Clubs warned over ticket pricing policies

Clubs have been urged to listen to supporters’ wishes when setting season ticket prices – or risk empty seats and plummeting revenue. Football finance experts Deloitte have warned that cash-strapped fans may have to be tempted with value-for-money offers – but also that clubs can go too far with discount strategies and end up undercutting themselves.   “Our work with clubs has shown that in the current economic climate, supporters are looking for value-for-money above all else from their season tickets,” says Paul Rawnsley, a director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group. “Clubs can ensure attendances hold up if they consider price points carefully and provide strong value for money.” One way to attract current and future generations of supporters is to slash prices for children’s season tickets. “Offering deeply discounted tickets for children is becoming more common and this can help fill any empty seats, nurture the future fans of the club and provides assistance to families who buy more than one season ticket.” With the recession biting, clubs face a difficult balance between making money and alienating hard-up fans. Luckily, says Rawnsley, football isn’t quite like any other consumer choice. “The emotional connection between football fans and their club delivers exceptional levels of customer loyalty. The desire to see live football remains high – many individuals may choose to cut their expenditure in other areas to retain their season ticket. “Football attendance is strongly habit-forming, offering a social aspect and a valuable diversion from the difficulties of everyday life.” However, senior consultant Jake Wilson sounds a warning note. “Ticket pricing is an emotionally-charged area for fans and management alike. Consumers in all walks of life are far more price-savvy these days – the ever-growing number of price comparison websites is clear evidence of that. Football fans are no different. They know a good deal when they see it. “Despite the delicacy of the ticket-pricing decision, many clubs tend to decide price strategy using gut feel, benchmarks from other similar clubs, or even just applying year-on-year levels of price rises. “Research can help assess the impact of price reductions. We have seen some clubs discount too heavily, beyond what is necessary to provide value for money. "In these cases, a club is effectively losing revenue, as the large discount is not driving sufficient incremental custom over that which a higher price could achieve.”