Football fans are set to cut back on buying new replica shirts as the recession threatens spending on club merchandise.

Virgin Money’s Football Fans’ Inflation Index has tracked the cost of being a fan since January 2006.

Its research helps explain why costs for fans have risen five per cent compared with April 2008, despite falling inflation in the wider economy.

New England replica shirts – personally tailored for the players – were launched last month and cost £50, which is 25 per cent more expensive than the previous kit.

Virgin’s Inflation Index shows average costs for children’s and adult shirts across all leagues are £27.50.

The survey of more than 4,000 fans from 125 clubs, including all Premier League and Football League clubs, shows merchandising sales across the board are likely to suffer.

Just 34 per cent of fans say they do not intend to reduce merchandise spending, with other major targets for cutbacks including programmes, with 19 per cent of fans saying they would not buy them next season.

Clubs facing the biggest potential drops in replica shirt sales include Chelsea, where 35 per cent of supporters intend to cut back, plus West Ham, Blackburn and Newcastle, where 33 per cent say they will cut back.

Manchester City fans are the most likely to keep spending – only 17 per cent say they will not buy.

Grant Bather, of Virgin Money, said: “Football continues to dodge the worst of the recession with transfer deals and players’ wages continuing to soar – but it is not as easy for the fans.

“Buying a new replica shirt every time the club brings out a new design or changes sponsor is a habit that’s easy to break when your finances are being squeezed.

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation, added: “It will not be surprising if sales of replica shirts suffer as a result of the recession.

“You need a ticket to get into the game but you don’t need a replica shirt, and when money is tight, it’s the non-essentials which will go.