The day Newcastle hosted Stoke, I had a sit down with the Newcastle United Supporter Liaison Manager, Lee Marshall.
This chat was the result of a concerted effort on my behalf to highlight to the club the lack of consistency in their ticket prices and the absence of any transparency.
I’ve written about these issues several times for The Mag (see here, here and here). I’ve been tweeting the club and Marshall about it for just as long and I submitted a question to the last fans forum. The question and response appeared in the minutes of the forum as follows:
“Recently, the Chelsea game saw a ticket price reduction from last season for the public but not for members. The attendance then fell 4,000 short of last season. Public price reductions will worsen the situation where in some places, a season ticket costs more than single tickets. Almost every other club in the Premier League publishes its pricing brand for the whole season alongside season ticket prices. Why do Newcastle not do this and allow supporters to make an informed choice on which tickets suit them?”
Stephen Tickle (ST) stated that most season ticket holders are on longer-term price-freeze deals, with others on one-year deals. The club uses a price matrix to ensure season ticket holders always make a saving and receive the best possible value in relation to single match ticket prices.
ST stated that the club doesn’t confirm single match prices for all home fixtures in advance because specific fixtures can be changed between categories depending on demand. For example, if a fixture is switched to a Sunday, it may move down to the next cheaper category as fewer tickets may be sold if it is broadcast live domestically.
While Chelsea ticket prices may have fallen slightly, that will be offset in other games throughout the season using the pricing matrix. The emphasis remains on giving season ticket holders the best value.
The response here was disappointing for a couple of reasons. It suggests that prices are reduced en masse when a game moves to a less appealing date, or to TV. But the question was specific about that NOT being the case, member tickets for Chelsea went on sale at the same price as last season, it was only when sales didn’t go well that public prices were reduced. Members didn’t see any reduction. Also, the answer maintains the line that season ticket holders will see better value, to which I’ve responded ad nauseum that it’s not necessarily so.
Initially I was as pessimistic as ever about the club wanting to do anything about the situation and saw the answer as one designed to brush over the issue. I said as much on Twitter, but was surprised and delighted by a public response from Lee Marshall offering to meet personally and discuss my issues further. Surely, it seemed, the club WERE interested in fan feedback and keen to resolve any discrepancies. So I poddled along to Nine bar the morning of the Stoke game thinking things could change.
The conversation was cordial. I wasn’t interested in hammering Ashley, complaining about the football on show, the signings or lack/quality/experience of them. It wasn’t about the new manager or the results he’d got (or not) because all of that is too subjective. I wanted to talk facts, and with ticket prices there’s not much to argue about, the prices charged are what they are and the club can either defend it or not.
To his credit, Marshall didn’t try to defend the club or argue that I was wrong about anything. He took on board everything I had to say, he gave the impression that the inconsistencies were something he’d like to be kept informed of and try to fix and he suggested that maybe a further chat with the ticket office manager Steve Tickle would see me reach a better understanding of the club perspective and those setting the prices would get a better view of my perspective as a fan.
I’d have been delighted with that and with hopes of having that conversation I wrote a quick email to Marshall the following Monday 3rd November. Lee replied
Apologies for the belated response and thank you very much for taking the time to send the below over to me.
Thanks also for sparing the time to meet me last weekend, especially on a matchday when you could easily have been having a beer and talking about far more exciting things with far more exciting people!
As discussed, I’ve passed this over to Stephen Tickle for him to take a look at. I’m sure there’s a lot for him to digest but, as mentioned, it’ my view that scrutiny like this will ultimately help us to improve the service we offer supporters.
If I can be of any assistance or if you want to run anything else past me, please let me know.
So, all due credit to those at the club for taking the time to meet me and read my moaning missives. I’ve not heard any more, so whether the mail to Mr Tickle turns into a conversation remains to be seen.
Since the meeting and the emails, tickets have subsequently gone on sale for Liverpool and Aston Villa and the good news is they fit in with previous categories for adults (Chelsea and Southampton respectively), which had only happened once previously this season.
Unfortunately, for kids and seniors with a membership, while their ticket prices for Liverpool matched those for the Chelsea game, the public were able to get their tickets for £3 or £4 less so it looks like despite some improvement, the club are still messing about with prices at the cost of members and causing further confusion for all.
Now I know for a fact that the club are fully aware of the contradictions and complications of their ticketing policy, I’ll continue to observe with great interest the fluctuations in price. Here’s hoping there can be greater clarity brought to the pricing policy sooner rather than later.