One of the few positives Mike Ashley and his cheerleaders put forward about his ownership of Newcastle United is cheaper tickets. “Hey, the football might be awful, we might be doing our utmost to avoid advancing in the cup, but you only paid £17 to get in, what do you expect?” seems to be the logic.
The figures I’ve looked at don’t seem to support that though.
What I’ve done is take the average attendance for every season since the club became a 52,000 seat capacity.
I’ve also counted the number of competitive games each season and checked the accounts for the matchday income reported every year.
From these basic figures we can calculate the total Income per game (Income/Number of games) and then the average ticket price each fan pays (Average Income per game/average crowd). From the numbers available I think this is the best we can do at an informed guess at the average ticket prices.
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Despite attendances at St James’ Park increasing year on year for the past 5 years under Ashley (remarkably), the average attendance under Ashley remains almost 3000 less than it had been under Shepherd. The lower attendances and lower number of games (who wants to play in the cup?) mean an average matchday income almost £5m below what it was each season. None of this is surprising.
However, on a per game basis, Newcastle now earn MORE than they did previously, £1.2m per game on average, as opposed to £1.18m previously. It’s a pretty similar number, but given the average crowds it means the average ticket has gone up from almost £23 to almost £25. Not a massive hike after seven years certainly, but the opposite of the claims made by Ashley supporters (the cheaper tickets are good) and detractors (the stadium is only full because of cheaper tickets).
Of the two positions the latter is more accurate though, because Ashley has introduced match categorisations that were never implemented before he bought the club. Cheaper tickets are available, but predominantly only offered to see the dregs of the league.
Previously your ticket for the visit of the Mackems cost no more than your ticket for the visit of Leicester. Pricing was based on seat position. Incentivising attendance to less attractive games wasn’t necessary when we sold out most games for the same price charged for the derby.
This season we’ve seen the same seat in the East stand go for £29, £33, £39, £47 or £50. That cheapest game may be a little less than paid previously, but the £50 one is getting on for double the price.
For some people the new system offers a better deal, for others it prices them out of big games. The benefits and ills of it can be argued. What we can say categorically though is that the reduced Matchday income at the club which is restricting growth has not been the result of cheaper tickets as many claim, but more the result of lower attendances and the lack of progress in the cups meaning fewer games.