The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
Rape, Disrespect & Fury: The Oyston Family & Blackpool FC
Is It Time For A New Football Club For Newcastle?
Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
When we talk of “market forces” in football, it is usually in terms of the inalienable right to spend as much money as they like and generally behave with complete impunity. Of course, when some sort of crash happens, those self same clubs are suddenly no longer “just” businesses. When they don’t have two pennies to rub together, the owners suddenly remember that their club is a critical pillar of its community and that it must not be allowed to go the same way as any other business that had behaved as recklessly might do. It doesn’t, however, always have to be so bad. The end of this month saw the quietest transfer window that most people can remember, with less money than anyone expected being thrown around in the pursuit of panic purchases, and in the case of Blue Square Premier club Mansfield Town it means a statement of thanks and small test of trust in the local public.
Last summer, FC United of Manchester launched a scheme whereby their supporters would pay – subject to a minimum amount – whatever they could for their season tickets, and the scheme was a dramatic success. With the need for a new ground of their absolutely paramount in the minds of their supporters, they gave generously to their club – well over the £125,000 target that the club had set. Now Mansfield Town have decided to follow their lead and, in recognition of the support that the fans have given the club since their 2008 take-over at Field Mill and in the hope of increasing their attendance, the Blue Square Premier club have told supporters that they can pay what they like for this weekend’s match against struggling Gateshead. They have set themselves the arduous task of filling their 10,000 capacity ground and the offer also applied to visiting supporters.
The obvious reaction to such news is to make the assumption that the club is effectively giving away a “freebie” and it is likely that there will be (at the very least) a few that will take full advantage of the offer, but the club’s calculated offer could be seen as a small test of the strength of feeling towards the club from its local community. How many of the people that wouldn’t normally attend will pay anything like the full admission fee? How many of the regulars will take the opportunity to put a little extra money into a club that has struggled financially after years of mismanagement prior to its current ownership taking over? They are, after all, still said to be owed over £1m in “loans” that they made to former chairman Keith Haslam. This match could turn out to be a hit that the new owners of Mansfield Town have to take, or it might be a show of faith in the club from the community that it represents.
Quite asides from the issue of what this offers the people of the town and the district, the benefits to Mansfield Town could be massive. They are having a decent season (in spite of a 2-1 reversal aat Wrexham in the league this evening), and currently sit on fourth place in the Blue Square Premier, but their home crowds have stalled at just over 3,000. Extra support would obviously be welcome – those who go on Saturday that might not otherwise might just end up staying if the team puts in a strong performance against a team near the bottom of the table. The club might even find that the long term benefit of extra support outweighs any financial hit that they may take on Saturday. They are well placed for a position in the play-offs come the end of this season and, while it would be an extremely tall order to challenge for the title itself, with first and second placed Stevenage Borough and Oxford United starting to streak off into the distance (Oxford, in second place, are nine points ahead of the Stags and with three games in hand), while there is still a chance – even if only an outside one – the club should grasp it with both hands.
What this comes down to is that the coming together of the community and the football club can only be beneficial to both. In spite of what some might say, these remain financially straitened times and a successful football team can offer something to a community that has been somewhat hard to come by over the last couple of years or so – a smile upon its face. It is to be hoped that Mansfield Town’s experiment will be a success and that other brave and inventive initiatives from football clubs to re-engage with their communities will follow. Their is also a degree of responsibility with supporters when these offers are made to them, however. The community of Mansfield must surely be aware of the difficulties that their club has had over the years and that success doesn’t come at no cost. If, say, 9,000 people paid £10 each to get into Field Mill on Saturday, they would raise £90,000 for their club in gate receipts and – if we assume for the purposes of simplicity that they would have been paying adult prices – they would still be paying less than two-thirds of the cost of a normal ticket. These figures may well be over-optimistic, but they give an example of what can be achieved if a community falls in behind its club. It’s now down to the people of Mansfield to repay this act of faith from their local club.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
I for one will be throwing my support behind the scheme, and shall be paying £10 on saturday. There will be some who just chuck in £1 or something, but like you’ve said in the article, if the team play well, who’s to say Mansfield Town can’t get the 4-5,000 fans through the gates like the other year when we lost out to Huddersfield in the Play-off Final. I THINK the current tickets are £18 for an adult. It’s just nice to see my local club hitting the news for the right reasons rather than the prolonged take-over from Mr Haslam
“Mansfield Town’s Act Of Faith In Their Supporters” – and also an act of faith in their turnstile operators that they hand over all the loose change that people hand in!
A great gesture but one that’s only worth if it gets more than the hardcore/floating support to the ground. There will be a lot of ‘Liverpool fans’, etc in Mansfield who won’t have been to Field Mill in years and getting them to go at any price will be hard. (And knowing what provincial football clubs are like there’s probably a few miserable season ticket holders demanding a refund.)
‘knowing what provincial football clubs are like’, eh Jim?
Unlike those superior beings who are fans of metropolitan clubs?
The economics behind this issue is explored most informatively by Dubner & Levitt in their book ‘Freakonomics’, esp. their “bagel guy” tale. (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/06/magazine/what-the-bagel-man-saw.html)
But Mansfield should be warned – perhaps they chose the wrong time of year for this initiative…
“There’s one story we tell in “Freakonomics,” a story that’s actually set in D.C., about a guy who delivers bagels to dozens of companies, leaving the bagels behind in the snack room with a cash box — an honor-system payment scheme. This guy also happens to be a retired economist, so he kept great data. From the data, we were able to measure how honest people were (i.e., how much money they left for the bagels), and especially when and why and how people are being dishonest. In that data, there was a strong correlation between honesty (or, if you’d prefer to call it “stealing,” you could) and weather. People were far more honest when the weather was unseasonably pleasant, and dishonest when the weather was unseasonably bad. Which would seem to suggest that mood is an important factor in crime — even if the crime is writ as small as bagel theft.” Dubner speaking in the Washington Post.
At £18 a chuck how the hell are they getting 3000 every game now?? For only £2 more and a 20 minute journey you can watch Championship football at Bramall Lane.
Actually, now I think about it……
For starters Mick – this offer is not the only fantastic iniative that they have offered the fans – an adult season ticket at the beginning of the season cost ONLY £195.00 and juniors attending with the adult can get in for FREE – so me and my daughter only pay £7.80 between us per game – this also inluded free tickets to two pre season friendlies.
That’s how we are getting 3,000 every gane and on your second point – I can’t imagine true Mansfield fans wanting to go to watch Sheff Utd or anyone else for that matter?
‘knowing what provincial football clubs are like’, eh Jim?
Unlike those superior beings who are fans of metropolitan clubs?
No idea – but at York we certainly have a high class of moaner who seem to have no idea of the constraints that small clubs operate under. The sort that boo the team off despite being unbeaten at home for nine months. The sort that complain about the slightest little thing. I get the feeling they’re worse at this level, more embittered…
Nice article. Will be interesting to see how it turns out on Saturday.
1 slight thing, sadly Keith Haslam does not owe the club £1m anymore… he’d written some of this off himself & any £580-odd thousand was written off as part of the takeover deal 18 months ago.
He remains the owner of Field Mill, though watch this space… rumours abound that it might be coming back into the hands of the club’s owners or a rather more friendly 3rd party!
Perhaps your next article on Mansfield Town…
Regarding Jim’s last post, I think all clubs have unrealistic, whining fans and not just those at our level, we certainly have our fair share, some are even moaning about this offer believe it or not!! I hear Man Utd and Arsenal fans moaning about not signing anyone in the transfer window so no matter what level, all clubs have those who enjoy nothing but a good old moan.
This article itself is excellent and it will be very interesting to see how it pans out. The club actually don’t stand to lose that much, Gateshead will probably bring around 50 fans and we have 2500+ season ticket holders so gate receipts have not been that high anyway. My hope is that as many fans as possible will contribute something reasonable and that no-one embarasses themselves and insults our club by paying a penny.
It was a great day and a frustrating day yesterday. I only arrived just before the kick off. I could hear the chants of “Yellows” as I got out of my car at B&Q and as I walked towards Field Mill there were people coming the other way telling me that the ground was full and they could not get in. When I took my seat in the West Stand, it almost brought a tear to my eye. It brought back lots of happy memories of past games at Field Mill when the ground was packed to the rafters. However, it was obviously ridiculous having only around 74 “Heed” fans in a stand that can hold around 2,000 fans and with fans still milling around outside trying to get in. There were also fans standing in the aisles everywhere as they looked for unreserved seats. The directors therefore went over to the North Stand and managed to persuade the stewards and police to let Stags fans into the North Stand. This could also be justified on the grounds that there is no segregation of fans at many other Conference grounds. The North Stand soon filled up as many fans walked around the ground for the chance to sit on the old home kop. The North Stand is the club’s traditional home end but it was given to away fans by Haslam and the police on the grounds that it made it easier for away fans to arrive at and leave the ground. Can you imagine this happening at Old Trafford or Anfield? It was not long before the traditional chant of “You’ll never take the North Stand” echoed around the ground (although Stoke City fans did a pretty good job in August 1977). It was therefore so frustrating that the Stags played so poorly in front of this great crowd. I was looking forward to seeing how much noise the crowd would make when the Stags scored a goal but we struggled to test the Gateshead goalkeeper. We could have been 4-0 down at half time but for two great saves by Alan Marriott and a bad miss.
Overall, well done to the owners for giving it a go. It at least showed that there are still plenty of people in Mansfield and the surrounding area who still care about the Stags. Hopefully, gate receipts will be up as well although that should not be too difficult as the average number of home fans attending games is around 3,100 but we have 2,747 season ticket holders (Adults £195 for season, Under 13s Free). This means only around 250-350 paying customers at each home game plus the average 168 away fans. You then have to take into account that Under13s get in for free with a paying adult and concessions get in for £8. Rumours are that we banked less than £5,000 for our last home game against Chester City and it’s easy to believe these rumours if you do the maths.
Knowing our luck, the club will now probably get fined by the FA, Conference, Safety Advisory Group or have to pay extra costs to the police so that any extra money earned from the exercise will soon disappear.
…..And Mick, do the Blades actually play “football” at Bramall Lane?
Stags Fans United
See the irony at the end of my post went over your heads then…..
Good luck MT, always nice to see someone show the guts to try something different.
What a stooppid idea. Club needs money not silly ideas.