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Milne: We Must Bring Back Younger Fans
Friday, 17th Mar 2017 06:30

Town managing director Ian Milne says the club and football in general have work to do to encourage younger fans to watch live games with the Blues focusing on youth with their 2017/18 season ticket strategy.

“Currently the average age of football supporters attending games is 41,” Milne told TWTD.

“The industry is facing a demographic time bomb, so we need to reverse that trend and make provision for younger supporters or risk empty stadiums.

“There is also statistical evidence to back up the belief that football used to be something that young people did on their own.

“Back in the 1970s, the average age of those in home stands was 17. We certainly recognise that the rise in age profile has a lot to do with cost and the high cost of tickets for the young is not the surest way to reclaim the youth market.

“So, we need more young fans to join us at Portman Road and thus we’ve put in place an under-23 ticketing strategy for next season at affordable prices.

“For those under 19 in education, they get tickets priced at just under £5 per game with a season ticket, that would catch all those at secondary school and at college starting a traineeship or apprenticeship.

“Under-23s, who are just out of education or an apprenticeship, are able to attend for just £10 a game with a season ticket.

“We’ve also introduced an under-12s season ticket at £50 but with reward points, which means the cost could come down to just £4 per season.

“It is very much focused on getting young people back to watch professional football matches, hopefully as a group.”

The Blues have seen a drop-off of fans in the under-23 group of 17 per cent over the last two years, as well as a reduction in numbers once fans hit 16.

“I’ve a graph which shows it went back over seven years,” added Milne, who held a review of ticketing in December, particularly the reduction in younger fans. “It is a steep reduction. And it’s not just an Ipswich Town issue, it’s a wider issue.”

Milne says the club will also be working with schools and the university as they look to increase the number of young supporters, who he also hopes will persuade older members of their families to join them at matches.

“I think we’ve got a good cost strategy to go to the university and the schools to say, let’s try and get dad along as well," he continued.

“I also make a point that at the ground we’ve got good stewards, they’re all trained for the kids and how to deal with them, the safe-guarding aspects of it.

“It’s a relatively safe atmosphere for young kids to come and watch football matches with a few mates.”

Milne says he can empathise with fans, frustrated after a disappointing season, who might feel that the club doesn’t deserve the 1.5 per cent increase on the adult season ticket price.

“It’s in line with the strategy set out at New Year by the owner [Marcus Evans],” he added.

“That is to have careful management of the club’s annual budget, where that budget is spent and how the club is to raise revenue to meet its investment priorities of focusing on the academy, having a competitive wage structure and a careful use of our transfer budget on developing players.

“There was a lot of discussion internally with regard to adult ticket prices, with the owner. He felt we needed to fall in line with his strategy and that’s where we are.

“Hopefully our discussions have managed to keep the increase, which is just under RPI, at a reasonable level.

“But on top of that there’s a sales target of 12,750 season tickets. If that is hit, then there will be a five per cent refund, and that applies to everybody, concessionary, adult, under-23s. However they’ve bought their season ticket they’ll get a five per cent refund. And I think we’ve set it at a reasonable level given where we are with sales.”

With this year’s season ticket total just under 12,200, is he confident that the target will be reached?

“I hope so,” he said. “I can’t bet on football but I hope so. I think we’ve set a realistic target, it’s lower than the total was in 2014/15 and 2015/16, so it’s not unachievable.”

While there is a widespread expectation that season ticket renewals are likely to fall, Milne hopes the cheaper tickets for younger fans will more than make up for that drop.

“I think it’s quite reasonable given the competitive pricing we’ve put in place,” he said.

“We’re the first ones to understand that the reality is that if you don’t play entertaining football you’re going to lose fans and that will have an effect on the season tickets, and maybe this small increase will also have an effect.

“But we hope people will understand that we’re trying to put on entertaining football. And also, with the investment in the FanZone and other things we’re trying to do, we’re trying very hard to provide an entertaining product.”

Fans have expressed their dissatisfaction with manager Mick McCarthy throughout the campaign with some having said they won’t renew their season tickets while he’s still at the club. What’s Milne's message to them?

“You’ve reported what Mick has said, he’s going to review his position along with the budget and the players with Marcus at the end of the season.

“That’s the right way of going about things and we look forward to hearing those discussions as well because it’s got to be between the owner and the manager to discuss and agree what the way forward is.

“At the end of the day, we want entertaining football, I want what the fan wants, we all want what the fan wants, we all want to come and see entertaining, winning football. One, because we like seeing it, but also it makes our jobs easier as well.

“Off the field, we’re working on things like the FanZone and what else we can add to that entertainment value for the fans to keep them coming along.

“I keep harking back to the under-23 strategy, we want to get those young ones back to enjoy the football here.”

While the official attendance takes in all tickets sold for a game, many Portman Road crowds have been significantly lower than those figures this season and in some cases around 4,000 season ticket holders have stayed away from midweek matches, TWTD understands.

“You and I don’t know personally why they didn’t come but we do understand the reality of entertaining football and it is winning games which will get the fans back,” Milne said.

In addition to performances on the field and the Blues’ probable finish in lower mid-table, fans have also expressed their frustrations regarding the budget owner Evans has made available to McCarthy.

How would Milne respond to supporters who might ask why they should put their money in if they don’t feel Evans is contributing as much as he might?

“We drew up some figures on the playing squad year on year,” he added. “Three seasons ago the playing squad spend went up by 17 per cent, then two years ago it went up by a further seven per cent and is currently up a further eight per cent.

“All the other costs and spends have been static at around nought per cent. That bill’s got to be filled from somewhere.”

However, some other Championship clubs - several without parachute payments - are spending very significantly more than that.

“I appreciate that, some owners are prepared to spend more and some aren’t prepared to spend what we’re spending.

“Our playing squad wage bill is now up to £13.3 million, three years ago it was £11.5 million, so it has been going up.”

Town’s overall wage bill was £16.5 million last year and will climb to £17.5 million this season.

Last summer Huddersfield dropped their adult season ticket price to £179 and sold 15,000 seats. Did Town look at adopting a similar approach?

“We did, it’s also to do with where we are the table and what have you. Dean Hoyle up there, the owner, took quite a big risk in doing it. We understood why he did it.

“The owner here wasn’t prepared to go to that extreme and also I think different clubs, different regions have different types of fans as well.

“It’s very important that we try and keep our fans in the way we think is appropriate to Suffolk and to this part of the country.

“I think he was coming from a different perspective. I don’t know how much their spend is at Huddersfield but I think it’s quite a considerable amount of money he’s putting into it.”

In his notes in the season ticket pack which will be posted from Thursday 23rd March, McCarthy concedes that he has work to do to repair his relationship with supporters during the remaining nine games of the season.

“I’m the first to admit that his season has not gone as well as any of us would have hoped and I’ll sit down with TC and the staff at the end of the season and analyse why that has been the case," he wrote.

“The challenge for us is always to finish the season as high as we possibly can. The January transfer window has helped us, with the players we brought in freshening the place up and giving everyone a boost.

“Results and performances have certainly improved since then, although we have not picked up as many wins as we deserved to in that time.

“Good performances will help build bridges with you, the supporters, and we know we’ve got to do that. Our relationship with you is vital. We have got to work at it so you feel good about the team and the club.

“That’s what we will continue to do because we all want the same thing - a successful Ipswich Town Football Club."

Milne will be talking more about season tickets on the Mark Murphy show on BBC Radio Suffolk at 7.40am this morning.

You can see full details of Town’s season ticket pricing for 2017/18 on the club site here.

Danny Baker Live! Good Time Charlie's Back. Ipswich Regent Theatre, Ipswich, Thursday 10th May 2018 at 19:30. Get your tickets before they sell out.

Photo: TWTD

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BanksterDebtSlave added 06:35 - Mar 17
Well done you will succeed in getting the age profile of your sub 8000 crowds reduced. Genius !

Asa added 06:42 - Mar 17
I'm sure by increasing U11 prices from £10 to £50 in the family area you'll be extremely successful with that Milne.

christiand added 06:43 - Mar 17
Huddersfield's owner took a big risk in reducing pricing particularly their season tickets. Our club thought about it, but no let's hike up the prices that will get the positive numbers we need and alienate more of our fans. Milne and a like just don't get it- the general match experience at Portman Road is utter garbage with a general releuctance to spend any money to make any improvements to entice supporters back. This is tough for me to say, but I really hope that ticket sales bomb significantly below the 12,750, but I doubt they'll do much apart from hiking prices up even higher to reduce the deficit! This owner and his mouth piece Milne are taking the club down, whether that is this season or the next....the writing is on the wall!

pennblue added 06:43 - Mar 17
It all comes down to money and what the owner is not prepared to put in

LimitlessBlue added 06:44 - Mar 17
Oh Milne you do not deserve to be sitting in that chair, surrounded by images from our glorious past, You my sir, are a bellend of the highest order and are just not fit to be in that position within our club, your 'team' around you and ME himself who think they will increase ticket sales whilst alienating many fans who have been with the club for many years is an absolute joke - Do one please.

itfcrocks added 06:47 - Mar 17
Is this the same ME policy of playing youth and entertaining football ha ha ,i find it hard to believe these people have ever run a business or dealt with the public . It has now got to the point of taking the pee out of the fans . What are the odds on the early bird deadline being put back to july again , make them sweat


muhrensleftfoot added 06:50 - Mar 17
Entertain us with adventurous attacking football. We haven't seen that since the early days of BFJ. Then the fans will start returning. I can count the number of times I've had good value for money this season on less than half of one hand!

Tufty added 07:08 - Mar 17
No mention of the change in concession age from 60 to 65 Mr Milne
Thats a price increase of over £100 for lots of season ticket holders
“I think it’s quite reasonable given the competitive pricing we’ve put in place,” he said.
Dont see this as competitive pricing just a rip off, travelling nearly 200 miles each way to a game - tempted to go to Derby instead
Novel way of reducing average age get rid of the old ones genius

Mick_Mills_Tache added 07:08 - Mar 17
Joke of a board at a fast becoming joke of a club. Giving attendances of 15k but we all know that they're more like 10-11k. The only way the club will reach the measly total of 12,750 ST sales is if they sack MM, get in a younger exciting manager and invest rather heavily into the squad. Keeping Mick is, surely, financial suicide (even with the 1.5% increase). I really wouldn't be surprised to see ST sales down to 8-9k.

I do, however, applaud them for reducing prices for u23s. I do fear that it is a little too late, though; the damage is already done. Also, why would anyone under 23 years of age who're looking for a good time go and watch Magic Mick's turgid and downright wrong football?

I'm not renewing unless I see significant changes - starting with McCarthy. I know scores of others who go to every single game (home and away) who aren't renewing and are going to pick and choose. It's all starting to feel the same as it did with RK and PJ here now. Actually, it feels worse because at least whilst they were here (RK in particular), there was still a passion/fire about the club. Now, it just feels like nobody even gives a toss or can be bothered with it which is a very dangerous situation for the club to be sleep walking into.

R.I.P. Ipswich Town F.C.

MooseJuice added 07:24 - Mar 17
“I’m the first to admit that his season has not gone as well as any of us would have hoped and I’ll sit down with TC and the staff at the end of the season and analyse why that has been the case,"...

Would have preferred it if you'd have done this in October Mick, might not have been such a waste of a season if you had!

We can all see it coming... the usual promises of more money to be spent, kids to get a chance, attacking football, blah blah blah. But we've heard it too many times now I'm afraid and even the hardiest of fans must be able to see through it by now. We'll spend 500k-1m on someone early so season ticket sales bump up, then one of our (few) assets will be sold (Webster or Bart) for a few million which won't be invested. Dozzell will make two appearances from the bench early doors then never get seen again in favour of some average Joe championship free agent we signed. Mick will play two strikers, we'll win a couple of home games, everything might begin to look positive, then we'll take a battering (a la Reading 5-1) and it'll back to the normal 7 defenders and lumping the ball up to some poor sod playing up front on his own.

There's only so many times you can mug us off Evans/Milne.

KilburnBlue added 07:30 - Mar 17
If we played a better brand of football we wouldn't have to win them back

Penguinblue added 07:37 - Mar 17
I have no idea what credentials Milne has to be Managing Director of the football club.
It is certainly not football expertise and does not appear to be business.
He is merely a puppet of the owner and unable to manage the most negative dire 'football' manager imaginable - single handedly responsible for the very problem he is supposed to solve. Declining attendances.

McCarthy OUT - take the other two with you

TractorCam added 07:40 - Mar 17
So you scrap the £10 ticket which was a major part of adults taking their kids, on top of that you rise the adult price slightly. Clueless from top to bottom

carsey added 07:49 - Mar 17
I'll start by saying I shall renew my ST because going to watch Town is what I do and I am lucky enough to be able to afford it but I am far from happy with what I have been seeing since McCarthy arrived.
I honestly can't see the club reaching the target they have set given that so many people who have STs this season haven't bothered to show up why would they shell out more hard earned cash?
The way I see it is either McCarthy has some sort of epiphany and changes the way he plays the game and his attitude towards supporters or ME gets a decent younger manager in and lets him develop a football team. Yes money would help but it's not the biggest issue.

SingBlue added 07:50 - Mar 17
This must be good news - This must mean MM is gone once we're safe and that we have a high profile manager lined up for next season already and he will have money to spend. Why else would these cheeky little chappies ignore the fact that up to 4K fans aren't bothering to turn up to matches currently....even when they've already paid! This has put a spring in my I head towards that very dangerous looking cliff side

cat added 07:57 - Mar 17

muccletonjoe added 07:59 - Mar 17
Just laughable. The man has no common sense whatsoever.

beornioblue added 08:28 - Mar 17

martin587 added 08:40 - Mar 17
Even my 10 year old grandson won't come anymore because he said his mates play better than Town.That just about sums it up.🤔

Surco72 added 08:43 - Mar 17
Any raise in cost for what we have been served up for the last few seasons is a disgrace , it is not all about winning games my children started losing interest when we scraped into the playoffs and stopped wanting to go the following season .
The owner , manager and staff are so far removed from the fans at present it is frightening but I believe a lot of that is coming from the arrogance of the manager that he knows best and the fans are all mugs who will always follow , unfortunately a number of you still are

cornishblu added 08:47 - Mar 17
First season in 30 years I won't have been to a home game.......go however to about 10/12 away games as they are cheaper to attend can this be
.....will someone from the club please give their rational to the ridiculous prices our club is charging

OsmansCleanSheet added 08:50 - Mar 17
Young people won't come to watch, even for £5, if the same turgid rubbish is being produced on the pitch as the last couple of seasons. They need to be entertained. Get things right on the pitch and the rest will take care of itself. I won't hold my breath.

Paddy39 added 08:52 - Mar 17
There is no chance in bringing in younger fans with the performances we are putting in. Marcus will not put in anymore money than he has to to keep us a float. The good money he gave to the club went to Keane & Jewell and they wasted it bar the odd exception. With Div 1 looming and you are keeping he prices the same for next season I think it's time to give the land back to the council for development and we'll go and support Col Who never the Scum. 10,000 approximately tickets will be sold for next season we are a club on the slide to the non league. By the way LEISTON are a club worth following if you have a free Saturday.

Safetyfirstmrwark added 08:54 - Mar 17
EVANS OUT. Not an ST holder as I live too far away. However I used to make it to PR 5 or 6 times a season and a few away games. Suffice it to say, I haven't been since last year and shan't be going while these corporate insects continue to drain the lifeblood from our wonderful club. Sad days.

lightingblue added 09:05 - Mar 17
Mr Milne, you have a very good picture on the wall just behind you. That was when the club was run properly. Furthermore if you need any advise there is a bloke who used to sit in your seat at Ipswich and doing wonders at Essex Cricket club. His name is M Derek Bowden. He has helped turn them around financially and could understand what the fans genually wanted and as a fan he did his upmost to try and produce what they wanted. We aren't greedy or demanding. Quite a simple easily pleased bunch us lot really. I even remember Mr Sheepshanks integrating with the fans and one happy memory was seeing Mr Sheepshanks jumping up and down with joy in the Norwich Directors box after we beat um at Carrow Road after the Norwich fans had left the ground with the Ipswich fans staying behind as per usual.

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