Away Ticket Pricing & An Idea
This season has brought the above issue into focus, with Blackburn originally trying to charge us £36 a ticket before dropping it to £32, Wigan charging £35 (a whopping 40% increase on last season) and Bolton asking for £36 (a least an improvement on last season’s £39!) The numbers of City fans attending the Blackburn & Wigan games told its own story, with numbers well down. Interestingly, there was a reaction from both clubs afterwards, with Blackburn charging fans £15 to watch their game against Bolton and getting a near full house, and Wigan chairman Dave Whelan saying he’d made a mistake. Isn’t 20/20 hindsight a wonderful thing, Dave?
We all know why they do this of course. Despite the fact that they can’t fill their own areas of the ground, they knew (or thought they knew) that thousands of us would pay up whatever they charged to support our team. Well, they were wrong!
The rule is that a club is not allowed to charge away fans more than home fans for the equivalent facilities. The interpretation of “equivalent facilities” has been tested a few times, with one club claiming that a couple of TV screens on the away concourse entitled it to charge more. So this essentially means that City (or any other club) can’t charge different prices for seats behind the goals just because one end is occupied by away fans.
By the time tickets went on sale for the Bolton game, City fans decided they’d had enough of predatory pricing and a boycott was mooted on web-sites and a story printed in the Manchester Evening News on December 22nd. We would normally hope to fill both the upper and lower tier at the Reebok but this season will barely fill the upper (and more expensive) tier. I will not be attending, despite the fact that it’s the easiest away game for me to get to. It hurts like hell but many of us feel that enough is enough and that greedy people only understand one language – money!
Paul Tyrrell made the point very well in the MEN article that some clubs were prepared to raise prices for away fans to capitalise on their support but this also impacted their own fans and City were not prepared to do that. While I’m personally not particularly happy about differential pricing generally, at least City charge us more for watching the better visiting teams, regardless of the level of their travelling support.
So, aside from dropping differential pricing and setting prices at a more attractive level generally, is there an answer to this? I think there is. At the moment, the away club agrees (or is told) its allocation from the home club and this will depend on capacity of the areas available to and demand. The rules changed a while ago so that the home club gets the all ticket revenue, which of course encourages them to set prices at ridiculous levels.
So let’s take the Bolton game as an example. Estimates are that 1,500 City fans will be attending and let’s assume that these are all at full price. So Bolton will get £54,000 (1,500 x £36). Let’s also assume an average spend per City fan of £2.50 at the ground, adding another £3,750. That makes total revenue of £57,750 to Bolton and nothing to City.
My solution is for the away club to buy the tickets from the home club on a wholesale basis. City would presumably be fairly confident of selling far more tickets at the right price (we’ve taken nearly 4,000 in previous seasons, filling two tiers) and, having paid for the tickets will be keen to maximise their return. So if City were to say to Bolton “We’ll buy all 3,800 tickets you can allocate but we’ll only pay £20 per ticket”. This would give Bolton a guaranteed £76,000. City could then sell those at £27 and might well sell 3,600. This would net us over £25,000. If the City fans spend the same at the ground on average, Bolton would make an extra £9,000 or so.
So when all the cash is counted up, Bolton have got £85,000 instead of £57,750 and City £25,000 instead of nothing. Plus the intangible benefit that we’ve been better supported. I believe that’s what is known as a “Win-Win” situation.
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