Can Boro Hold The Line On Season Tickets?

SEASON ticket sales UP across the Premiership? Well there’s a trend-bucking statement I never expected to hear. Given the widespread anger at wages, prices, stewarding, daft o’clock kick-offs, the Sun’s relentless tabloid campaign to drive prices down, supporter alienation, passion fatigue, a lack of a competitive league and a perception of vested interests trampling over natural justice as seen in the Tevez panel fiasco most observers, even the generally optimistic ones, expected a marked downturn.
Yet a Channel 4 on-line survey today has come to just that conclusion, although admittedly after a far from scientific approach of asking the club spin doctors for a rough estimate. It is the kind of lick-finger-and-stick-in-air approach that passes for news in a dumbed down infotainment era.
I am sceptical of the methodology, sceptical of the conclusion that has been drawn and especially sceptical of the line from the Riverside that sales are expected to be “slightly down” on the 21,000 sold last season. That is a very optimistic expectation taht flies in the face of the mounting body of anecdotal evidence that has been confronting me all summer.


On a general level the headline indicating season tickets are up is highly questionable. Of the 20 teams in the Premiership SIX are saying sales are up, only a third, and three of those are the promoted sides and an increase is a cast iron certainty and a predictable factor that no respectable statistician would allow to disguise the underlying trand. And a third is hardly the kind of commanding fraction needed to make a confident sweeping statement in a headline.
Another six club are saying sales are the same (admittedly three of those have figures capped and could possibly have sold more, but didn’t) – exactly the same fraction as the one that excited the headline writer – but “season ticket sales generally stay the same” isn’t quite as gripping a tag for what is a very superficial straw poll.
Four teams – including Boro – are admitting that sales are down, although all have tried to mitigate that by saying “slight down”, “down by a bit”, “just less than this time last year” and hinting, as at the Riverside, that they “expect” to pick up a bit so they end up about the same as last year. Two teams did not respond.
Of course, until there is real flesh on the bones and actual figures are released it is a worthless exercise. Asking a press office – which is much defined by its marketing function as its information one – to comment on the success of a product is fraught with dangers. At best they will be non-committal while the sales window is still open and at worst they will cynically seek to use the platform as a free advertisement to drum up customers and big up the brand.
As for Boro, I would be very surprised if sales are only “slightly down” as it would suggest that dozens, maybe hundreds of people have told me porkies over the summer. Hardcore former Holgate Enders have been insisting to me that they, usually with a group of friends, had finally, reluctantly been worn down and decided to wrap in their Red Books. And they mean it this time. Honest.
People who have no reason to lie are telling me that of the groups of six or eight they go with three or four are calling it a day; that they are renewing but their dad isn’t; that they have enjoyed it more watching it with the lads on Al Jazeera in the pub and have decided to just do that this season; that they have started watching on-line; that they are going to pick and choose; that they are bored; frustrated; are not enjoying the soulless experience; can’t stand the whinging; can no longer justify the expenditure on ticket, transport and ale. There are more people telling me these things than ever before and they appear adamant, if saddened.
Some may say that such talk is par for the course and there is now an annual ritual of the renewal refuseniks making a principled stand before crumbling to the combined force of the narcotic pull of matchday, peer pressure and the fear that if they renege on their pact to support the club then this is certain to be the year when it all finally clicks and they will miss out on the ecstatic moment that validates the years of pain.
The usual apocalyptic predictions of a meltdown to 15,000 or so season tickets have been thrown around all summer, usually fuelled by someone who knows someone whose mam works in the ticket office and, barring a brief upsurge of optimism promoted by pre-deadline spin about “spectacular signings” and the impact of Tuncay soon after, seem to be readily accepted because of a blend of inate pessimism and what appears to be a shroud of silence over the club when it comes to releasing the figures.
It seems the same dire forcasts are made each summer and the great collapse has never materialised… although the accusing slo-mo spread of the matchday sea of empty red seats is more visible by the week and the crowd figures show an undeniable steady downward slope over the past five years.
Last season we went through the same gloomy guessing game with season ticket sales eventaully revealed to be down by less than a thousand (and that in the wake of the UEFA Cup final and the departure of the unpopular McClaren) and with that shortfall made up by the Christmas present market… but whereas it looked like brave Boro had held a wavering line in fact a lot of defections had been replaced those who would normally pay match-by-match and by new family groups reacting to the laudable concessions introduced for kids. In effect the walk-up crowd had been consolidated into the saeson ticket crowd leaving smaller gates and a lower matchday income as full-price 40 year-olds left with their beer money to watch the game in the pub to be replaced by cut-price children with less lucrative refuelling habits.
We have discussed the reasons, the possible consequences and the cultural impact at length on here and we all know the script by heart now. Five years ago Boro crowds averaged over 30,000. Last season we saw crowds of under 25,000.
This season, even if season ticket sales are held at the pyschologically important 20,000 mark we could see the average crowd squeezed markedly again and, unless there are some very creative ticketing initiatives, the humdrum visits of Reading, Derby, Fulham and Birmingham could scrape the season ticket base level and hit new record lows.

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62 thoughts on “Can Boro Hold The Line On Season Tickets?

  1. Generally Happy (no relation)
    Are you saying that Steve Gibson’s promise of spectacular signing’s (just before the season ticket renewal deadline) was made up by the tabloids?
    I will be forever greatful for what SG has done for MFC, I have supported his dream by being a season ticket holder since 1994. (10 years whilst living and working in London.
    I have been going to games since 1970, however after the general dross of last season and the broken promises from SG I have not yet renewed for this season.
    Six of the eight lads who I attend games with have also not yet renewed. Why should we after the B&$%!*^t that has been published in the media and on the club website?
    I stopped going to away games after last seasons abject performance at Man City. I took the day off work spent over £90 only to get there and find that the team also took the night off work.
    I want the club to be sucessful as much as anyone, however I don’t expect the club to take the p*** and with the shirt debacle, ‘spectacular transfers’ and staff of MFC churning out the same old crap week in week out I feel more and more alienated by the day.

  2. AV
    That was a happy comment to make. Is Gazette Towers a place of harmony or is the your blog home from home?

  3. AV – On the ‘Happy Family’ theme, I’m currently just happy to enjoy the Summer break and refresh my apetite for the coming season.
    Life is too short to expend too much energy on who is coming to Boro and who isn’t. We’ve done well with transfers so far and I’m sure come deadline day we’ll be (some of us) happy with who we have bought.
    Happy Nigel

  4. Happy Nigel
    A happy chappy is better than a sad smile.
    If you walk past Gazette Towers you can hear the
    laughs, rolling down their production lines.
    Jown Powls is ok.
    However, I wish he would stop mentioning the YAK?
    **AV writes: Did you not see the belly laughs we Gazetters can get from a few simple plastic waste bins on Uncle Eric’s latest video on http://www.gazettelive.co.uk?

  5. Happiness is a state of mind.
    Most of us are happy the club are making progress.
    A lot of the ire is aimed at the dross that comes out of the club dressed up as communication and it is dressed up in a shirt we havent seen with a badge we dont like and a sponsor we havent got.
    No doubt we will see it when it is paraded by spectacular signings but we are not quite certain about the cloth we have to cut to afford them.
    The pain is self inflicted by the club and its poor PR. Just shut up and get on with it, if you have to say something make sure it is consistent.
    I am pleased with the new signings and would like a couple more.

  6. I amongst others received my e-mail from Gareth Southgate asking me to recommend 5 friends who might be interested in purchasing a season ticket. I assume that the fact that the club is doing this is due to the lack of uptake on season tickets this year. It was to be expected listening to people’s comments at the end of last season.
    I do find it sad that people I sat next to last season and had been season ticket holders since the Ayresome Park days have decided not to renew but do not blame them in the slightest.
    It does give me great concern that Middlesbrough Football Club does not seem to understand why people are not renewing their season tickets.
    I personally am sick and tired of listening to how the club has so much ambition and how things are going to improve – but they never do. I agree with a lot of season ticket holders who say players are overpaid but if we want to sign the best then we have to pay the going rate.
    Middlesbrough always seem to lose out on new signing because they are not willing to pay the transfer price that other teams are paying or are not willing to meet players wage demands. It might not be right but if you want to compete on a level playing field you have to do this.
    The Mark Viduka mess up sickened people off – we should have signed him up last season rather than leaving it until he could walk away – we would have at least got some money for him. If the same happens with Mark Schwarzer then the club will just become a joke.
    What are the benefits of a season ticket nowadays. They get our money at the start of the season and we turn up week after week to support the team at £19+ a match. Middlesbrough then sell tickets for matches at £10 each to non-season ticket holders – it’s not like Man Utd where you have to be a season ticket holder to get to a match.
    There was also the fiasco of Eindhoven – you can’t blame Middlesbrough totally but can you tell me why players that haven’t played for the club for 10-15 years get priority over supporters who have followed the Boro around Europe !!!
    I do feel that this season is a make or break season for Middlesbrough. Speaking to friends and colleagues everyone feels the same way – that if we have to sit through the same rubbish as we did last few seasons then season tickets will drop off even further next season.

  7. John Powls
    I think the Turkey could well be in the oven on the same day we unwrap our shirts.
    Then its gloves off for the following days game.
    Roll on Santa

  8. AV,
    I THINK THAT SG HAS MADE A HUGE ERROR BY SAYING THAT SPECTACULAR SIGNINGS ARE GOING TO BE MADE, AS THIS HAS JUST RAISED THE EXPECTATIONS OF EVERYBODY.
    IT IS ALSO INCREDIBLE THAT WE HAVE SO FAR FAILED TO ATTRACT A SPONSOR, WHAT ON EARTH ARE THE BACKROOM STAFF DOING? THE CLUB COULD BECOME A LAUGHING STOCK.
    THE CLUB ALSO MADE A HUGE ERROR BY NOT EITHER REDUCING SEASON TICKET PRICES OR BY OFFERING SOME INCENTIVE WHEN BUYING ONE. IT WOULD BE FAR BETTER FILLING THE GROUND BY REDUCING PRICES THAN BY HAVING ATTENDANCES IN THE 25,000 REGION.
    I FOR ONE WOULD HAVE OFFERED A VOUCHER TO ALL APPLICANTS OF A SEASON TICKET FOR A HOME SHIRT FROM THE BORO SHOP. IN REAL TERMS IT WOULDN’T HAVE COST THE CLUB A FORTUNE, BUT IT WOULD HAVE REDUCED SUPPORTER EXPENDITURE AND FILLED THE GROUND WITH A SEA OF RED SHIRTS.
    FINALLY SG/KL/GS HAVE GOT TO DELIVER THEIR PROMISES IF THEY DO NOT THEN I FEAR THAT THEY WILL HAVE LOST SOME FANS FOR EVER.
    **AV writes: Shhhhhhh. Stop shouting.

  9. I hold people to their word.
    However, if the new signings are not in place against Blackburn Rovers, then its price will be paid.
    Never Happy has quite rightly stated that is was not tabloid talk.
    There is plenty of time left to fulfil the promise and I am not posting again till a new face arrives, because this is all circles.

  10. Keep the faith, SG promised spectacular signings, has he let us down in the past?
    What i would like to see is a near to full Riverside against the Mags our second home game. if not imagine the stick we’ll get from their fans and smug Malcolm Macdonald if we don’t over empty seats and part time supporters etc.
    I’ll start the ball rolling with a accurate count on season ticket sales……….i renewed with 3. any advance on 3?

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