The price of football in the United Kingdom has long been a bone of contention for some, with those in dissension saying that the man-on-the-street is being priced out of the game entirely. In today’s footballing world, watching the beautiful game comes at a premium – a premium beyond many that the game reaches out to.
Two days ago Bradford City were called “a beacon for English football” in a Mail Online article for their season ticket pricing for the current season and the knock-on effect on attendances. Huddersfield Town released their discounted season ticket prices earlier this season with a discounted price of £179 and saw 11,000 snapped up with chairman Dean Hoyle releasing a further 4,000, setting a 15,000 cut-off point for discount tickets.
The Mail Online article on Bradford City says that the West Yorkshire club “appear to have more in common with the vision of Germany’s Bundesliga clubs than those in the Premier League” with their visionary approach to season ticket pricing. The Bantams set the price of a season ticket at £149 – selling 18,000 of them and raking in just shy of £2.7m; mind you, that’s assuming all the tickets were at the £149 pricing – of course there will be Youths and/or Under-11s in those 18,000 season ticket take ups.
This ‘looking after the fans’ ethos that Bradford City have adopted, and that Huddersfield Town have taken up, follows on from a philosophy encapsulated in just one soundbite quotation from then-Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness. In this soundbite, Hoeness said, “We could charge more than £104. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2m more in income but what’s £2m to us? In a transfer discussion you argue about that sum for five minutes. But the difference between £104 and £300 is huge for the fan. We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.”
In a nutshell, in that 2012 utterance, Hoeness sums up just what is wrong with English football on the whole. I say ‘on the whole’ but not wholly as organisations such as Bradford City, and Huddersfield Town are breaking the traditional mould that typifies English football and the policy over season ticket pricing.
Huddersfield Town sold the first 11,000 ot their discounted tickets, priced at £179, bringing in a sum of £1.97m, in the space of just four days; again supposing that these were all £179 tickets. The rapidity of this take-up forced chairman Dean Hoyle to extend the discounted tickets by 4,000 to help more supporters take advantage of the cut-price deal – eventually this would bring Huddersfield Town, like Bradford City, just shy of £2.7m in advance ticket revenue.
Put another way, Bradford City’s £149 season ticket offer gives fans of the Bantams the chance to see every home game at Valley Parade for £6.48p whilst the Huddersfield Town pricing of £179 gives Terriers fans a chance to see each home game at the John Smith Stadium for the princely sum of £7.78p.
Whilst fans of the Bantams and Terriers are happy at the season ticket pricing and sit back in comfort, fellow West Yorkshire side Leeds United haven’t extended the same privilege to their fans, the lowest cost of a renewal for a season ticket coming in at £398 for this season. I’ll leave that to sink in for a moment…£398…cheapest renewal. Remember that £398 is against Bradford City’s low of £149 and Huddersfield’s low of £179 for next season; the latter being the price to watch the same level of football that Leeds United fans will be watching next season. Even if we adopt the lower figure of Huddersfield’s 11,000 advance sales then Leeds United would pocket £3.83m; but knowing Leeds’ average attendance to be around 24,000 then it’s likely to be more than that.
Whilst Bradford City fans will be sitting in the Midland Road stand watching games at Valley Parade for £6.48, whilst Huddersfield Town fans are going to be able to watch games from the Brittania Rescue Stand at the John Smiths Stadium for £7.78p, Leeds United fans will be forking out £17.30 to watch games at Elland Road. Again, I’ll just leave that out there…Leeds United fans will pay £17.30 per home game to watch the Whites and that’s assuming that the prices stay frozen for a third season!
It’s unlikely that Leeds United will offer a cut price season ticket deal the likes of which Bradford City and Hudderfield Town fans have seen and will enjoy for next season. The best fans of the Whites can hope for is a third successive season of price freezes.
It would be nice to think that it would happen because in the words of Huddersfield Town player Dean Whitehead, “It’s an unbelievable offer and one that’s almost unheard of in football. But that’s what the chairman is all about. I hope the fans buy into it and really get behind the boys next season.”
So come on Massimo, do a Hoyle or a Lawn and bring the price of season tickets down to a level accessible for all.