Tag Season Tickets

Tag Season Tickets

Waiting list, what waiting list?

March 10, 2011 Tags: , Shorts 15 comments
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There is a school of thought that believes, in summary, football fans are little more than sheep, blindly following the club’s will ‘support’ of their team. Fans pay a huge price premium over similar sources of entertainment: films, music, plays and so on. Meanwhile, supporters willingly spend £50 or more a season on ‘official’ shirts that cost a fraction to produce.

Indeed, economists describe this behaviour as price inelastic: demand for tickets and other commercial goods associated with football does not fall in line with price rises. Like cigarettes and heroin, football is a drug that supporters will not easily give up.

Yet, thousands of Manchester United supporters have done just that in the past five years. Walking away from the club and their season tickets as the impact of more than 50 per cent price rises took hold. So much so that for the first time in memory United failed to sell all available season tickets for the 2010/11 season. The once mythical waiting list simply vanished in a summer; the Glazers having eroded an estimated 30,000 supporters from the base.

Why then does the club persist in pendling the tired ‘waiting list line’ in its marketing, which has begun in earnest for the 2011/12 season? Why? Because we are sheep…

Season Ticket "Waiting List"

So who was lying Mr. Gill?

September 2, 2010 Tags: Opinion 62 comments

17 June, 2010 – “Anybody who is trying to say there has been a poor uptake is lying” – Manchester United spokesperson, denying sales had fallen short of expectations.

1 September, 2010 – CEO David Gill admits season tickets sales are just 51,800 this season, despite 54,000 season-long seats being available at Old Trafford.

United’s admission that it failed to sell out of season tickets for the first time in memory has exposed as myth both the supposed 17,000 person waiting list and supporters’ enduring ability to soak up ever-increasing prices. After all, aggregate season ticket prices have risen 48 per cent since the Glazer family’s arrival in Manchester five years ago.

Additionally, the UK economy has experienced one of the deepest recessions since the Second World War, with unemployment in Manchester now at 5.4 per cent compared to a national average of 3.6 per cent. Indeed, Gill has claimed pleasure with sales in the UK’s depressed economic environment.

“Last year our target was 54,000 season tickets, we’ve sold 51,800, which is pretty good in the current climate,” Gill claimed.

“We’ve sold more season tickets than the capacity of most Premier League grounds. Our executive seat sales are on track as compared with last year in a different market.

“I think the bare facts are that the club is in good financial shape. The ticket sales have held up.

“We sold out for Newcastle United and West Ham United but we are not complacent and we’ve got to keep working to make sure that we fill the ground for every game and we’ll do that by playing great football, attractive football, exciting football that brings fans in.”

Yet there is something insincere about the Gill’s stance, with the club’s attendances not drastically affected by either the early ’80s or ’90s UK recessions. More to the point, unemployment has not increased at all in the local area over the past year, with the economic climate no worse in summer 2010, when technically the recession has ended, than 2009 when it had not.

Anecdotal evidence points to a large number of supporters heeding the call by the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) and Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA) to swap a season ticket for a One United membership, and apply for games on a match-by-match basis.

Duncan Drasdo, chair of MUST, says that the Glazer family has now run out of room to force price increases on supporters in future seasons, with United’s core match-going support eroded over the past five years.

“Up until this season they increased ticket prices aggressively every year and could get away with it because the loyal fans they forced out were replaced by others still prepared to pay the increased price,” said Drasdo.

“The failure to sell out season tickets is very significant as the Glazers depend on an excess of demand over supply to exert control over supporters.”

Just as the Green & Gold protest movement forced the club to freeze ticket price increases for the first time in five years, then the eradication of a waiting list for season tickets will colour the club’s ongoing price strategy.

Not that the shortfall in sales will make a significant financial difference to the family’s plans of course. United’s revenues will suffer little for 2,000 season tickets remaining unsold, unless the corresponding sale of matchday tickets also falls short against the least attractive opposition this season.

Evidence points to the club’s £104 million match revenue holding reasonably steady in the current financial year unless the Sir Alex Ferguson’s side crashes out of the Champions League in the group stage. The Glazers’ business model is essentially predicated on United qualifying for Europe’s premier competition and then making the quarter-finals at least.

Yet, should the failure to invest in the transfer market this summer on established stars impact more heavily than expected, the aggressive marketing campaign to sell season tickets this summer may have to increase a notch more come June 2011.

Glazers claim 50k season tickets sold

July 21, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 38 comments

The Telegraph reports that Manchester United has sold 50,000 season tickets, with the Premier League campaign beginning in under four weeks. After an aggressive summer marketing campaign the total falls 6,000 short of last season’s total. The club confirmed that this figure does not include executive seats sales.

Last season’s total executive seat numbers of 7,500 were added to season ticket sales of 56,000. United’s current shortfall of 6,000 tickets represents a drop in sales of just under 12 per cent on standard season tickets.

The club also said that executive seats are “tracking in line with last season’s sales,” although the Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association (IMUSA) reports more than 1,000 seats were downgraded ahead of the new season.

Even if executive sales have held up, the drop in standard seats is significant given the aggressive push this summer, which has involved email and tele marketing to current and former season ticket holders, One United members and even those who have not bought a membership during the Glazers’ tenure at the club.

The club then launched a glossy ‘Season Ticket Waiting List’ brochure, which was pro-actively sent to the club’s marketing database after the 13 June renewal deadline.

Moreover, the club’s stance on a potential organic boycott, which has not been officially organised by either of the supporters’ groups, included the claim that thousands of fans were on a season ticket waiting list. With seats still available, the wait is now negligible.

Whether the shortfall in season ticket sales is compensated by One United members buying match-by-match tickets is as yet unknown, although gaps in the stands were noted at some of United’s less glamorous matches last season.

Whatever the reduction in sales, however, it is now clear the Glazer family’s ownership has eroded United’s core support, with the blended average season ticket price increasing 48 per cent over the five years the Americans have been at the club. Whether the family sells up in the short-term or not, a generation of United supporters has walked away from the club.

The club will reveal more details on the financial impact of season ticket sales on 27 August, when Red Football Joint Venture Ltd publishes its end-of-year accounts. The accounts, which show the financial year to 31 June 2010, will almost certainly still show a healthy cash surplus.

However, with no transfer business done by the club this summer more than £100 million cash is likely available for Glazer family to remove in dividends this financial year, with the interest rate on the Payment in Kind (PIK) debt rising to 16.25 per cent in August.

The end of year accounts will, of course, allow the club to claim that the Ronaldo money is still available, and Sir Alex Ferguson to continue his line that there is no value in the market. Until the club publishes its Q1 2010/11 financial results in November that is.

Whatever the season ticket sales by the time United take the field against Newcastle United on 16 August it seems unlikely that green and gold protesters will be placated by United’s summer dealings in the market.

Indeed, anti-Glazer banners were removed during United’s match against Celtic in Toronto last week, mirroring aggressive action by stewards at Old Trafford last season.

Fans can expect more of the same in the coming season, no matter how many have bought season tickets.

Glazers: no problem selling season tickets…

June 29, 2010 Tags: , Shorts 6 comments

… then why the desperate spate of emails, telemarking calls and the laughable season ticket waiting list booklet?

Then there are the anecdotes of begging calls to former executive seat holders, many of which are believed to have given up their facilities. For its part senior management at United claims satisfaction at current sales, after launching an aggressive marketing campaign warning executive seat and season ticket holders to renew before the 31 May and 13 June deadlines.

Even more curious then that the club has made so much of its famed waiting list – now proven as little more than a marketing database – with the wait for season tickets, literally, minutes.