As I write this, I have just bought a season ticket to watch my beloved team, Huddersfield Town for next season. I’ve been a fan since I was five years old and despite being brought up as a Town fan in East London, this season card offer was something that myself and my Dad couldn’t afford to pass up. Over the last few days, however, I started to wonder what these prices represented in the world of football on a much grander scale.
Since the explosion of Sky and its ever increasing investment into the ‘beautiful game’, we have seen football teams across the country become engulfed in a wave of commercialisation and exorbitant season ticket prices, match-day tickets and the sanitisation of match-day culture. Some Premier League teams can charge as much as £4,000 per head for season tickets in the best seats in their stadiums.
Corporate hospitality has been given precedence over the normal fan and general tickets even for a so-called ‘Category C’ fixture of lesser importance are banded at up to £80-90. This is despite last season’s record-breaking broadcast deal that the top 20 Premier League teams secured with Sky that would see them each rake in an eye-watering £100m before the start of this season.
This means that the team who finishes bottom of this year’s Premier League season, (most likely Sunderland unless they pull off yet another relegation great escape) would earn more money than the champions of Italy’s top league, Serie A.
It is highly conceivable that with this huge rise in television income, Premier League teams could have low crowds for the entire season and still make a significant profit if they had competent financial departments. This has made the fan, once the lifeblood of all clubs and the sole reason for their existence an accessory, not the catalyst for success. Their voice has been lost.
What Huddersfield Town’s Chairman Dean Hoyle, Commercial Director Sean Jarvis, Chief Executive Julian Winter and the rest of the ownership at the club have realised is that watching football should once again become a right, not a privilege. Children should not grow up thinking that football is a television show where they get to watch 8 minutes of highlights of their team on Match of the Day.
Town fans were already over the moon when last season, after receiving an extra £2m of extra television income, Dean Hoyle decided to invest £1m into reducing season ticket prices. All adult season tickets were priced at £179 until an agreed cut-off point and a consistent and effective marketing campaign was launched across the town and on social media. As a result, over 15,000 season tickets were sold and the atmosphere at the John Smith’s Stadium has been the best I have ever witnessed in the 18 years I have supported the club.
However, with the faint possibility of Premier League football next season, the feel-good factor around the club, the ‘Wagner Revolution’ and ‘gegenpressen’ style that Head Coach David Wagner has instilled into the way the team plays, the togetherness of the squad who are relatable and engage with the fans across social media and in the community, Dean Hoyle decided to take the initiative and send a message to the rest of the football league.
A marketing campaign was launched with the phrase ‘a town like no other’ and prices for adults were set at £199. More importantly, prices for 8 to 17-year-olds are set at £79 and for under 8s just £29. With these prices, Huddersfield Town are achieving success in multiple ways.
Firstly, Huddersfield Town is at its heart, a working-class club and this offer allows existing fans the opportunity to renew their season tickets for next season at an affordable price. Dean Hoyle has also added a caveat that he would uphold his promise that if Huddersfield were to get promoted to the Premier League, any fan that had held a season ticket for longer than five years could renew their season card for just £100.
Secondly, the club are securing their own future by making it affordable for families to take their children at whatever age to games, creating new bonds between young fans and the club. Thirdly, these prices allow the older generation to be able to still come and watch games.
One of the best things about going to watch Huddersfield games is the diversity amongst the crowd. You will see as many 5 to 10-year-olds at games as you do older women over the age of 65. Amongst the elderly, loneliness is a crushing trend that leads to unhappiness, depression and low quality of life. These prices allow the older generation to have a day out, see their friends or family, support their club and leave the sometimes claustrophobic environment of their homes.
These season ticket prices are a beacon of hope for the regular football fan in an age where their voice is becoming increasingly marginalised. Irrespective of what division we are playing in next season or if I am able to renew my season ticket with the logistical issue of living so far away, we have sent a message to the rest of the league. There are no excuses anymore. Football should be affordable and you have a duty to uphold to the fans you are supposed to represent. I’ve never been prouder to call myself a Huddersfield Town fan this week.