Let’s be quite clear. Watching Premier League football in the 21st century is an expensive business. Set aside the ticket costs for the moment and the expense of travel, food, drink, and various sundries can soon snowball, particularly if you have children in tow not easily pacified with a curly home-made ham sandwich and packet of cheesy wotsits.
Multiply that by 19 home games a season, plus a handful of cup games and you’re looking at something around £2,500 a season on sundries alone. Yet the stadium is full, or almost full every week, which would indicate that economically, the fan base can either afford it, or they have an inexhaustible supply of cheesy wotsits.
There has been a lot of disquiet about the recent announcement regarding season ticket prices, but that was always going to be the case from the moment it was almost certain we would be a Premier League team next season. The increases are, in reality, modest, and the average price of a ticket must be considered in context – with a season ticket you pay the same to see Manchester United as you do to see Southampton. You do not have that luxury without one.
My issue with the renewal announcement was not so much the increases, but the deadlines and the lack of consultation. The official website bombards me with updates of how they are engaging with the fans, and yes, that is a step in the right direction with the SAB, now rebranded as the OSB.
A lot of the work being done is good – and it does seem that many concerns are being addressed through better communication – so it’s hard to see why these announcements were made without any formal consultation with fans’ representatives. Whilst I have no strong objections to it, the OSB is selected, not elected.
The elected representatives in WHUISA took up the issue of the deadline and got it put back to May 31, but as the board do not appear to recognise them, they have received no credit for this. Like many of the individuals WHUISA has helped over the last year, many will never hear about it. But no-one seems to like them very much either.
Communication yet again is sadly lacking. It would help if rather than sending out statements quoting prices and making demands about renewing by ludicrously early dates, some level of explanation was provided as to why this is necessary. How does season ticket money contribute to the overall income of the club and why is it useful to have all that money in the bank by May 31?
Why is May 31 now acceptable when initially it was May 17? What are the plans in terms of recruitment and how does season ticket money help towards that? Give us more of an insight into the plans for our money and they may find that people are more willing to part with it early.
It is unclear to many why increases are needed at all when we now have almost doubled our capacity. It’s worth remembering that football, although a business, is a business like no other. Prices do not generally go up in line with inflation. A Band 1 season ticket now costs 57 times what it cost in 1972.
A pint of milk only six times its 1972 price. That doesn’t factor in average earnings, the costs of living and the fact that TV income is now beyond the wildest dreams of club owners back then.
Pricing is a tricky matter. The other issue of course being that local, long-standing supporters are marginalised as the primary catchment area becomes more gentrified. There can be no doubt that the demographic profile of the average West Ham fan has changed but if you want to complain about that you need to take your issues to the Premier League and your local town planners.
With 55,000 season ticket holders, the harder it is to secure a ticket on general sale. That said, all internet forums the day before matches are generally awash with people with spares. I’m not defending the board. But some of the criticism aimed at them over ticket pricing is unfair.
I think if you compare it to other clubs you will find our pricing competitive. After all, it costs me £15 to watch my local National League team. I doubt, as some forums would suggest, the money goes into the Chairmen’s pockets. But some explanations would help.
I will withhold my criticism until August 31 and if we visibly move forward I will not begrudge the increase. By moving forward I mean maintain a decent home record with good football and not getting stuffed away from home by teams in the bottom half. Davids, It’s over to you. Communicate.
Robert Banks’ new book, “An Irrational Hatred of Everything” is out now and available from Amazon