticket is £14.15 and the average lowest priced season ticket is £164.98. In La Liga it is £24.68 and £232.81. Because Spanish and Italian clubs include the price of corporate and VIP tickets in their general pricing structures, while English and German clubs don't, it is impossible to compare the average cost of the highest priced tickets on a like-for-like basis.
The debate over ticket prices has gathered pace in recent weeks, with the cost of away tickets coming under particular scrutiny after Manchester City sent back nearly a third of their allocation for their match at the Emirates last weekend because they couldn't sell them at £62 each. The Premier League argues that clubs have become much more sophisticated in their pricing and marketing policies over the past decade, with those who find it more difficult to fill their grounds week in, week out offering a range of deals and concessions to fill their grounds.
"The pricing of tickets is a matter for individual clubs, many of which work hard to fill their stadiums with offers at different points during a season, but we encourage stretch pricing to help accessibility and it is against league rules to charge away fans more than home fans for comparable seats," said a PL spokesman.
"Occupancy rates are at 95% for matches played so far this season and away fan attendance is tracking at the same healthy rate that it has for the last three years. Add that to the fact that occupancy rates have been 90% plus for the last fifteen seasons in a row and it is clear that fans are enjoying the environment in which they watch Premier League matches and the football on offer."
But Clarke said that there was a danger that young adults between 18 and 30 were being priced out of top-flight football and instead watching in the pub or on illegal streams online. "It's very important that we keep football accessible. The evidence indicates that the 18-30 age group, when people come out of the family tickets and have to pay in their own right, is declining," said Clarke.
"There is a danger of future generations being lost. If it doesn't maintain its attraction to all sections of the community, they are selling the national game short."
The FSF on Thursday night launched its Score Campaign for cheaper away tickets, calling on all clubs throughout England and Wales to cap the cost of away tickets at £20, or £15 for concessions.
"There is no doubt that away support is declining. It may be that the trend with away support will spread to home support soon. In this case, the match going fan is an essential part of the TV product. With the massive increase in media income they should be able to bring prices down," added Clarke.
"If they are showing complacency by saying that capacity levels remain high, then it could come back to bite them. Whether it's Jessops or HMV, in a changing economic world nobody should be complacent."
The Premier League insisted that its crowds "are more diverse than ever before". It said the average age of adult fans had fallen from 44 to 41 since 2005, with women making up 23% of crowds and 11% coming from black and ethnic minority communities. The same Populus research showed 39% of fans were aged 18 to 34 and 13% of all season ticket holders were under 16.
Research by Ryan Grant and Rory O'Reilly