British soccer fans have spoken, and it seems that their teams are listening.
In an unusual move, fans of Premier League football’s Newcastle United are being offered a freeze in prices on season tickets for the next decade. Fans can lock in their price at the 2011-12 rate (at an increase of £15 over last year) and can maintain this rate until the end of the 2021-22 season. The plan carries a minimum one year commitment, with the opportunity to opt out in each subsequent year. The deadline to sign up for the plan is February 28.
It gets better for members of the club’s three-year direct debit plan, who can now keep their 2008-09 rate for the next ten years, plus an added £15 fee. Those who held season tickets for Newcastle’s last, championship-winning season will also receive a 10 percent discount on season tickets for the coming year. Paying the extra £15 makes all adult season ticket holders members of the club, eligible for priority access to tickets, members-only rates for home matches and entrance to exclusive sweepstakes, food and merchandise discounts, and direct-to-mobile club updates. Those under 18 become members for free.
Newcastle’s head of customer operations, Simon Esland, explained the team’s rationale. “Newcastle United fans show their club a lot of commitment to the club by making sure our attendances are the third highest in the Premier League,” he told the Telegraph Sport.
“Now we are trying to show our commitment to the fans by making sure they can budget to come and watch a side they love to see in action. We believe it is a first although other clubs might have offered bonds in the past. We know these are tough times for everyone so we’re trying to do all we can for the fans.”
The club also is expanding its stadium family area, bringing the number of available seats up to 6,500, a tenfold increase from the 2007-08 season. A new Young Persons’ Area will provide seating for 18 to 21 year olds. With these moves, the club hopes to engender a passion for soccer, and create future customers, among the next generation.
In recent years, Premier League fans have railed against the high ticket prices required to watch their favorite teams, most famously those of Manchester United, who saw their ticket prices nearly doubled in recent years. Man U fans have even staged boycotts and organized buy-outs of the Glazer family owners, whom they see as squandering the club’s money and future while hiking prices irresponsibly. However, in March of 2010, the Glazers surprised everyone by freezing both individual and season ticket prices for the 2010-11 season.
In recent months, the UK government has been grappling with larger ticketing issues. Earlier in this parliamentary session, MP Sharon Hodgson introduced a bill banning the resale of event tickets for more than 10 percent above face value. At its second reading on January 21, the bill was subject to filibuster and now won’t be considered again before May. These efforts to restrict ticket resale in the UK are occurring in an atmosphere that has frequently been hostile to secondary sellers, who have often faced suspicion from the public as disreputable “touts.”