Sunday, 15 September 2013

Pricing fans out of 'our' game.

Away from Party politics, one of my main interests is sport and in particular – Ipswich Town FC. I still love the game but still very concerned about the way those who both run the game and those who own the clubs behave.

Recently the Borough Council supported us, the Independent Supporters Trust as we submitted an application to make Portman Road an ‘Asset of Community Value’ – this was successful and we are still waiting for a response from the Club.

The club also came under the media spotlight for the cost to watch football at Portman Road. Some of the criticism was unfair as it focused on our highest season ticket prices for certain sections and the club does offer some good discounts for season tickets in certain stands and the child’s season ticket is very good value. But where the club do let themselves down, is the extra cost to buy a ticket on the day, categorising games and the price away fans pay.

All the above concerns were highlighted this week as the BBC released its annual survey on the cost of watching football, but as a Trust we had already highlighted many of the issues back in July.

We will continue to seek to start a dialogue with the club as we believe the club is being very short sighted in their ticketing policy.

Back in July, we released this statement:
“Supporters understand that the club needs to make as much money as it can, but it’s saddening to read that the club is saving money by making staff redundant, whilst increasing ticket costs for matchday supporters and reducing the level of customer service by removing telephone sales.

“The high cost of matchday tickets at Portman Road means that many supporters, who perhaps can’t afford to commit to a season ticket but still want to support their team as often as they can, are put off from attending. The ‘grading’ structure complicates things further – we believe that this is unnecessary in a division with few ‘big’ teams in it and no local derby fixtures for Ipswich.
“Additionally, making tickets available only to personal callers or online sales will make it yet more difficult for supporters who don’t have easy access to a computer – a number which is relatively high in rural Suffolk – to get tickets for games. The website itself has some limitations in terms of flexibility and choice of tickets, despite the fact that it adds a ‘web sales fee’ onto the cost of the tickets.

“Going to football is a habit and Ipswich Town should be doing everything it can to encourage local people to get into that habit at Portman Road. Sadly, we feel that these recent developments will only serve to exclude and alienate potential supporters. The club needs to consider its pricing model not only in terms of the current balance sheet, but also with a view to the long-term – if people are put off from attending matches now, how much future revenue might the club be losing?”

The Ipswich Town Independent Supporters Trust requests answers from the Club to these specific questions:

1. What research was done to establish whether the increased ticket prices would deter supporters from attending games?

2. What research was done to establish how many supporters would be prevented from buying tickets by removing the telephone booking facility?

3. What’s the justification for “grading” fixtures in a division which lacks any real stand-out fixtures or local derbies?

At a time when many fans are feeling optimistic about the new season under Mick McCarthy, it’s a shame that the club have missed the opportunity to capitalise on that enthusiasm by being more innovative with ticket pricing.

What we do need to have is a strong independent supporter’s trust so we can put both pressure on the club where we feel we need to and also work with other supporter’s organisations on nationwide campaigns.

It only cost £5 to join the Trust > more details can be found here.

The club do seem to have a PR issue currently, whilst I was being interviewed by the BBC on Thursday, we were approached by the Stadium Manager to ask why we were filming, they would have been better off agreeing to be interviewed themselves by the BBC rather than just release a bland statement.

Ipswich Are ‘OUR’ team and will continue to be long after Marcus Evans (and his joint MD’s have left) and so it is left to us, the supporters to make sure we have a say in how our club is run.

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