Clubs to lure corporate fans with flexible prices

LONDON - Europe's leading clubs will have to adjust their ticket prices for corporate clients next season if they are to preserve revenues, analysts say.

Clubs will be increasingly prepared to lower prices to retain their prestige customers as the global economic crisis squeezes budgets.

"It's a buyers' market, and at clubs where corporate capacity is not sold out prices may be flexible," said Alex Byars, senior manager in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

Some expect ticket renewal for next season to be even tougher than in 2008.

"I see signs of contraction in corporate hospitality in 2009 and 2010," Marco Fassone, chief marketing officer at Juventus, told Reuters.

Many premium seats are taken by small businesses who are closest to the difficulties experienced in the economy at the moment.

"I expect corporate hospitality to come under considerable pressure," said Paul Blakey, senior lecturer in sports management at the Northumbria University.

Top European soccer clubs draw up to 40 percent of their matchday revenues on corporate seats, according to the consultancy group Deloitte.

About 10-15 percent of seating at modern stadiums, Deloitte say, is reserved for businessmen and professionals, who pay up to 6,000 euros ($7,545) per season for benefits including exclusive seats, car parking, special dinners and player appearances.

As a result of the crisis, English Premier League club Blackburn Rovers slashed their corporate hospitality prices in January, while there has been a widespread price discounting for some games.

MIXED SCENARIO

However, those clubs whose revamped stadiums reach above 95 percent of capacity are in a better position to weather the crisis.

"On the corporate side, we are less challenged than others," Arsenal's new chief executive Ivan Gazidis said this week.

The London club largely benefits from sell-out league attendances, averaging 60,100.

In Italy, where Serie A top flight league is second only to the English Premier League in terms of total revenues, stadiums are in desperate need of an overhaul.

"Italian soccer clubs have not yet developed an adequate corporate offer," said Michele Costantini, marketing director at Italy's travel agency Sport Incentive Travel.

Juventus -- whose matchday income accounts for seven percent of the clubs' total revenues -- is trying to make up the difference.

The Turin club is looking to increase its corporate fan base and will offer 3,500 premium seats instead of the current 500 when its new 40,000 seater stadium opens in 2011.

While general tickets prices will remain unchanged, premium seats will cost from a minimum of 2,000 euros per season to about 6,000 euros, depending on the benefits included.

"From 2011 we expect to increase our revenues from the stadium to about 30 million euros. We may still be far from British clubs revenues, but this means a lot to us," Juve's Fassone said.


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