This year’s BBC Price of Football Survey is due to be released this evening and we understand that one of the headlines of the study is a claim that Hull City have the cheapest adult season ticket in the Premier League.
However, this doesn’t appear to be true. Hull City don’t even sell season tickets, since they were replaced by the controversial membership scheme in the summer. The cost per season seems to have been calculated by multiplying the monthly payment of the cheapest membership (£21) by 12, which gives the figure of £252 for the year. What the survey doesn’t say is that Hull City also have a joining fee of £84 to become a member, which means the cheapest you can really watch a season of football at Hull City for is £336. That figure makes City the fifth cheapest in the Premier League for adults, after West Ham United (£289), Stoke City (£294), Manchester City (£299) and Burnley (£329). Not the cheapest for adults as the survey says, and certainly not the cheapest for concessions – since Hull City are the only club who don’t offer any.
Interestingly, the fans who were invited to the ‘Fans Working Group’ meeting when the scheme was first revealed were told that one of the aims of altering the ticketing structure was to make the headline figures look better. By excluding the compulsory joining fee from the figures given to the BBC, and removing concessions, City may have created the illusion of having a cheap adult ticket, that’s really all it is: an illusion. They’re fooling no one, as this seasons crowds show. Not only are attendances this season significantly lower than in any of our previous seasons in the Premier League, but they’re also lower than the crowds we used to get when the club was in the old Division 3. City have even been reporting inflated attendance figures to try and mask this problem. The average reported attendance of home games last season was around 2,500 higher than the number of people who actually attended, as shown in the club’s annual accounts. The club claim that this discrepancy is because of fans who bought tickets and didn’t turn up, but it seems incredibly unlikely that this accounts for 2,500 people.
Frustratingly, the drop in crowds, like many of City’s problems, has been entirely preventable. We warned the club when they first proposed this scheme, that thousands would stop going. We knew this because they told us they would. When we surveyed 1,125 supporters, most of them season ticket holders at the time, 60% said they were unlikely to join the new membership scheme. Naturally the club didn’t listen and that is a familiar story. The refusal of the club’s current regime to listen to supporters, authorities and their own staff is how the club has come to be in the mess it is now.
Many of the supporters who responded to our survey told us that they were unhappy about the principle of removing concessionary prices, even though they themselves were not affected. It was obvious to many that serious damage would be to done to the club’s support if the next generation of fans were priced out, while long-serving, elderly fans were suddenly asked to pay hundreds of pounds more. Many fans were forced to move seats or pay a huge increase in order to keep the seat they’d sat in since the stadium opened, among the friends they’d come to know over the years.
The disquiet isn’t limited to just City fans, as the Tweet from a Crystal Palace supporter below shows. Away fans are the only people who can get concession tickets at Hull City matches, but even so, it’s a valid complaint that they are asked to pay 80% of the full adult price. Similar reactions on social media to our club’s bizarre ticketing policy have become common in the months since the scheme was implemented.
— Martin Walshe (@Walshey2010) November 15, 2016
It seems that the people running Hull City have put a lot of effort into trying to hide the issues that exist surrounding their ticketing policy and pricing, and to spin the facts a certain way to make it look much better than it is. The fact is, if they put that same amount of effort into working in the best interests of the club and its supporters, building a positive relationship with the fans rather than trying to punish them at every opportunity, or even into finally agreeing a deal to sell the club to new owners (as they promised to do “within 24 hours”, more than 2 and a half years ago) the club wouldn’t be in the mess it now finds itself in. The stadium would be full like it used to be, the mood would be positive like before, and the players who turn out on the pitch would have an easier environment to play in, instead of the tense, almost morbid atmosphere at matches we have now.
As we have done from the outset, we call on the owners to cease their attempts to antagonise supporters, stop the lies and the spin, and instead focus on running the club in a positive way that benefits the club and fans, including the re-introduction of concessionary ticketing, or hurry up and sell up to someone else who will. There’s obviously no shortage of interested parties.