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Decision was made weeks earlier by Mike Ashley to give away 10,000 Newcastle United season tickets

2 years ago

On 24 November 2019 I had an article published on The Mag which was entitled: ‘Will Newcastle United half season tickets fill St James Park?’

How prophetic…

Never in my wildest imagination did I imagine that this would happen only 15 days later in one fell swoop, Mike Ashley with the ridiculous move of simply giving away 10,000 season tickets.

In my original article (see below) I explained how I looked to see what kind of prices Mike Ashley was charging for half season tickets to try and fill the thousands of empty seats, as he had done in (pre-Rafa Benitez) seasons gone by. I was amazed to see there weren’t even any half season tickets on sale. This was quite astonishing and simply didn’t make any sense.

I posed the question…

‘So is Mike Ashley just not bothered about the empty seats, or is this just a sign of the additional incompetence at NUFC, where those in charge aren’t even capable of coming up with a strategy of at least trying to fill the empty seats?’

When the astonishing announcement was then made about the 10,000 free season tickets, we were supposed to believe (according to Lee Charnley) that on Sunday Steve Bruce mentioned to him (Charnley) his concerns about the empty seats and could the club do something about filling them, then within 24 hours Lee Charnley had decided to and made the announcement to give away 10,000 season tickets.

If you believe that then you must believe absolutely anything the Mike Ashley PR machine spins out.

Quite clearly, this decision was made weeks and weeks before, with official crowds (but far less actually actually turning up inside St James Park) of 43,000 against Brighton and 44,000 against Bournemouth, with it then abundantly clear weeks beforehand that Southampton was going to go the same way.

There is no way that there hadn’t been conversations between Mike Ashley and his people about half season tickets, back in September and October.

This decision of 10,000 free season tickets was obviously taken back in October or early November at the very latest, as that is when it would have been announced the prices and dates for buying half season tickets.

Mike Ashley clearly accepting he had zero chance of selling half season tickets at any price to fill 10,000 empty seats and so instead deciding to give them away for nothing to boost the credibility of his Sports Direct advertising and get rid of his own personal embarrassment of driving so many fans out of St James Park.

For maximum effect and to dress it up as a generous Christmas give away to ‘loyal’ fans, the announcement delayed until this week, only a fortnight before Xmas.

My original article (Will Newcastle United half season tickets fill St James Park?) on The Mag on 24 November 2019:

With all the empty seats this season, I was wondering will Newcastle United half season tickets fill St James Park?

With better recent form of three wins and a draw in the last five matches, it is a much better platform to push them compared to say how it looked at the start of October.

Especially with the last three home games bringing two wins and a draw, with both Man Utd and Bournemouth beaten in front of the home fans.

So I wondered how sales of the Newcastle United half season tickets must be going for Mike Ashley?

Having had a good look around though, I can’t find any trace of them.

Surely with so many empty seats, the club would be strongly pushing these but apparently not.

Does empty seats now add to the growing list of things Ashley is just not bothered about at his football club?

Back in the day when Newcastle United were ran with ambition, there was a waiting list for season tickets, so basically no seats available to be sold to fans as half season tickets.

As the Mike Ashley reign began to bite though and many fans became sick of the way he was running the club, it became a yearly thing to see half season tickets being pushed for the final nine or ten matches. Usually marketed as ideal Christmas presents and often prices slashed significantly, as in by more than half of what was charged for a full one.

The last time Newcastle United half season tickets were put on sale appears to be during the 2015/16 season.

Not a single game was selling out and crowds were regularly as low as 47,000 in the autumn for the visits of clubs such as Stoke, Watford and Norwich.

The sale of half season tickets did appear to boost crowds and eventually in Steve McClaren’s last ever game, Newcastle got a crowd of 52.000+ on 5 March 2016 when Bournemouth came and won 3-1, with Rafa replacing the hopeless McClaren.

We then saw a remarkable 51,106 average under Benitez in the second tier, so no need to sell half season tickets.

The same these past two seasons with averages at SJP of 51,992 and 51,121 under the Spaniard.

However, this season the crowds have been dismal, even official numbers sold have seen crowds as low as 43k for Brighton. Ticket sales for the likes of Southampton and Palace coming up, look very likely to see similarly low crowds.

I had a look elsewhere and a number of other Premier League clubs have been marketing half season tickets, indeed Palace’s sales period has just ended.

Newcastle’s 10th home game is against Everton on 28 December and the 11th on 1 January v Leicester, which would be when any half season tickets would kick in.

So is Mike Ashley just not bothered about the empty seats, or is this just a sign of the additional incompetence at NUFC, where those in charge aren’t even capable of coming up with a strategy of at least trying to fill the empty seats?


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