Danny Hall: Sheffield Wednesday fans deserve price-hike justification

Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri
Owls chairman Dejphon Chansiri
  • Many Owls fans left outraged as Wednesday unveil prices for first game of season
  • Fans will pay as much as £42 to see their side take on Bristol City on August 8
  • Increase was announced with no justification from the Hillsborough club
  • What do you think of the increase? Leave a comment below or let us know on Twitter

Dejphon Chansiri admits that, prior to buying Sheffield Wednesday, he had no knowledge of English football.

“But, over the process of doing due diligence and several months of negotiations, I have used that time to learn more about English football as a whole,” the Thai businessman added.

“Now, I feel I’m getting a better grasp of everything.”

Chansiri, who owns companies in real estate and construction, speaks through a translator. But nothing will be lost in translation over Wednesday’s decision to vastly increase matchday ticket prices for the 2015/16 season.

The initial feelings of disbelief, confusion and outrage which greeted yesterday’s announcement have, if social media is anything to go by, not yet begun to subside.

They, quite justifiably, believe £46 in the South Stand to watch August 8’s season opener against Bristol City - only just promoted from League One - is expensive. Too expensive.

Will young fans like Rhian Prosser and Louie West be priced out of watching Wednesday in the future?

Will young fans like Rhian Prosser and Louie West be priced out of watching Wednesday in the future?

Heaven knows which games will be afforded Category A* status, which sees the price jump to as much as £52.

A poll on The Star’s Scribble feed shows an overwhelming majority of Owls fans - 91 per cent - are against the rise. One, Darryl Johnson, has seen Wednesday at every ground in the country and travels 160 miles to each home game.

Or rather, he used to. Not any more.

“My family watched the Leeds game at Hillsborough from the North Stand last season and paid £150 in total,” he says.

It’s hard to ignore the ‘this is happening, like it or lump it’ feeling. Make no mistake, either; not many like it, but even fewer will decide to lump it. Football fans are like that; their loyalty relatively easy to gain yet very difficult to lose.

“We did not attend the Leeds away game because of the price of the ticket. All five of us were looking forward to the new season and the first game against Bristol, and welcoming their fans to Hillsborough.

“We will not be attending and I am sure the same can be said about the thousands of Bristol fans.”

Games between the Owls and the Robins have had their fair share of goals in recent seasons, granted. But the price is still difficult to stomach.

Perhaps this is what Chansiri meant at his unveiling, about his grasp on English football. Ticket prices on the whole on these shores are hardly cheap, after all; some Owls fans boycotted a game at Leeds because tickets were almost £40. That now seems reasonable, considering the likelihood of Leeds at Hillsborough being a Category A or A* game.

Jack Hunt, one of several new Sheffield Wednesday signings ahead of the new season

Jack Hunt, one of several new Sheffield Wednesday signings ahead of the new season

The chairman, too, will no doubt point to the significant investment this summer; a new Desso pitch, a new scoreboard, several new players and a new manager.

At least, that’s what you imagine he’d say. The ultimate insult for many fans is that the increase was announced with no real justification, or explanation. No ‘we appreciate and acknowledge the increase, but it is necessary to fund our push for promotion’. Requests for official comment on the increase have been turned down. Nothing. It’s hard to ignore the ‘this is happening, like it or lump it’ feeling.

Make no mistake, either; not many like it, but even fewer will decide to lump it. Football fans are like that; their loyalty relatively easy to gain yet very difficult to lose. After all, who of us can remember consciously choosing to follow our teams? Some will but for the many, it was ingrained in us almost from before we were born.

In that way, football is an industry like no other. Multi-billion-dollar companies like Apple must long for the sort of devotion fans show to clubs like Accrington Stanley or AFC Bournemouth.

Dominic Kitchin, the author of ‘The Science of Buying’, was talking from a business point of view when he said that we all have an innate desire to belong to something. But he could just as easily have been talking about the psychology of football fans.

Some will continue to rock up every Saturday and part with their hard-earned cash. They’ll kick up a fuss on social media, moan about it to the missus and then pay it anyway because it’s all they’ve ever known.

Carlos Carvalhal leads his first training session as Sheffield Wednesday head coach

Carlos Carvalhal leads his first training session as Sheffield Wednesday head coach

Dejphon Chansiri may not know much about the merits of 4-4-2 or Wednesday’s glory days of Dooley, Waddle and Hirst. But he’s a smart, successful businessman who will know all about the value of loyalty of consumers. [Consumers are like what fans used to be, before football imploded into a money orientated business].

Wednesday fans will have looked at other clubs hiking up prices, and told themselves that they were different. It’d never happen to us, they’d say. Yesterday, that illusion was shattered. They are consumers now, paying a premium in exchange for the promise of a Premier League push.

Yes, that may still materialise, especially if the likes of Paddy Bamford or Jordan Rhodes check in at Hillsborough. But this again highlights the flawed logic of football. If you were unhappy with your TV or phone, you’d go out and buy an upgrade. Nothing wrong with that. What you’d never do is shell out £600 to Apple or Samsung, and wait for them to develop something to the standards you expect... which may or may not hit the mark.

Chansiri, Carlos Carvalhal and the rest of the Wednesday sporting committee are under more scrutiny than ever now, to make sure they do. Supporters demand bang for their buck always, of course.

But an increase of these proportions makes those demands just a little bit louder.

Our Owls fan poll showed the majority of fans were unhappy at the increase

Our Owls fan poll showed the majority of fans were unhappy at the increase