Sheffield Wednesday yesterday announced a striking increase to match day ticket prices that left many on social media in furore over football’s affordability.
Prices for the opening day fixture against Bristol Citystart at £39 for adults, £29 for concessions and £21 for U17s, rising to as much as £46 for adults in the South Stand.
There are now eight categories, Category A* to G, with Category A* prices costing as much as £52 for an adult ticket.
Anyone who had registered the rising cost of season tickets and replica kits would have also expected the rise to match-day ticket prices. The rise has been so crushingly delivered three weeks before the season and, whichever way you look at it, £39 to sit in a half-empty ground to watch Wednesday vs Bristol City is ridiculous.
Adults can see the opening game of the Old Trafford season for less. If Category A and A* are to become the norm, Hillsborough will become one of the most expensive grounds to watch football outside of the capital.
For Dejphon Chansiri, this is a gamble. Fans feel alienated at a time that the nay-sayers of the past fifteen years could have returned in their droves. With the promise of Premier League football on the horizon, many will. Thousands more will not.
A price rise was inevitable yet it is the savage extent to the hike which many have found difficult to stomach. There are several points to address in both the delivery of the news, what it means for fans old and new, and how this places the club financially in the near future.
Firstly, South Yorkshire is the fifth most impoverished area in the country. East Yorkshire is the tenth and West Yorkshire isn’t far behind. To many people in Wednesday’s catchment area, ticket prices before the increase were difficult to meet and now will become unmanageable for hundreds of people.
The club should be doing more to attract both my generation of fans who were largely alienated by terrible football, and the next group who will not be able to afford £21 out of their pocket money.
Match attendances may drop, but not by much. Such is the nature of the devoted. Many on social media have suggested that they will begrudgingly find a way. Ticket revenue (including season tickets and match-day) will increase if numbers hold out around the 18-20,000 mark. Dejphon Chansiri is a businessman and will not care one jot for the few thousand he could terminally alienate. Many will return if he achieves his Premier aim.
Is this a sad indictment of the much-maligned modern football? Absolutely. Is this now the reality for club’s seeking promotion to the Premier League? Yes.
The club has to address its financial situation. Admittedly, the club’s prospects are rosy compared to many Championship rivals based on the latest figures, but with Financial Fair Play now seriously affecting any attempt at a short-term promotion tilt, Wednesday have to maximise all revenue streams.
Chansiri has looked to circumvent the rules by feigning sponsorship of club kits – to what extent will not become clear until the next financial statements are revealed. There is an argument that fans need to dip their hands in their pockets in the same way the chairman has, which relies on the sad reality that fans are now customers in the post-1992 football world.
Whether you agree with this or not, there is no hiding from it. The club’s communication on this issue has been very, very poor. To drop a £52 bombshell hidden amongst the already stark price increases for a match against a recently promoted club was foolish.
To what extent the Category A and A* prices will be used this season remains to be seen. They might simply be a pre-emptive suggestion at what Premier League pricing could look like in years to come, and may only be used next season should Manchester City return to see us, for a change.
Does the club want to encourage long term commitment from fans? A season ticket, even at the latest phase represents much better value, with additional savings for members on all tickets to the value of £5.
If the answer to this question is yes, it begs the question – why did the club not communicate this sooner? To simply leave the prices on the official website and then refuse to comment to the media represents a total PR disaster. Without explanation, fans and commentators alike are bound to pick up on the highest prices and emphasise to the wider public the simply unreasonable rise in price.
Should most fixtures lie in Categories F-C then the price rises will (for members at least) have risen by £3-8; a rise that, if promotion is delivered within the upcoming two seasons as has been suggested, represents some value for money.