Thursday 18 October 2012

Clubs creating value for fans on matchdays

Barclays Premier League clubs are showing greater innovation in ticket pricing and fan experience

  • Liverpool's Fan Park is being enjoyed by supporters going to Anfield

  • Manchester City's City Square has enhanced fans' experience of matchdays

A report by the BBC has highlighted the variety of ticket prices available to attend Barclays Premier League fixtures.

For a number of years, clubs in the Barclays Premier League have sought to attract fans, new and old, with discounted offers on tickets, while making sure that the young are not priced out from seeing their team.

Such policy on ticketing has been accompanied by efforts across the league by clubs to improve the standard of service that supporters receive at matches, something which was recognised by VisitEngland this week when it presented its first VisitFootball awards to four Barclays Premier League clubs: Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Fulham.

"What fans tell us is that the overall experience is important"
Cathy Long

“The Premier League and our member clubs are working harder than ever to understand why fans attend and how to make their match-day experience as good as possible,” said Cathy Long, the head of supporter services at the Premier League. “What fans tell us is that the overall experience is important; it is what stays with a family or a first-time fan long after the final whistle has been blown and it is what makes them come back time and again.

“Every football fan knows you can’t guarantee the result, but if you are taking your child to their first game and want them to support your team, it may just come down to whether they have a fantastic time win, lose or draw.  

Long cites the hard work the clubs are doing, combined with commitment from the fans, to helping keep stadia full. "Premier League grounds are 95% sold out this season, up from 91% this time last season, so clubs are listening to supporters by putting on a range of affordable deals,” she said.

"A lot of effort has been put into making Premier League grounds more safe and welcoming over the last 20 years. In that time attendances have risen from 9 million to 13 million as the experience has improved on and off the pitch.

"That investment is why we have seen traditional fans being joined by more sections of society. Nearly a quarter of attending fans are women now, 13% of season ticket holders are children and overall 63% of supporters coming to a match do so with a family member. Football is now more welcoming of everybody."

Nevertheless, Long says clubs are sensitive to broader issues that may affect demand for matches.

“These are economically challenging times and supporters have never been more conscious of what they are spending their money on and what they are getting in return," she said. "With that in mind, Premier League clubs have never been more determined not to take fans for granted.

“Price is a major factor in any supporter’s decision about whether to go to football, but it is not always the most important one.

“For many years the expectations of what core fans expected when they went to a game was very low, beyond what happened on the field of play. But what we have begun to see in the past five years is a genuine recognition from clubs that the match-day experience goes much further than purely the 90 minutes on the field.”

"Price is a major factor in a supporter’s decision but not always the most important one"
Cathy Long

Long highlights the number of innovations that Barclays Premier League clubs are introducing to make a difference to the fans’ match-day experience from before. “Now clubs are saying ‘we know you don’t expect this, but we are going to deliver it anyway’,” she said.

Arsenal’s efforts towards their fans won them the overall VisitFootball award for customer care, while Manchester City’s City Square development won them the innovation prize.

Liverpool have just opened a fan park where families can go before a match to post match reports, write messages to their favourite players and much more. But is not just about facilities, it is about people and a culture. Liverpool’s stewarding won them a VisitFootball award but Long says that overall levels of stewarding have improved across the 20 clubs to providing fans with a warm welcome.

“We like to think the Premier League represents the best experience for football fans in the world, across the spectrum,” said Long. “But there are great examples from other sports around the world and a lot we still have to learn. We want to aim even higher than that in the years ahead.”

Examples of clubs’ flexible pricing on tickets

West Bromwich Albion

There has been a big reduction in 2012/13 season-ticket prices as well as matchday tickets at The Hawthorns in a bid to make fixtures more accessible for the next generation of supporters.

Adult prices were reduced across the board by £50 while the Junior age bracket was extended to under-17s and prices were cut by up to £30, with starting prices at only £99.

Admission prices for 11 of the club's 19 home Barclays Premier League matches are £25 for adults and £10 for under-17s.

Sunderland

Season tickets for under-16s cost less than £99, less than £5 a game, and to help them to spread the cost, the club also offer a free direct debit service.

West Ham United

Under the ‘Kids for a Quid’ scheme, Under-16s were able to buy tickets for the Barclays Premier League games against Fulham and Southampton for £1 when accompanied by an adult. That the Southampton match sold out two days after the offer was publicised showed the popularity of the campaign. An Under-10s Season ticket was available for £100 when purchased with a  full-paying adult. For the Capital One Cup fixtures, advance tickets were on sale for £5 and £10, rising to £8 and £15 on the nights.

Arsenal

Arsenal have spent a lot of the past year working with fan groups to create a wider range of prices to have lower prices for many Premier League matches, which are £25. In the Capital One Cup, tickets costing £5 for concessions and £10 for adults attracted 58,000 fans to the Emirates Stadium.

Everton

Fans under the age of 11 are offered a season ticket for £95, or £5 a game, which more than 1,500 children have taken advantage of. For those aged 11-15 a season ticket costs £149 and such competitive pricing has lifted sales of season tickets by under-16s by almost 40%.

The cheapest adult ticket at any match is £31, while fans can pay only £30 a match if buying for three Barclays Premier League fixtures: Sunderland (10 November), Norwich City (24 November) and Arsenal (28 November).

Chelsea

Prices for UEFA Champions League matches have been cut £5 this season to £35. Capital One Cup tickets are at a discount (£12/£25) as are FA Cup tickets (£15/£30), while the club has expanded the number of tickets available to juniors.

For more information on how to buy tickets for Barclays Premier League matches, click here

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Key Points

  • Barclays Premier League clubs increasingly flexible on ticket prices
  • Premier League head of supporter services says clubs are doing more on matchday for fans
  • Cathy Long says much to be learnt still from what other sports do