Season tickets: An expensive journey…

It’s time to renew or purchase your season ticket, so Ron Smith asks how expensive are tickets compared to 10 to 15 years ago?

When releasing the pricing strategy for the next season’s tickets, at the forefront of every club’s mind are two objectives: (1) retaining existing season ticket holders; and (2) increasing the baseline matchday attendance by attracting new season ticket holders.

After a season of transition, the ability to promote both objectives will be tough for Swindon Town. Recent hammerings do little to entice supporters to part with their cash in the run up to the Phase 1 season ticket deadline on Friday 1st April. Especially given the limp display against a strong Wigan Athletic side was broadcast live on Sky Sports giving the wrong impression of the club to armchair fans who may be considering whether to buy a season ticket.

One factor in the mind of many supporters is a perception that the cost of watching football has rapidly increased. This is fueled every season by the now annual BBC Price of Football Survey published each the Autumn, starting in 2011/12.

The most recent 2015 edition, placed Swindon Town as having the ‘cheapest’ season ticket is the highest in the league. Furthermore, the most expensive Swindon Town season ticket is 8% above the league average.

When the 2016/17 season ticket prices were published a few weeks ago, continued a ‘price freeze’ and the club took the decision to reduce prices on junior and Under-21 tickets “in a bid to welcome in the next generation of football fan and nurture their interest for the beautiful game.” All good objectives, however, relative to the remainder of League One this ‘cheapest’ price is almost certainly going to continue to be one of the highest.

What the BBC survey doesn’t factor is a longer term view on ticket prices and the impact of inflation.

In the period 2002/03 to 2016/17, Swindon Town have been in the third tier for all but two seasons, so a reasonable comparison can be made on ticket prices over a longer period.

The graphs are based on the cheapest price payable for a new season ticket holder in both the side stands (Arkells and Don Rogers) and the Town End.

Two bars are shown for each season, the first is the actual price payable each season and the second bar shows the price adjusted for inflation.

Season Ticket Prices - Side Stands InflationSeason Ticket Prices - Town End Inflation

The side stands’cheapest’ season ticket price available for a new holder has generally been on a downward trend since 2004/05. At that point a new season ticket holder effectively paid £551 in today’s money to watch Andy King’s side limp to a mid-table finish after a play-off defeat by Brighton a year before. To make matters worse, the woeful 2005/06 campaign price was £535 to watch relegation football. No wonder attendances reduced to an average of 5,000 to 7,000 in the early 2000s.

Prices until 2008/09 were ultimately heavily inflated, until Andrew Fitton saw sense and reduced tickets in an attempt to increase attendances, and, it worked as they increased annually to circa 8,900 in 2013 before tailing off.

A contrast exists in the Town End, whereby the price adjusted for inflation remains relatively consistent over the survey period. To a large extent this demonstrates that Town End supporters have experienced few reductions in prices (with the exception of the early Fitton years).

What this does show is how supporters in the Town End haven’t benefited in the same way as those in the side stands – who are some £100 ‘better off’ than they were in the period 2004/05 to 2007/08.

The now small differential in cost between a seat in the side stands and Town End has made me uncomfortable for years. Its clear that the Town End has the poorest and most obstructed view in the house, yet supporters are seemingly overpaying – for a seat they hardly use as many prefer, rightfully, to stand. If there is any group that the club must appeal to and encourage a higher crowd then it must be the atmosphere creating Town Enders.

Clearly the club should reduce prices in the Town End when considering the 2017/18 packages. But with the Phase One deadline ending on the 1st April they should freeze both Town End renewals and new season tickets at the £345 and £375 prices respectively and abolish the Phase Two increases.

Let’s attract more supporters for #thejourney

Whether any of the prices quoted are ‘affordable’ remains for each individual to determine…

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