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A cynical look at that Forest offer
Daniel Storey’s article on ticket prices made for interesting reading, not least for the rare sight of him being kind about Nottingham Forest. Perhaps uncharitably, I couldn’t help reading the announcement on prices with some cynicism, what with it coming at a time when Forest have been on a dreadful run of late, and the club were trying to piggyback the wave of optimism that comes from a huge win at the weekend. As such, I took a look at the Tricky Trees’ home form this season so far.
It’s worth pointing out that Forest haven’t exactly been brilliant at home this season. They’ve scored a total of 18 goals in their 17 home games so far, recently ending a six-game goalless streak at the City Ground with a 1-1 draw against Reading. The most recent of their seven home wins came against Bolton Wanderers on 9 December. You could understand some of the less hardened season ticket supporters deciding they would rather do something else with their time and disposable income had prices increased
I also wondered if the offer was a roundabout form of compensation for what seems like a significant number of evening games. Maybe I’m an over-protective parent but I can’t be the only one thinking that 7:45pm midweek kick-offs aren’t necessarily suitably for those at the lower end of the age spectrum (the offer starts for four-year-olds) who have school the next day. So far this season, there have been four games on Tuesday nights, of which one was in the holidays (here, anyway). The only remaining game in this slot is also in the next school holidays. In all, though, basically one-quarter of home games are scheduled for an evening kickoff; while small children’s bedtimes are not the main priority for the Football League, it will be a factor in the number of people prepared to purchase season tickets on this offer. If a parent and child go together, all of a sudden that isn’t an average of £15 per game, but £20, which is a leap.
Any attempt to offer cheap tickets or season tickets to fans has to be commended, even if experience has taught us that there is often an ulterior motive to any sort of goodwill. In this instance, it seems to be priced in such a way that it’s either a cheap outing for parent-child bonding, or something where parents don’t feel like they’re losing out on too much money if they can’t go for one reason or another.
I’d be very interested to see what the take-up of this offer is, and whether or not it encourages other clubs to follow suit. Likewise, I wonder what the demand would be for offers on a mini-season ticket for just Saturday 3pm games, even if this is unlikely to ever materialise because most games are scheduled for this time at the start of the season and then moved for television a few weeks in advance of the game, or where postponed fixtures are shoehorned into a midweek programme. Seemed like a good idea though.
There are fans who can afford fancy prices
Lots of worthy points made on ticket prices, and undoubtedly this is a problem that needs addressing immediately.
The problem is what exactly clubs lower down the scale can do about it. My team Colchester United average around 3,200 and charge, very roughly, £20 per game (there are discounts for buying tickets weeks in advance, which seems to me to alienate more potential fans than attract, but anyway).
While 3,200 is historically decent for the club, there’s still 6,800 seats empty every game and a distinct lack of atmosphere as a result.
So what do they do? Half the prices? By my crude maths, that means the average gate needs to increase to almost 6,500 just to match current income. That would make us the fourth best supported team in the division and be our highest ever average gate. For a team going nowhere in mid-table, that is just not feasible.
The problem is that there are enough loyal fans willing and able to pay higher prices. The middle classes can afford the current prices and still attend in decent numbers. For clubs such as ours, they are guaranteed income.
Reducing prices might seem attractive but you are relying on thousands of floating supporters suddenly taking an interest in a mid-table nothing game against Yeovil. For a club with little room for manouevre, why take the risk?
John H, Colchester
Season tickets should not exist
On the subject of Liverpool FC and season tickets and what TM + Lee were saying this morning, I’ve been told many a time that the season tickets at Liverpool are often owned by people who have long since passed away – their families continue paying for the tickets, knowing that they’ll never progress through the waiting list and get their own.
If you combine the above situation with the fact that most season ticket holders don’t actually attend every game and sell/donate their tickets for ‘lesser games’, I don’t think that season tickets should actually exist anymore, at least for clubs where demand far outweighs supply. It’s not fair for a majority of tickets to be given to a very small group of people – even more unfair when they’re not actually attending the games and picking/choosing which ones they want to show up for.
It’s an unpopular opinion, particularly at Anfield, But I’ve long held that ‘big’ clubs (ones which sell out all the time and have waiting lists for season tickets) should abandon the practice of season tickets – ‘half-season tickets’ should be offered instead. You can put the games vs United/Everton, City/Chelsea, Spurs/Arsenal, etc, into 2 different packages, so that they are as close to equivalent as possible. There are flaws to this idea, but less than there are with the current status quo.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
Interesting points on football pricing. You can’t argue with the fact that football prices have increased over time in real terms. Clubs have tried adapting their ticketing approach to try and make it more accessible to fans. In my mind I think there are two changes that will probably occur in the future to better accommodate the growth of football and the demands for clubs to increase their revenue streams.
The standard design of a stadium has been fairly consistent for a long old time. You have a pitch surrounded by tiered seating or standing areas and fans pay for tickets to sit or stand and watch the action unfold. For bigger clubs, you have more rows and depth of stands. I am not a designer nor some crazy innovative thinker, but it feels like this is waiting a radical change. Through VAR, will fans be able to subscribe to watch matches from their sofa while looking through the eyes of officials or other selected supporters in the stadium themselves? Will this reduce the need for huge stadia going forward if you only need a small group of fans watching from the side? Who knows.
Another aspect I think will be the development of relationships with local organisations to better develop the community. So, for example, a local sports club in and around the Anfield area in Liverpool has a direct relationship with the club that guarantees a box or standing area for all its members. It better supports kids wanting to get involved with sport (not only football) and their club, whilst limiting their need to cover the cost of actually buying tickets.
The way the game is enjoyed hasn’t really changed since its inception beyond the introduction of TV. I’m not saying it needs to, but it feels like there will be clubs out there who will look to dramatically flip the way its fans connect as revenues continue to steadily increase. It only makes sense as clubs will eventually saturate all avenues for commercial revenue streams, forcing them to revisit income from tickets and fans.
Football fan experience is horrible
The appeal, or lack thereof, that football has for younger fans goes beyond ticket prices.
The overall fan experience is just horrible. In comparison to a cricket or rugby match, you can’t take a drink within sight of the pitch, are stewarded far more heavily and angrily, and given the impression that objective of the day isn’t to enjoy the match or have a fun experience but just to ensure no laws are broken.
The solution to football’s issue with younger fans and atmosphere in grounds may partly be financial, but it needs to go further. You may not like cricket or rugby, or cricket and rugby fans, but the fan experience is far better and more enjoyable.
Multiple all-time XI men
Great question from Niki about who’d make more than one team’s all-time Premier League 11.
Obviously it’s all subjective but I’ve a few suggestions
Sol Campbell at Spurs, Arsenal and Portsmouth
Rio Ferdinand at West Ham, Leeds and Man Utd
Paolo DiCanio at Wednesday and West Ham
David Ginola at Newcastle and Spurs
Nigel Martyn at Palace and Leeds
Actually, that’s not a bad five-a-side team either.
Right, new game….best five-a-side team made up of players who could make it into more than one club’s all-time PL 11.
Doug, AFC, Belfast
…Peter Crouch would surely be in the all time Portsmouth and Stoke Premier League teams? I’d give him a place on the Liverpool and Spurs bench too, just because he seems like a top bloke.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
…After realising my fail in common sense choice of Cristiano Ronaldo wouldnt count because Real Madrid aren’t in the Premier League it boiled down to these choices;
Kevin Phillips – WBA and Sunderland.
Rio Ferdinand – Manchester Utd and Leeds Utd.
Edwin Van Der Sar – Fulham and Manchester Utd.
N’Golo Kante – Leicester and Chelsea.
Pogba left of a 4-4-2 is not mental
In response to Adeel’s mail about playing Pogba on the left on a 4-4-2, and Dan’s subsequent scepticism, I thought I’d throw in my two cents worth. It is not a terrible suggestion as it would give Pogba more license to roam and exploit the talent he has in the final third. I am in no way a United supporter, I enjoy watching them struggle immensely but they could benefit from playing that formation.
As an example, Atletico Madrid often play with a 4-4-2, and in big games, and many away games, tend to play with four central midfielders, in Koke, Gabi, Saúl and Thomas Partey, behind their front pairing of Costa and Griezmann. There are certainly similarities in this team to Man United’s. Both have a strong target man, capable of bullying defences, and a livewire, hardworking attacker that can exploit the space created by their strike partner. The four central midfielders for Atletico mean there is very little space in the middle and can suffocate the opposition, while allowing Koke and Saúl, the more creative and attack minded of the four, to get forward with less emphasis on their defensive duties. The width is provided by the full backs, in Vrsaljko and Filipe, safe in the knowledge they have two midfielders who can cover them (Thomas has played emergency RB at times) and a world class, highly reliable goalkeeper behind them in Jan Oblak.
The result of this formation at the weekend was a masterclass in Sevilla, and a 5-2 win, with Sevilla’s goals coming with the game already over. Griezmann got a hat-trick and Atletico keep the title race alive for another week at least the same ground Man United escaped with a 0-0. If Man United were to adopt similar tactics it could certainly help Pogba, maybe Sanchez too but it only seems to be effective against the big teams, where counter attacking is the main form of attack. I expect Mourinho would get slated if he played a team like that against the top six and beyond, but if it gets the results, why not?
I am Sol Campbell
Many, many years ago, pre internet days, I was hiring for another member of my team. On those days everyone tried to stand out with their cover letter – glossy paper, coloured paper and even some outrageous statement. One memorable CV arrived with the first paragraph stating – in block capitals – ‘I AM A GENIUS’.
The letter went on to confirm that yes, according to MENSA he was indeed, a genius.
No prior experience. Four different degrees but no Masters or higher. So I wasn’t going to bring him in. But the team were intrigued and so against my better judgement we interviewed him.
So we allowed an hour, the team members have their questions ready and off we go. To break the ice and get things going I ask @tell me a little bit about yourself”. He then proceeds to tell us about how intelligent and smart he is, all the courses he has passed and tests he has taken and other intelligence tests he has passed – and it goes on. Normally I would have intervened but I wondered how far this would go.
Eventually after about 40 minutes he stops. At this point I say “you haven’t asked anything about out company or the role”. At which point he says “I am John Smith” (name changed to protect the innocent), in a loud and commanding voice.
I ask a colleague to lead him to the door and never had the team question anyone I said we should not interview again.
But it did make me think that Sol Campbell could play the role if ever we made a movie.
Seeing as it’s a white hell for most in the country at the moment, what better time to dig out this old classic!