This week saw the latest initiative by Albion Rovers to increase their home attendance for next season and make their club more financially sustainable.
Following the success of their “Pay What You Can” campaign earlier in the season, the club have now applied the same offer for next year’s season tickets, with a minimum price of £10 to get your seat for every home league game. The club chairman, John Devlin, insists that he is taking a gamble, but a full stadium on match day would be worth it. Should this prove to be successful, the Rovers fans could attend every home game for 55p each game.
Following on from the initial scheme, which saw the club gain its highest attendance for the season – 718 attended the fixture against Montrose, almost double what the average attendance was for the rest of the season – the club hope they can replicate that over the course of a full season.
Already, another club is following suit. Livingston are offering fans the chance to pay £180 for their season ticket – which will include home games against Rangers and Hearts, and could also include home ties against Dunfermline and potentially another Premiership side pending the play-offs.
This staggeringly low price would be seen as a bargain all over the country, where several clubs were offering their season tickets at over £200 for the current season. This all sounds like a great deal, especially when you consider Premiership clubs charge over £300 a season ticket, for arguably a less competitive division. In addition to these adult ticket prices at Livingston, concessions can get their ticket for £90 and children’s are priced at £54.
In addition to the low Season Ticket price, another great offer at Livingston is that if this is still too high a price for some fans to afford, they are offering a £10 raffle ticket, with tickets to home matches for the winners and a one-off prize of a Season Ticket.
Livingston chairman, Gordon McDougall, is hoping that the scheme his club are offering will fill seats and double the home attendance, something which could be crucial to a club currently in a transition period to a community ownership structure.
Value for Money
So, is the Scottish game currently good value for money? A poll on Scottishfans.org found that 91% of respondents did not feel that our game was value for money. How accurate is this of the wider consensus? Are these new initiatives by Albion Rovers and Livingston the way forward for all clubs in Scotland?
If the initiative can prove successful on a long term basis – rather than just for a couple of games – then this has to be the way forward. Clubs in the top tier have seen their attendances dwindling, something which has become something of a trend over the last few seasons.
When compared with ticket prices from over Europe, the Scottish game is par for the course when looking at the paper value of prices. However, can the cost be justified by the level of skill and general standard of football in Scotland?
Taking Arsenal for example, they have the highest Season Ticket price in the Premier League, more than double what Celtic fans pay for their season ticket. However, compare the two footballing standards. Arsenal play a high level of football on a regular basis, whilst Celtic show a rare glimpse of what football they can play only a few times a season. Furthermore, Arsenal provided fans with several local derbies this season, as well as home ties against Liverpool and both Manchester clubs. Celtic? Well were there really any big home league ties for them this season?
Another aspect to look at though, is how expensive Arsenal tickets are. The club haven’t won a major trophy since 2005, albeit they have a FA Cup final this season against Hull City, the fans aren’t seeing their money paid back on the pitch. But are Scottish football fans? Some clubs would argue yes. Celtic fans got to see Champions League football earlier in the season. St Johnstone fans have overseen their clubs run in the Scottish cup. Aberdeen supporters witnessed the club win their first silverware in almost 20 years. However, Hibernian and Kilmarnock fans have watched their club flirt with relegation all season, and Hearts fans have seen their club relegated, whilst Rangers fans don’t know who to trust in the running of their club’s finances.
Not only throughout Scottish football, but the sport in general, fans can never truly know how good the value for money is in their club. Some fans can argue that they have been paid back what they put in with trophy wins, but others may argue that the style of football isn’t giving them enough excitement and entertainment when they go to games.
On the flip side, fans that pay less for their season tickets may never win any trophies, but might be getting the adrenaline rush associated with supporting a football team; getting pleasure from watching their club perform on the park, although not winning much in terms of silverware.
Arsenal fans fall into this latter category. Each season they fork out over £900 a Season Ticket, to turn up and watch their club mount a title bid before capitulating in the second half of the season. Whereas Celtic fans pay half the price, make a sacrifice in the standard of football, but usually win at least one trophy per campaign. At the lower levels, fans pay much less than this, the football in some places is just as good as at the top – perhaps not in England, but in Scotland certainly – and not everyone is pleased.
Finances in football are a tricky business. It is difficult to satisfy everyone, but at least clubs are finally making inroads at some level to try and do this.
Words: Blair Condie – @bcondie92