Watching the children in their little replica kits walk out on to the pitch with the players before the match is always a touching moment,. The kids (almost) always look really excited, the players always look a little awkward, and the whole deal is a nice little example of how football brings us all together.
Then the parents get the bill.
According to the Guardian, some clubs are charging staggering amounts of money to parents in order to allow their children to take part in that pre-match tradition in the sport. Of the 20 teams in the English Premier League, the Guardian reports that 11 of them charge fees of up to £600 for those 30 awkward seconds.
Most of the clubs that charge for children to hold a player's hand, including Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle, Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion, and Stoke, vary between £200-400 depending on the opponent in the match. QPR and Swansea City both charge a flat £450. The worst offender of them all is West Ham, who despite supposedly being "the club of the working class," charges a jaw-dropping £350-600 for child mascot privileges.
Many supporter groups are justifiably outraged, claiming clubs are taking advantage of parents wanting to do something nice for their children in order to make more profits, which seems ridiculous in an era where every EPL team gets over £50 million a year in TV revenues and sponsorship money is through the roof. The pricing also effectively excludes lower- and even most middle-class families from having their kids participate, which seems patently unfair given the sport's humble origins.
There are a few clubs that don't charge at all, though. Nine clubs, including Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United, and Manchester City, don't charge a penny for local kids to take part in the opening ceremonies of their matches. Some of those clubs, like Liverpool, pull their mascots at random from members of their youth fan groups that require a paid membership, but the cost of those memberships are generally around £20 and come with a variety of other benefits for children and families alike. That cost is negligible compared to the "wonderful value" that Swansea claims their £450 charge to be a youth mascot is.
It's already getting more difficult for parents to give their children the experience of enjoying their favorite teams, with youth kit and ticket prices soaring in recent years. To charge so much for something like this is simply ridiculous.