The 2014/2015 season marks the first year of Scottish League Two side Albion Rovers’ ‘Pay what you can’ season ticket initiative. An ‘early bird’ price scheme that offered fans the opportunity to purchase a season ticket at whatever price they saw fit – with a minimum set at £10.
The concept itself isn’t a new one. Clubs have trialed pay what you can/want schemes before, usually for just a one-off match. One of the most high profile examples of this applying to season tickets is at English club FC United of Manchester, who allow members to vote on whether to keep the initiative and what minimum price to set. For the 2014/15 season, members voted to keep the policy, with £100 for adults being the lowest one could pay.
As for Albion Rovers, their first home game of the season attracted 530 supporters – the highest attendance at Cliftonhill for a league match since the visit of Montrose in January of this year, when – ironically – the club offered a ‘pay what you can’ ticket for admission.
To extend the offer from one match to an entire season is a bold move from Rovers. Ideally it will attract more fans from the surrounding areas who previously may not have found value in attending a match at Cliftonhill, while conversely risks impacting a key income stream for the club. Now that the offer period has concluded, season ticket prices have reverted back to the original £140 for adults, £70 concessions and £30 for juniors.
It will be interesting to track the clubs attendance level over the course of the season. Although anyone who took advantage of the club’s offer will have already committed their money, it is still important to Rovers to maintain a good crowd level throughout the season as part of their bid to win promotion to League One.
Whether this is the future of ticket pricing remains to be seen. For clubs below the very top level in professional football, match day income is a critically important stream, with commercial revenue not considerable enough to rely on. Considering the delicate financial health that many clubs find themselves in, taking such a risk in a bid to increase attendance and in turn boost revenue may be one that they are unwilling to take. Conversely, it is due to this economic uncertainty that those willing to be creative and brave in their bid to increase revenue may be rewarded.