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[Blog] Bums on Seats or Cash in the Bank?
Written by DurhamTownFan on Monday, 26th Mar 2012 17:00

Is our football club being run as a business? Can anybody ever actually make any money from running a football club? If not, then are fans being treated in the manner with which they might deserve?

I thought about these two issues a lot on the way home from the recent game with Peterborough and thought about writing a blog there and then.

However, I was a bit too worried that it was going to sound like a flat moan after we’d just won a thoroughly exciting victory. Thankfully, today’s announcement regarding ticket pricings for the future home match with Millwall seems to have provoked much discussion, and has now persuaded me to complete the following blog!

As my username suggests, I live in Durham in the north-east. Work commitments and travel times mean that I only get to watch Ipswich around four or five times a year (often away). My prolonged absences from Portman Road do, however, mean than I might sometimes notice things that more regular fans take for granted, or might come to accept.

The one thing that struck most firmly during my recent recent trip, was the ‘business-ification’ of visiting Portman Road (excuse this terrible word I just made up), and there are several angles to this; all of which are relevant to the recent Millwall announcement.

Firstly, it cost me £62.00 to buy two tickets to watch Town against Peterborough. That’s sixty-two pounds, to watch two mid-table Championship sides. On top of this, it cost me a shocking £4.20 to get a cup of tea for myself and my girlfriend at half-time!

I’ve done a bit of research while watching regular games around Durham. For £74.00, two people can watch Newcastle against Chelsea. Not only is there a heightened sense of glamour about this fixture, but the football on offer was pretty good, too.

For £50.00 you can get two seats for Sunderland at home to Tottenham on 7 April. A friend of mine has a season ticket there, and recently got me two FREE tickets to watch Sunderland stuff the Canaries, 3-0 (and I did not only enjoy this because I hadn’t paid!).

I compare this with the situation at Ipswich not to moan, but to gain a bit of perspective. While Sunderland give tickets away for free, Ipswich season ticket-holders must pay £7.50 for extra seats against Barnsley, although this is still a pretty good offer in my book.

What about the Millwall game? Well this, and the Boro match are being offered for £20.00, and I have certainly read plenty of comments below both TWTD stories on this, that some fans think this is too high a price to pay for either fixture.

I think it should be said that any football club are totally at liberty to charge whatever they like to get in and watch the team. However, the situation at Ipswich worries me. One comment on the Millwall story righty noted that our average attendances have fallen virtually year on year since 2004-5, from over 25,000 in that year, to below 20,000 last season.

Against Peterborough, just above 17,000 came in-that’s only just over half of the total capacity of the stadium. The conclusion must be reached, that while the team stagnates on the pitch, the situation off it does not bode well. The club is losing the loyalty of its fans. Prices continue to rise, which will only result in fewer and fewer bodies through those magnificently-painted new blue turnstiles.

‘What is all this moaning getting at?’ you might ask. I very strongly believe that Ipswich Town FC is losing its appeal. Although you might argue that this is an isolated case, I bring the example of a close friend who recently exchanged the seat that he’d held at Ipswich for 10 years for one at the nearest club in the Ryman League Division One. He now won’t go to Ipswich a) because it’s too expensive and b) because the games are nowhere near exciting enough!

Ipswich fans (and I among them) may be fairly criticised for harking back to former glories, but I remember when I could go and watch Town as a kid for £5 with my Dad who paid £20. This same trip would now set you back £42, and even more if you want to just turn up on the day: this is quite frankly out of range for most families in the current climate, as shown by the emptiness of the ‘family enclosure’ at the recent Peterborough game, with parents and children seemingly choosing to spend that particular Saturday elsewhere.

Commentators below stories on TWTD’s website are right in arguing that our attendances were only so high 10 years ago because the team was in the Premier League and that once the team improves, the fans will return in numbers. However, I would argue that based on where we are right now (an established mid-table side with a proud history but showing inconsistent form for five years now), those in charge of the club need to do more to show that they care about their fan base.

If they can reduce tickets to £20 and make a profit for one home game, why not do this for ALL home games, and expand our core following? If season tickets have to be cheapest of all the options, why not lower them and get bums on seats?

At Sunderland, you can get one for £400: at Ipswich you can’t get one below £390. Although at Ipswich this gets you four extra home games, based on current form, opposition and entertainment value, I would suggest that this is optimistic, to say the least!

Why not keep this year's kit on for next year, and sod the rest of the clubs who change theirs each season? Why not reduce the sale price of this year's kit to something reasonable below the £21.99 that it currently costs? (Let’s face it, if you were going to pay that much you’d have gotten it earlier). Last year’s kit can still be bought online, but who is going to rekindle those glory days for £10 per shirt?

In today’s world, almost every football club is run like a business. However, in order to do this successfully, some perspective is needed. Ipswich Town are not Manchester United, hell, we’re not even Sunderland, Newcastle or even Norwich City right now (shame to admit!).

I’m very sorry if this sounds like another moany blog when the form of the team is picking up considerably, but I’m very interested to hear what people think about this, as its an issue current season-ticket holders will be facing soon, if not now.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

Marshalls_Mullet added 18:39 - Mar 26
I guess this will come even more into focus. Financial fair play will put upward pressure on pricing in order to increase revenue.

But this has to be balanced against the effect on demand.

Interesting times ahead.

davekl12 added 18:50 - Mar 26
The points put forward seem very reasonable, the more people packed into PR the better- a better atmosphere should lead to improved performances, and you genuinely create a feel good factor around the club. I'd like to see some kind of ticketing trial spanned over a couple of months, then the Cleggs of this world can review performance on the pitch, and look at the profit margins.

afrodids added 21:30 - Mar 26
I agree I think £28 to watch town is a disgusting price to pay. I went to c spurs v Sunderland for a cheaper price. Maybe we should introduce a tier system which they do at spurs where it is cheaper to watch lesser teams and vise versa. I think £20 is a much more reasonable price as said to watch mid-table championship football or even if we were doing well in the league. It would certainly incourage me to go. Especially if you add travel costs too.

Facefacts added 22:11 - Mar 26
This is an interesting blog, but reading between the lines of the dissatisfaction on ticket prices, I'd prefer to see the kind of blogs we saw around the time of Marcus Evan's takeover, where people had researched the guy and done their homework. I think we now need proper analysis of financial fair play, by what percentage the wage bill will have to be cut, leading to a proper debate about which players the club will be able to keep, under the new financial fair play rules. Not having any information just leaves us guessing the reasons for ticket price hike U turns and sudden short term U turns when Cleggy speaks out of line and Marcus writes a short term cheque for a cheaper home match to keep the media off the club's back. I guess the clubs that will fare best under financial fair play are the ones who prepare best. And that is business, like it or not. I hope that's us who will prepare well with proper and careful management, but I've really no idea, although what I'm hearing doesn't encourage me. I hope someone can oblige and uncover the secrecy to find out the actual figures we will be working to, assuming season ticket takeup and attendance continue to decline. Recently I've seen reports about giving Carlos Edwards a contract extension, but that is a financial decision rather than what Edwards still has to offer as a player. Football finances are a very interesting field for discussion because so many fans are financially illiterate, when it comes to thinking beyond their own bank balances. The club has to balance the books, and it's real money, like our money, not Monopoly money. If you pop over to the 72 website you'll see a recent article bemoaning Simon Clegg's words in the season ticket renewal brochure, about financial optimization, where the author is wishing there was a picture of Sir Bobby Robson there instead, with one of his timeless quotations about pride in your football club. This club must forget its past and work within the new rules. I can understand Simon Clegg's appeal and I hope it means we will be one of the best prepared clubs for the new financial fair play rules.

DurhamTownFan added 22:21 - Mar 26
Thanks for.the.comments! Afrodids, Ipswich do operate that policy and the Peterborough game still cost that! To facefacts, I appreciate where you're coming from and maybe I am under-qualified to write on the topic, but I think my knowledge is equal to the average fan. Ultimately fans care and know about how much it costs and how good the football is and in both cases I feel we're being short-changed!

DurhamTownFan added 22:22 - Mar 26
Thanks for.the.comments! Afrodids, Ipswich do operate that policy and the Peterborough game still cost that! To facefacts, I appreciate where you're coming from and maybe I am under-qualified to write on the topic, but I think my knowledge is equal to the average fan. Ultimately fans care and know about how much it costs and how good the football is and in both cases I feel we're being short-changed!

purplealien added 22:53 - Mar 26
Good blog Durham. I couldn't agree more.

I live on the South coast. The club has pretty much priced me out of visiting Portman Road. I am resigned to one or two games a season when they travel down here. The last three times I've taken my son we've lost (most recently Brighton). He's losing interest now.

afrodids added 23:52 - Mar 26
Spurs have a 3 tier system cat A ,utd,city,chelsea etc cat B sunderland,villa, newcastle etc Cat C wigan,wolves,WBA etc with Cat A obviously being higher priced games town do not have any such system for the casual supporter. The north stand is £28 on match days whoever we play!! BTW I'm not a spurs fan just in case u were wondering Town thru and thru have been since I could kick a ball(which is a long time ago lol) Just thought something like this may appease fans some what as we only see the promotional discount for games. Good blog anyway bud. Ironic thing is I'm thinking of going to the Boro game tomorrow as it's £20 lol

AwayDays added 09:39 - Mar 27
The away supporters at portman road pay £34.50 to come and support there team. that is the highest amount charged by any football club in the championship for visiting supporters, yet we still charge them £6.50 for a hot dog and a pint? ITFC is seriously mistaken if it thinks it can continue to be run like this, having said that, they must be happy with how things are going and the books must be balanced otherwise surely SC would do something about it?

bluekeen added 15:31 - Mar 27
I think Quality of player and quality of football have a lot more to do with fan attendance, as if we have star players, crowd pleasers (aka Bent etc) then people pay the money to come, You also have the local effect.... i.e watching Colchester is no longer an uncomfortable challenge and a lot of people who used to come to town now go there instead. in all business you have to maintain margin and on falling gates is what pushes the price up.

Financial Fair play means in essence clubs must have a margin of profit n all that they do. meaning they have to set prices assuming a continuing to fall crowd. by the same % each year.


C_HealyIsAPleasure added 20:57 - Mar 28
DurhamTownFan, your blogs continue to excel

See at you at Headingly ; )

Vexorg added 07:18 - Apr 5
Why compare with Prem teams who get so much TV money that ticket prices are secondary? Just accept there are two leagues, the Prem - bankrolled by Sky - and the rest - paid for by us. If you want the best at our level it's going to cost you. Simples.
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