Tickets: The Club Is Listening

BORO have announced a ticket offer for the televised Sheffield Wednesday game. Walk up prices on the night will be £12 for adults and £7 for concessions. Half-price. That’s fantastic. And neccessary: with a midweek night automatically lopping a couple of thousand (Friday night brings its own problems) and live screening tradiitionally scything away another slice of the walk-up gate, it nothing had been done Boro were looking at a new record low.
Let’s hope the people of Teesside respond and support their team. Let’s hope those who been priced out seize the opportunity. Let’s hope some who have drifted away can be lured back and re-energised. Let’s hope some new fans can be attracted in by the price and are caught up in the buzz. And let’s hope the team deliver.


It will be followed by other tailored and targeted ticket deals aimed at the key fixtures that anyone of us could put a red ring round right now as obvious lows. The fixture list has not been kind to Boro with so many pairs of back-to-back home games that are hard on the pocket of potential walk-up supporters. Especially in the run up to Christmas. The details on those deals are still being fine-tuned but will be revealed in the Gazette soon.
It is a short term marketing move that makes perfect sense in the current climate. You could argue that it is long overdue. It is an important first step to addressing a pressing problem. But more than that, it represents a significant shift in position by Boro. They have shown they are listening and they are ready to respond.
In short, myself, Gazette Boro writer Philip Tallentire and fanzine king-pin Rob Nichols were invited to a meeting with Steve Gibson and chief executive Neil Bausor specifically to discuss the thorny issues and ideas raised in my Tickets: Time To Bite The Bullet blog last month.
That blog sparked a massive debate, here and on other forums, dominated the BBC Tees airwaves for a week, got picked up nationally and went viral in the blogosphere, echoing as it does the experience and problems of fans at many clubs. It got 150 responses (several of them very well informed fully costed proposals, almost all of them articulate, impassioned and understanding of the problems). Importantly, it also got a response from the chairman. Hence the invitation to the boardroom.
Most of what was discussed is obviously off the record but the results of a very positive and very encouraging meeting will filter out in the months to come.
The club accept that the Gazette is the main player when it comes to shaping the unfolding daily agenda on Planet Boro and reflecting changing opinion around the club and are keen for our imput. Which is nice. And as it should be. Fly Me To The Moon is also important as it also plugs directly into the supporters’ psyche in a different way.
The chairman stressed the fans are at the heart of everything he does at the club, the lifeblood, the reason the club exists – although he accepted that Boro have not always communicated that as well as they could have. There have been PR own goals.
The chairman had read the blog closely (he mentioned some of you lot by name!) and with some interest and agreed with much of it. And he wants to act.
He stressed that the club are acutely aware of the economic landscape on Teesside and the pressure on pockets – and were feeling the bite themselves – and they know they need to urgently do something to get people back on board. The bottom line is that Boro are debt-free but cash-strapped themselves. There is no magic chequebook, no transfer kitty being held back, no major savings to be made in cutting infra-structure; most of that has already been done. Any aspirations for success must be funded through the gate. If we are well placed for a promotion push and want to bring in players in January that can only be justified by increased cash-flow through the gates.
Boro want bums on seats. But that doesn’t come automatically through cutting prices Gibson explained. There was a flip chart and pens and lots of numbers, many of them in red. Generalised big price cuts that eat into the revenue from the usual walk-up crowd can actually reduce overall income – take per ticket can fall while fixed costs remain and the costs of stewarding and policing can increase. So tweaking ticket prices can only be justified if it increases not just the crowd but also the revenue.
The chairman talked through the specifics of some of the creative suggestions from posters on the blog, crunched some numbers and explained why some ideas were impractical, or not cost-effective or could possibly reduce revenue. Fair enough.
But he also picked up on some others that could work and was keen to look at the feasibility of them for future games. They are taking various suggestions on board and are exploring some that they think could tick the various boxes. So watch this space.
The chairman is also open to some of the suggestions raised over the configuration of the stadium. It may be possible to move the away fans and it may be possible to move the Red Faction closer to the action behind the goal in the South Stand. That will depend on some changes in the current segregation arrangements and the need to factor in some flexibility for abnormally large away followings – from Leeds say, or in the FA Cup. It may also be possible – not mid-season but in the future – to tweak some of the wider seating and pricing arrangements to encourage migration to areas more visible to the cameras and to fill those taunting empty red acres that embarrass us on TV.
The club stressed – and we agreed with – the need to preserve the season-ticket base. There will be no sustained, standardised price-cutting on a regular basis. The cheapest, most practical and most desirable way to watch Boro will continue to be a season ticket. But there may be more one-off deals aimed at particular markets and games.
The reaction to the Sheffield Wednesday ticket offer from supporters may help shape the agenda on this. If it proves a success – and let’s hope it is in all asenses and a bouncing crowd get to celebrate a stirring win – that may encourage Boro to be more pro-active.
If the town show they are willing to turn out then the club may be encouraged to try more creative ideas. Re-engaging the fan-base will not happen overnight. It may take a couple of faltering small steps first. It is important to keep trying different things to find a blend of price initiatives that work across the course of a season and across the demographic because Boro as a club will not be firing on all cylinders again – emotionally and financially – until we can get the crowds back in significant numbers.
We will be meeting again in a month or so to kick around some more ideas. Not just on prices but also on easy feelgood tweaks to the peripherals of the matchday atmosphere and how the club can engage more with supporters so keep the ideas rolling in. Hopefully by then we will be looking at how to harness a promotion push.

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31 thoughts on “Tickets: The Club Is Listening

  1. Excellent stuff AV, a well timed and well intentioned offer that should test the waters, and the wallets, of the many who complain that it costs £50-£100 for them and 1-2 kids to attend.
    Now you’re looking at £26 for one adult and two kids – that is very good value for a 3rd place club in the second division of English league football.
    It also indicates a welcome willingness of the club to engage with the vox populi, the Gazette. I have long considered this blog to be highly engaging, with excellently written posts and thought-provoking, humorous and insightful responses – the tickets blog in particular was excellent, and shows what can be done if you harness the opinions of those who support the club.
    It’s a start. Hopefully the start of something interesting, and of a change of approach of the upper echelons of the club. Hopefully the fans will welcome it and the numbers will swell.

  2. Fantastic news AV! It’s very pleasing to see that the club are listening to the fans.
    You say that SG read the blog and took quite a few things onboard. Was that just your post on Tickets, or is he a regular reader of Untypical Boro? If the latter, I’m curious about his reaction to being lampooned and lambasted.
    He is of course rightly known as being the saviour of the club and we all know who he is, but how many actually know him? Could you possibly give an opinion on what makes him tick? For example can you see a breaking point for him where perhaps he may just say, Sod it! Bugger the ungrateful sods and seal up his wallet and call it a day?
    This could well be a turning point for The Boro as a whole, it is now imperative that the manager and players step up and provide the “new” fans and the present diehards a reason to prolong their love affair with, what I consider, the heart and soul of the area.
    Come On Boro!
    **AV writes: I didn’t get to quiz him on how often he reads but he made a couple of comments that suggested he has dipped in before. Or at least has had things brought to his attention before. He was familiar with the general themes and camps in debates on here on particular subjects and named a couple of individuals. So buck up your ideas you lot. Show some respect.
    After Jonny Woodgate saying he liked my column last week either I should be chuffed to have such a high profile audience or very, very careful about what I say.

  3. This appears to be great news on two levels, that the club is reading/listening and is also prepared to be proactive.
    On the down-side one hopes that as the game is being shown live on Sky that a likely lower than normal gate is not used as evidence that the project has failed.
    I sincerely hope that the project is given a chance to succeed and that those able to take advantage of the offer do so.
    One final question AV was if the club is reading did they have any opinion on who got the 100 last time around?
    **AV writes: LOL. I’ll ask next time.

  4. I thought the point about reconfiguring the stadium was particularly encouraging. Closing parts of the stadium and forcing the fans together can only help foster a better atmosphere and contribute towards creating the siege mentality that TM has been craving for so long. Especially if the away fans are moved and the Red Faction are placed behind the goal.

  5. A great week for the club, third in the table – way ahead of my predictions, keep it like that.
    The team starts a match at home on the front foot and wins comfortably rather than dither about second guessing the wind direction and if the opposition might attack – look you lot, even AV commented on that fact though it did come at the end of the piece.
    Then we have the club actually speaking to the Gazette and Rob about the ticketing issues.
    In my mind it will be seen as a turning point for the club, an effort to reunite MFC and Boro.
    Here is an interesting thought. AV tells us that Gibbo and co have been reading the blog, agree with a lot of what is said. Is there a link between the approach on the pitch to the Hull match and the fact Vic and co sat and discussed the club’s situation?
    One of the themes amongst some of the posters is to play the match and not just match the opposition. To make them worry about stopping us. This has been repeated time and again for 18 months. Has it been noted and taken on board even subconciously? maybe I am reading too much into the situation.
    I am not going to pry into the discussions because I guess much will be confidential about the running of the club but the fact they are taking place is really encouraging.
    **AV writes: I can’t really see the club suits taking tactical notes from post-match debriefs on here then passing on notes to Mogga. Can you?

  6. AV, A short quick comment as I am off to France, please reiterate the point as a season ticket holder I welcome any attempt to put bums on seats and do not mind concessions, ploys to attract fans.
    The defence of what season tickets holders might think or for their interests to be protected, is overstated and should not be an excuse for the status quo
    A start has been made – good.

  7. “The chairman had read the blog closely (he mentioned some of you by name!) and with some interest and agreed with much of it.”
    Of course he has – he is one of our own!
    Perhaps as a ex-pat he needs to read on-line to follow the Boro and be among the fans. Perhaps he even have posted in here?! A mock name – but who?
    Anyway, nice to see some action taken by the club. I will fly over and see two matches on Dec 29 and Jan 1. As the traveling is major part of costs to me, the ticket prices are not so important. But I like to see as many fellow supporters as possible on the ground, too.
    Any chance of joining you again at Derby, HalifaxP?
    And well done, AV. Up the Boro!

  8. Good news indeed and I can see the merit of it, if my son isnt working that night and if theres nothing else been arranged then we may go, which leaves my only complaint squarely at the feet of those who choose to put a footie match on a Friday night!!!!

  9. Great news, well done to all involved. Let’s hope the club is rewarded, however I hope they aren’t too downhearted if it isn’t considering it’s a Friday night and on TV. Any idea what sort of crowd the club are expecting/hoping for with the deal?
    It’s been an excellent week all round really, all we need now is another win tomorrow!

  10. AV –
    Sorry didnt mean it that way, more the fact Mogga had already started talking about being more progressive and needing to win matches. The need to engage the fans.
    So it was more a case of the club realising the product had to be right on the pitch, doing something to help get the fans back, taking note of the views from all over the Diasboro. We are just a small part on this blog, there are the phone ins, other blogs, the comments at the match, the writings of esteemed journalists at the Gazette, chatter elsewhere.
    It was just a muse and it just seemed a coincidence both happening at the same time. I happened to mention this blog because that is the medium I communicate about the Boro, the message must be the same elsewhere. The twin approach of the tickets thread seemed to be innovative ticketing and entertainment.
    Gibbo isnt daft and knows the fare at home has been fairly dire at times.
    The approach against Leicester one place above us was standard wait and see and we lost. The approach against Hull one place above us was go for jugular and win comfortably. Something has changed.

  11. Charles Edward Montague, English novelist and essayist (1867-1928): There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it.
    Well done AV for persisting.
    Well done Gibbo for listening.
    Well done Bauser for acting.
    And well done you lot, best bloggers bar none.

  12. Yep – echo all the positives. Good news & hopefully the start of a healthy process.
    I think folks will respond – especially when the ‘listening & acting’ off the park is matched with Boro ‘playing the Mogga way’ on the pitch.
    Keep up the good work, all!

  13. Good news, about time but well done to all involved. But by far the most interesting part of the article is that Gibbo reads it. Therefore it’s fairly safe to assume that he also posts. I’m gonna spend tonight analysing previous blogs to unmasked him.
    Also there is a book running on which posters he mentioned by name.
    Even money for Ian Gill (sheer volume alone)
    AV, did he pronounce Jarkko correctly?

  14. What crazy times we live in; a Football club listening to it’s fans. What next I ask you? lol.
    Well done AV, perhaps if the club needs a new Chief Exec. your only one call away…

  15. Excellent. As a long standing season ticket holder, all I want to see is a full Riverside stadium. My friends from the navi would agree, all season ticket holders.
    Now it is up to the fans who cannot afford or chose not to fork out at season start to respond. Let’s see 20,000 for the sheffield game. It really does make a difference to both the players and the fans, who raise the bar with their chanting when the ground is close to full. Well done one and all, nice to know they are listening.

  16. Great news from the club on the development of a new ticket policy, I also think that it’s a great bit of positive PR for the club. Hopefully this will add to the feal good factor which is building and add some weight to the gathering momentum as well as hopefully adding a few thousand to the Gate for the Sheffield Wed gate.
    Shall we run a sweep on the attendance, 17000 anybody?

  17. It must be hugely satisfying as a journalist to see a written article inspire a lot of thoughtful responses and then transcend from simply a discussion into action by those who can pull the levers – good job AV, as I think they say across the pond.
    It will be interesting to see how the process develops and whether it can deliver the desired outcome for all parties. The truth is that the club and fans now seem ready to pick themselves up and move forwarding following the car crash of relegation and the subsequent re-adjustment of expectations that can realistically be delivered.
    Tony Mowbray is already attempting to build an attractive winning team and I’m sure Steve Gibson also realises it’s time to rebuild the trust and enthusiasm of the fans.
    Boro are currently performing better than Brighton on the pitch but we can’t match the enthusiasm and positive nature of the their fans as they feel on an upward curve rather than a downward trend – nearly twice as many fans are turning up for their home games as ours.
    There are still many issues to address and it’s up to those who run the club to find the correct business model, which is never straight forward. So it’s probably wise to proceed with caution and introduce measures you understand and analyse their impact.
    There seems to be a growing trend in the Championship at the moment to move towards a model that has increasing ticket prices the closer you get to the match – I think that is a misunderstanding of the airline/train model.
    Airlines actually divide all their tickets into different price categories and as the lower priced ones (the marketing price) are sold out, only less discounted ones remain until it’s only full-priced ones available for latecomers – i.e. they don’t sell full-price tickets if they don’t sell out of lower priced ones.
    Anyway, before I go on too long here are a couple of ideas:
    I think a relaunch of the Boro Pride card would be a low risk strategy for the club – turn it into a kind of membership scheme where you pay something around £50 (£25 for juniors) and in addition of a small discount on tickets you could receive 2 matchday tickets to use whenever you desired – would be a good gift too.
    You could also let season-ticket holders bring a guest to a match and they would only pay the same game price as the season-ticket holder – so it would be additional income.

  18. Nothing is unkind about our back to back home fixtures. This is standard practice in the lower leagues with a lot of midweek games. It is the only way to prevent some teams getting the lion’s share of home games at the weekend.
    That should have been factored in a few seasons ago by both fans and teams. Most people are paid monthly and even jobseekers allowance is fortnightly so it shouldn’t be a factor, not that the dole stretches to two games a fortnight anyway.
    Wage reduction followed by long term ticket price reduction is the only solution, Ebenezer Gibson’s million pound drops aside.

  19. It would be a good start to get a crowd up to the 14500-15000 home fans today plus a good performance.
    I dont think we will suddenly add another huge chunk to the attendances but if we can make progress game by game then we can rebuild the support.
    The key thing is doing the job on the pitch as well. No point playing at home with ticketing policies as a lone striker.

  20. Boro can charge as much as they like. People still wont turn up in vast numbers unless its against a top Premier League team and Boro are doing well.
    The facts of the matter are that the trek to, and sitting in the Riverside Stadium is an effort, not very pleasant and not very comfortable. I can honestly think of better things to do with my money that go through this malarky to watch a poor standard of football.

  21. Paul Bell –
    With ticketing incentives the club will probably pull in more fans but when they have braced the expedition to get there the football has to be worth seeing.
    With the cost of fuel at its current level, five home matches is the cost of a season ticket. In my case it is a lot of money to not to enjoy a day out.
    I can go to Derby, Leicester, Brum, Sheff Wed and the place by the Trent for a fraction of the cost and enjoy the atmosphere. I dont mind Mogga and his men setting out to shut the crowd up at away games.
    I can say this honestly, if I lived in Boro I would be at all the matches as I did when the Coro was my local.

  22. I am just very pleased to hear that the club is listening – after all, almost every contributor to this blog wants the club to be successful and well-supported. Let’s hope some of the “schemes” will be successful in bringing more people to the ground on a matchday. That fact alone might make the team more successful on the pitch.

  23. Hey Everybody!
    South Coast Red here…….I hope you all read this very heartfelt thanks to all who send me their best wishes a few weeks ago following my stroke in the summer…. well it was horrible and it happened to me in Mania in the Philippines
    In best Teesside tradition it is probably best if I don’t go into what I was doing when it happened but without immediate and first class medical care, I was definitely on my way to join the list of venerable Teesside ghosts. I almost died. I was paralysed from the waist down, in a very foreign county and alone.
    But as we all know, us Teessiders are made of strong stuff!!! I was airlifted back to Southampton and was able to leave hospital after about six weeks, to find my girlfriend had left me, my son went to live with his mother because I couldn’t look after him, my contract at work had been cancelled and I had no money so couldn’t pay the rent! There must be a word for Quadruple Whammy!
    So Graham, my neighbour who often posts here showed me the comments you had all made and at first I wasn’t able to read it without bursting into tears. A stroke hits you in many ways, not all physical. You can become emotionally very fragile and to be honest I lost the ability to read and walk for a while.
    So to wind forward, I’m doing fine. I start a new job on Monday which will see me in Paris for a while. I stagger like I’ve just walked out of the Princess Alice at 11.00 on a saturday night, but it’s getting better. My brain doesn”t feel like its been fried so much now, though I still can’t find my IPOD anywhere! But otherwise I have to just wait for the full recovery.
    I’m leaving the Thai birds alone now, and It’s probably best if I knock off the booze for a while and the fits of depression and panic attacks have almost disappeared.
    So please all from the bottom of whatever I have inside, I really really appreciated all the best wishes. I have travelled around the world, thankfully at someone else’s expense and have met a lot of good people, enough to know that there are good people everywhere, no matter the colour or religion. But there is no doubt in my mind WHATSOEVER that us Teessiders are the friendliest, nicest and most humours of all the tribes that inhibit this planet. I will never forget you all and hope to be back posting properly very soon!!
    Cheers
    Martin (teessider@mac.com)
    **AV writes: Good lad. I bet you are back to full fitness before Kevin Thomson.

  24. I live on the Isle of Man. Having supported the boro ‘ forever ‘ I can say it is great to see an upturn . I last saw boro v Leeds last season , and my thoughts were “why did I bother” . A really poor crowd , and probably even worse Boro showed no passion .
    When I think back to being at Cardiff ( mentioned that in my wedding speech , along with pretending McClaren and Juninho had called on the mobile , and my new wife sat staring at me !)
    Anyway back to reality , I can appreciate all the people who are finding it hard to afford to go to games , but I do believe with the help of reduced costs and bigger gates the days off sell outs beating the likes of Newcastle are not far away .
    Keep up the good work Boro , hope to be at a game soon .
    Richie

  25. Hi AV –
    Excellent news that at long last the club is listening!
    Why doesn’t the club offer season ticket holders, by way of compensating for concession days, give the first home League Cup ticket for free?
    Usually it will be against a team equivalent or lower ranked than us, and in general not all STH’s turn up for that game anyway! Some years, such as this one, we will only get away draws so no money lost.
    Got to be worth considering – at least until we get a team capable of repeating 2004 together!
    Regards
    Pauline

  26. I’ve been supporting the Boro for getting on for 60 years and have never previously commented on blogs.
    A few years ago I was at West Ham when they ran the kids for a quid scheme and the atmosphere was fantastic. Even the away Boro supporters were given the opportunity to buy junior tickets for a pound. I believe that their crowd was the biggest of the season even after having played London derbys and Man U.
    I was in a KFC before the match and listening to the conversations around me it was clear that many kids were going to their first match. I don’t know if a ‘kids for a quid’ type scheme was discussed at your meeting but I do think it’s a fantastic way to fill seats, get income (most kids come with a paying adult) and create atmosphere. Possibly most important of all some of the kids will become lifelong supporters.
    I first saw the Boro when I was five and although I now live in Kent I was at the Riverside several times last year saw many away games and will be at Charlton on Saturday and the Riverside a week on Friday.
    An alternative to a general kids for a quid would be to offer tickets at nominal prices to certain schools with perhapps half price tickets for each parent accompanying a child. If each school is nominated not more than once a season I don’t think that season ticket holders would complain. Over the course of a season thousands of young potential supporters could be introduced to the Riverside.
    Finally, thanks for great articles AV, UTB

  27. Well done AV!! Some sort of local honour perhaps appropriate? You may have started a quiet revolution.
    Thank you for your honesty. I’ll definitely get you a pint if I see you!

  28. It’s a great message AV delivers from the cluub and he deserves great credit for his part in an apparent change of mentality and approach by the club.
    I still worry however that there seems to be a disproportionate balance sheet mentality, that loses sight of the real value gained in PR, team performance and fan feel good factor – you can’t put a price on that
    Other clubs, especially those not as disadvantaged as the Boro have seen the need to have flexible, creative and intuitive ticket pricing policies for years now – so better late than never.
    This new approach is key but the magnificent performance in the League Cup derby, is arguably of even greater potential significance, to the quest of welcoming back the prodigal sons of the Riverside
    As a combination it’s a brilliant boost to the feel good factor on planet Boro, product on pitch and pricing poicy in harmony – lets hope it manifests itself in those much sought after increased attendances.

  29. Two tickets for Sheffield Wed game bought online today. Total cost with booking fee , 29 quid.
    Two factors influenced my decision to buy and one of them was the price.
    I am home for a limited time every other month, I have supported the team for close to 40 years now. Recent years post-Eindhoven drove me from attending but yet I sit in front of the laptop via twitter #borolive or prior to that in the virtual BJ stand at all hours of the night depending on where I am in the world.
    It would be easy to call me a glory supporter and deserting my seat in the ground when times were dire, but after 40 years of supporting through thick and (mostly) thin, I feel I have earned the right.
    So back I come with renewed hope. But the hope isn’t for promotion or for cups and titles , just for an occasional match day experience of being entertained and seeing the team exhibit some effort and commitment regardless of the result will be nice . The signs at the moment are encouraging.

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