I’ve been a bit ranty, and a bit preachy recently. Maybe you’ve noticed. I apologise to all those I’ve upset or offended during that time. This is another of those rants, so you might want to turn away now.
I’m going to harp on about Leeds Utd’s £36 tickets again. You might think the horse is flogged long beyond its natural death and you’d probably be right. I use Leeds as the example because they’re relevant currently, but any other club would work.
If £36 is too much to ask for watching Second Tier football, then eventually attendances will suffer at Leeds. Indeed, what would previously be a guaranteed sell out for Huddersfield looks unlikely to see a full allocation of tickets sold. That won’t make much of a difference in the bigger scheme of things, but it makes a difference to me. If attendances suffer, clubs earn less money. That’s not what clubs want.
Leeds Utd have moved the space allotted to away fans from the (delightfully named) cheese wedge to the John Charles Stand in order to be able to charge that amount – as clubs have to match home ticket prices with away to ensure that away fans aren’t being ripped off. Except, of course, that they still are, its just OK to rip everybody off equally.
I would venture that away fans, as they have to buy tickets
individually, and generally travel to the game away from the place they live in, should pay less than home fans because of the inconvenience to them of getting to the game. Think of it this way. Your team is playing Plymouth on a Saturday afternoon and tickets are £30. 25 Hartlepool fans make the trip, earning your club £750. The game itself is unlikely to generate much atmosphere from the home fans and, though that won’t necessarily affect the result, feeling part of a crowd like that allows people to feel a part of something, which is important. This is why playing behind closed doors is a punishment.
It seems obvious to me that getting to football matches shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be one of the principle aims of football clubs. Working together they could achieve results so much better than they currently are. If every team in the Football League agreed to standardise ticket prices (say at £20 for home fans, and £15 for away), attendances would surely rise. How many clubs regularly sell out their grounds in the 72?
I would like to see clubs looking to go down different avenues – bringing more people on board with them (literally) and agree packages with transport companies. “Going to Plymouth? Get a ticket, including travel down by train for £80” maybe, with the train ticket being valid over the weekend so people can travel when they want. There’d be more than 25 people turn up because it would make things so much more accessible. Give people reason and flexibility to use public transport to get to an area and the whole area will benefit; people would arrive in Plymouth on Friday evening, travel back on Sunday and the match would only take up two hours of that time. I’m not advocating a return of, necessarily, the old Football Specials, but something a little more advanced than that.
Obviously, that probably wouldn’t be relevant for Huddersfield’s journey to Leeds, but if public transport travel were included in the ticket price (if the £15 away ticket I proposed was, say, £20), I can imagine a lot of people travelling by train who might usually drive which will make life more pleasant for the home fans getting away if they choose to drive. I know Germany’s football fans can buy tickets with transport around the local area included, so why not start with that model and run with it?
It seems, to me, that football clubs are stuck in their ways for no good reason. Bradford City’s season ticket offers have been a monumental triumph, and the flexibility they have incorporated to appeal to people who have specific needs (those who can’t get to see the team every week) mean the uptake has shot up (Bradford get 10,000 and more in Tier 4) because people still want to watch football, they just don’t want to feel like they’re paying through the nose every time.
The more people, even if its different people every week (particularly if its different people every week), that are attending football matches and enjoying the experience, and they’ll spend money if they’re enjoying themselves, the more football clubs will flourish. Football itself is competing with a lot of other activities for people’s money and still employing the same tactics to lure people into grounds that it always has done.
Yes, there’s loyal supporter bases at all clubs, and there’s people willing to spend money on their club but the ‘product’ does not seem to be evolving at all. Season tickets, for example, could include the price of a programme for every game (if only an e-version sent out as it is published) and then if people wanted a hard copy, they would still pay.
None of these ideas are radical, but they would make a difference, in a good way, to people’s football watching experience. The more people who enjoy going, the more people will go. The more people that go, the more money clubs make.