Ahead of the 2011/2012 season, Newcastle United introduced a ten year season ticket price freeze for anybody who renews their season ticket every year.

Since then, the club seems to have been doing its utmost to challenge those that bought into the deal to walk away from it.

season ticketThe small print in the deal requires anyone that would like to cancel their renewal to do so by the end of January in the preceding season.  This means that the January transfer window becomes extremely important to those that are making the expensive decision as to whether the club is moving in a direction that they want to support with their hard earned cash over the next year.

The club are quite clear however, that January is not a time when they are interested in buying any players.  In last week’s interview with the Chronicle, Lee Charnley reiterated:

‘January is a difficult market to operate in. There are very few options whereby a club can achieve the quality required and also get value. There is often a reason as to why a player might be available in January.

We were forced to bring players in a couple of years ago in January because of where we were in the league and some of those transactions we brought forward from the following summer at significant cost. As a general principle, January’s not an attractive window.’

This has always clearly been the case and came as news to nobody.  The ‘value’ argument is not true of course, some of Ashley’s best value signings have come in January (Nolan, Williamson, Routledge, Simpson, Cisse, Sissoko & Debuchy).

Observing the transfers the club has made in the past confirms the approach though.  Mike Ashley has spent just £41.9m in eight January windows so far (£5.2m average), but sold £77.9m of talent (£9.7m average), almost double.

In the summer The club are much more interested in adding quality to their numbers with the £111.2m spent (£13.9m average) shading the £80.6m recouped (£10.1m average).

So why would the club time the fixed price renewals at such a time when supporters will inevitably be at their most dissatisfied?  They will tell you it’s an administrative issue, that the direct debits have to be started or some other nonsense.

That might be true, but I can’t shake the feeling that while the fixed price deal was excellent for fans (especially those that save the difference each year and use it to defray the massive increase they face when the deal runs out), for the club it was also an attention grabbing publicity stunt that inevitably stifles growth of matchday revenue.  The renewal date seems to me therefore pointedly and purposely selected to be at a time when most people will be most inclined to tell the club where to stick their fixed price deal.

Unfortunately, football fans are junkies.  It’s rare that they can just walk away. Particularly at Newcastle.

St James Park is like Royston Vasey – “you’ll never leave”.  Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley know and rely on that. Those fans who do make a principled stand against the owner, manager, transfer policy, or whatever straw it was that broke the camel’s back for them, inevitably return.  Maybe only for the derby where a standard Gallowgate or Leazes ticket is £45 and requires a £35 membership to secure, making it a £80 ticket.

Perhaps after a summer like 2014 where the club spend more than they had in the previous 5 summers combined, fans who packed it in are convinced to buy a full season ticket.  If they aren’t then new fans will be, and Newcastle season ticket prices have been going up season on season, at an average of about 3% a year. A £543 Gallowgate/Leazes ticket in 10/11 was up to £602 in 13/14 (11%).

Far from explaining to fans the situation with the new manager, promising much needed investment or allaying any fears we have of relegation, Charnley’s interview seemed intended not to galvanize support but to alienate.

Rather than convincing supporters to stick with the club, it confirmed to all those considering cancelling, what they had feared, and likely emboldened them towards ringing the bank about that direct debit.

Thanks to Chris Holt for another excellent piece and you can visit his blog HERE, plus you can follow him on Twitter @MikeAshleyLies

  • Hez

    You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that believe the words that come out of St James these days, they’ll be 50,000 there next home game and next season and fair play, if you want to go than go, personally I could never give the money grabbing Cowboys a penny, just watch the depressing non existent performances our budget team serve up online instead!

  • toonterrier

    Shouldn’t have Blobby and Flabby on the same page. Must be hell for the photographer trying to fit them both in. As for this weeks interview with Flabby a complete waste of ink as its obvious he’s been zapped by Blobby’s lazer. Still considering the future with my season ticket as my mate still wants to renew his expecting better things to come. Land of Hope and Disappointment.

  • LeazesEnder

    That would explain the bizarre summoning of Chronicles Cameron…he (Charnley) wasn’t exactly snared into offering up a dire tasteless menu unfit for human consumption!

  • cwtoon88

    He left a little bit of hope and they will play on that with a ‘new manager’  coming in the summer but no name will be announced, so we will hope, then come the summer Carver will get it full time or a Steve Bruce or Mcclaren if they become available

  • wor monga

    Don’t you just hate somebody setting themselves up as the one
    who can save you from ‘what you don’t really want to be saved from’…Ok Ashley
    tells lies, and makes lots of money…nothing ground shattering there…unless you
    live in a monastery that is untouched by any real day to day issues…So what do
    you hope to achieve with all this?…saving people from themselves by referring
    to them as ‘junkies’…’spending all their hard earned cash etc, etc’…look we are
    no different from people anywhere else, and see football, as our entertainment,
    and what’s wrong with that, eh?…’Junkies… they’re losers who (sadly) turn
    eventually into the dregs of any society, and we Toon supporters are most definitely
    not that…despite what the ‘financial evangelistic’ preachers like yourself, Chris
    seem to think.

  • A lex

    Interesting and insightful observation. Fatty ‘does’ retail business, but he can also afford the very best financial advisors, pr gurus, and marketing men to dream up the tricks he plays here and in Glasgow.

    Albeit a good one for the fan watching (as long as the on-pitch product isn’t dire, of course), it’s terrible for the club – same income for 10 years. It’s the same as me agreeing my salary now, and having no increases until 2025 – hate to think how I’d be coping 10 years from now on current salary.

    So, yes, encouraging people off the current deal is very plausible indeed.

  • Alexh1984

    I’ve always found it amazing that poor mike came into a club he ‘claimed’ had mortgaged it’s future and then froze ticket prices for 10 years! Is that not doing the same thing. The next owners (we can dream) will be tied into these deals while thousands of boycotters will probably want to return.

  • Jarra MIck

    Excellent piece Chris. On one level you could say the club are being honest basically saying, this is what’s going to happen so if you’re not happy [email protected]@k off. The is what they said last season and this was why I chucked it in. So among all the lies they tell us occasionally we get some truth as unpalatable as it is. I believe everyone has an Ashley tipping point I reached mine last season. The year before there was no way I was going to pack in. So those of you who think you will never walk away think again.

  • MikeAshleyLies

    I’m a season ticket holder and included myself in that metaphor.

  • Heaton Mick

    The admission that we weren’t interested in the Cups was the final straw for me in not renewing.
    Seeing Chelea, Spurs and City out by the last 32 just prove what folly that ‘strategy’ is. The likelihood is that a bottom half team will get to semis now and it could have been us!

  • A lex

    Can’t believe I’m saying this, but wonder what the odds are now of P45due winning a trophy! :-(

  • Melchett

    Let me get this right. The club create a 2nd revenue stream mid season, rather than 1 big lump in the summer, and then deliberately dissuade people from taking advantage of it??? I wont argue about the figures quoted, but if we enter January in a healthy league position, then you would imagine that the take up of tickets will be positive, a good thing financially for the club. The article insinuates that transfer activity alone dictates the intentions of supporters, although it would obviously be a factor, it most certainly isn’t for me.
    Another imponderable is how many supporters return having walked away, as if it where almost a given, as implied by the article.
    If the club have such a low opinion of the 10 year deal, then surely there must be a rider in the small print allowing them to just pull it, bad PR certainly, but when has that consideration bothered the Ashley regime unduly?? Why have the administration hassle of a scheme you want rid of, when the club could just follow precedent and do the unpopular thing, and get their optimistically named media relations dept to just bung out some old nonsense and just carry on as they like?

  • Melchett

    A lex I cannot even countenance such an appalling scenario, the sight of his smug mug preening with the Cup would certainly see my television with a brick through it.

  • A lex

    Melchett A lex It would be a little cringe-worthy, wouldn’t it?!

  • Melchett

    A lex Melchett The understatement of the evening so far  :)

  • MikeAshleyLies

    The club are all about publicising how good they are for fans. They lie about £15 tickets and 10% reductions for members. Its the only defence they have… “It might be utter tripe being served up, but its cheap tripe” just like donnay gear.

  • Melchett

    MikeAshleyLies The best way to handle club statements, is just imagine the music playing when the George Cole character appears in the St.Trinians films. For those under 60 you may need you Tube for that one.

  • A lex

    Melchett MikeAshleyLies Hahaha. So many alternatives – the Benny Hill chase music or anything from Laurel and Hardy.

  • Melchett

    A lex Melchett MikeAshleyLies Har! Stick a bowler hat, hitler tash and pencil tie on Ashley….:)

  • Toon Magpie

    wor monga You aren’t being ‘entertained’, you’re being mugged and subjected to torture of the eyes and speared through the heart.