SCOTLAND’S top football clubs have been criticised for charging families up to £450 so their children can be match day mascots.
Five of the 12 teams in the SPFL have so far introduced charges for children to walk out with players and have their picture taken.
Critics of the move branded the payments “ridiculous” and said it illustrated the parlous state of SPFL clubs’ finances.
It was revealed last week that the average ticket price for a top seat at an SPFL game is now £26.50.
The five clubs to introduce charges for match day mascots are Dundee United, Hearts, Hibs, Inverness and Saint Mirren.
Dundee United is the most expensive of the five, charging £450 including VAT.
The child is expected to wear the latest strip which could add another £60.25, taking the total bill for the day to £510.25.
The package does, however, include four match tickets and access to the club’s hospitality lounge at half time.
Hearts charge youngsters £350 to be a mascot in games against Celtic and Hibs while all other games are charged at £250.
Inverness charge £250 for games against highland rivals Ross County and Celtic, £200 for Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs, Dundee United and St Johnstone, and £175 for games against Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Partick Thistle and Saint Mirren.
Hibs charge youngsters £149 to run out alongside the players against Celtic and city rivals Hearts.
All the packages include a match ticket for the child and parents.
But a senior football insider, who asked not to be named, said it was “unbelievable” that football teams were charging youngsters to be mascots at all.
“You have to be joking, that’s unbelievable,” he said.
“My son was a mascot a couple of years ago and we didn’t have to pay at all. I honestly just can’t believe they charge people for that.”
A member of staff who answered the phone at St Johnstone, one of the clubs which does not charge, said: “I know some clubs charge ridiculous amounts of money, like £400, but not here.”
Other SPL clubs pick their mascots from among their young supporters groups, membership of which costs between £15 and £30.
Paul Goodwin, of Scottish football fan network Supporters Direct, said: “Some of the pricing points make being a mascot only only within the reach of businesses or the wealthy.”
“I am encouraged that most of the clubs offer this free and understand the vital role that kids play in providing the supporters of the future.”
Independent MSP Margo Macdonald said: “I think it just shows how much the clubs are scrambling for funds.
“It is the fact that Celtic don’t charge that highlights this. They are making money from their European games and tickets, so they unlike some of the others do not need to charge for mascots to make money.”
A spokesman for Dundee United said: “We do charge the £375 plus VAT for kids to be mascots, but this price just guarantees that they can be one this season, when they want to be one. This includes a hospitality package as well.
“We generally have two mascots a week who do not pay. They are part of our young supporters group and are randomly drawn out for the chance.”
Hibs, Hearts, Inverness and St Mirren were contacted for comment but no response was received.