Is Pile It High & Sell It Cheap The Only Way Forward For Newcastle United?
On the back of Newcastle United’s initiative on away tickets, the club have been talking to the friendly local press.
In case you missed it, United are offering to drop prices for away fans if other clubs do the same for when Newcastle visit their grounds.
Swansea and West Brom are the first two clubs to agree to this and as a stand alone story it is undoubtedly good news. What every report I’ve read has missed though is that Newcastle continue to charge a yearly £30 member’s fee (if you aren’t a season ticket holder) before you can buy a single away ticket, plus every single away ticket has a £1 surcharge added by NUFC.
The debate though then gets further distorted as though Newcastle United and Mike Ashley are some kind of caped crusaders looking to battle on behalf of the dispossessed.
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Newcastle’s finance director John Irving was interviewed in Thurday’s Journal and said this;
“Price is key, supporters have a choice on what they want to spend their money on, if we want to fill the stadium we need to reduce the price. We won’t shy away from discounting tickets at all, the owner is happy to lead the charge on that and to be honest we probably are. We believe it is the right thing for football.
Premier League attendances are down and the only way to attract people to football is to put prices down a bit.
We are selling 10,000 tickets for Liverpool and it is a hard slog, even when the big teams come.”
The reality is of course that price is not the only important thing and of course brings to mind the immortal saying about knowing ‘The price of everything and the value of nothing’. Back in the days of Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson, there was little trouble selling tickets even though in real terms tickets were generally more expensive back in those days, taking into account inflation etc. The product on the pitch and the belief in the club trying to go forward will bring people in, even if prices are higher than at the moment.
Dropping prices is not the only answer, though it has been Mike Ashley’s only answer to try and fill the ground, with each successive downturn as fans have walked away. An ever growing family enclosure offering cheap tickets and then long-term deals to try and entice other fans to renew, further complicated with renewals happening halfway through the season if you want to stay in the cheaper season ticket scheme.
Unfortunately, there is a big downside to fans benefiting from cheaper ticket deals and I do feel there is a consistent undercurrent which isn’t spoken (yet), namely ‘well what do you expect when you pay so little’ when fans ask why we can’t compete. If Mike Ashley insists on the club living within its means and yet continues with all of the free advertising for Sports Direct AND fails to employ a proper management team to chase commercial money, then Alan Pardew may be right when he states we can’t compete with the likes of Swansea and Southampton. Add to that falling revenue from (cheaper) ticket sales/deals and exactly where is the money supposed to come from to give Newcastle the advantage we should have over the vast majority of clubs? Selling Wonga shirts on the official NUFC website where it states your contractual agreement is with Sports Direct?!! Maybe not.
Of course having the debate over cheaper tickets and then John Irving talking about the Liverpool match in the same breath is all a bit dubious. The cheapest adult tickets that went on sale for Saturday’s match were £42 and the club have refused to let these go on general sale, so anybody wanting to go who isn’t a season ticket holder would have to join as a member and pay £30 for a year, even if this Liverpool match was the only one they could go to this year. An exile back home visiting family as a one-off, it would cost a minimum £72 (£42 ticket plus £30 membership) to see the game.
Journalists are really letting us down when they aren’t asking the right questions to get a proper picture of what is happening, rather than just the propaganda.
Surely one small reason for X number of fans saying enough is enough and not going any more, is the little matter of not a single player bought this summer, what incentive was there for fans to buy season tickets when after a relegation struggle Mike Ashley refused to release the funds for any purchases? Why wasn’t that put to the Newcastle director?
I do feel that overall there is an ongoing campaign of battering down fan expectations so that now when some fans ask why haven’t we bought anybody and why can’t we try and compete towards the top, you even get some other fans having a go at them for expecting/hoping for better. I don’t think there is another club anywhere in England, or indeed worldwide, where a decent minority of supporters have so little self-respect or belief that they don’t think they are worthy of a club that should have a go and show ambition and aspire to be the best it can be.
Last season Newcastle were tenth best supported in Europe and in the top twenty financial turnovers in the world. It is time for some fans to wake up before it is too late, feeding us cheap tickets isn’t the only answer!
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