Southampton And Shrewsbury Town Clash Over Ticket Prices

By on Oct 28, 2010 in English League Football, Latest | 24 comments

One of the more welcome developments in ticketing arrangements in recent years has been the slow realisation on the part of clubs that they cannot always charge the absolute maximum that they can for some matches. Crowds have declined alarmingly recent years in both the League Cup and FA Cup, but what is starting to become apparent is that clubs would rather have people in their grounds than staying away because they can’t afford tickets on top of the cost of their season tickets. The issue of cheaper tickets being, by definition, isn’t a completely black and white issue, though. In the FA Cup, in which gate receipts are shared – after various costs have been removed – between the competing clubs, and this can create tension between them.

In the case of next week’s FA Cup First Round match between Southampton and Shrewsbury Town, this is exactly what happened. Southampton wanted to cut the cost of the tickets for this match from their usual price of around £25 to £10. This may, on the surface, appear to be motivated by altruism, but it makes sense for the club to do this. A bigger crowd, they may reason, would be advantageous to the players and would also push up other revenue streams such as catering, which don’t have to be shared with anyone else. For Shrewsbury Town, on the other hand, a smaller crowd may or may not benefit their players, but higher ticket prices would probably be more beneficial to their financial wellbeing.

Fortunately, in such situations, the FA are on hand to mediate. They stepped in and the ticket prices for the match were fixed at £15, which could be regarded as a compromise which, if anything, falls on Southampton’s side. It may or may not be worth pointing out that, as far as the FA is concerned, anything that pushes up the attendances at matches in the early stages of the FA Cup boosts the prestige of the competition. It could certainly be argued that Shrewsbury Town acted against the best interests of their own supporters – Southampton is a great enough distance from Shrewsbury to be a sizeable drain on the wallets and purses of Shrewsbury’s travelling support, and their club might have acted to protect their own interests rather than those of their supporters.

The rights and wrongs of whether reduced prices should or shouldn’t have been offered for this match, however, are neither here nor there. What was curious (and just as unwelcome as Shrewsbury’s decision to press for full price tickets in the first place) was the article placed on Southampton’s website confirming the price reductions. Was it, we may reasonably argue, strictly necessary to use such a patronising phrase as, “Bearing in mind the opposition” and to allude to Shrewsbury’s challenging of Southampton’s pricing policy for this match as, “looking cash in on their trip to St. Mary’s by charging both sets of fans full price tickets, an over ambitious move designed only to line their pockets”? It doesn’t even particularly matter if there may be a grain of truth behind what the writer of the article is saying – Southampton had won that particular battle and, quite necessary, the tone of it was patronising, to say the least.

Perhaps, however, this is to be expected from Southampton, whose new owners sometimes seem to be making something of a habit of this sort of thing. The club incurred the wrath of the press at the start of the season by announcing that it would be banning all photographers except one agency. Again, the issue of whether they are right to do this (or whether they should have the right to do this) is less black and white it may immediately seem, but the fact of the matter is that there was no great need for Southampton to act in the way that they did. Just as in the case of the photography episode, the club has earned itself unnecessary bad publicity. Southampton supporters may well have been pleased at the fact that tickets for the Shrewsbury match, but it seems unlikely that too many of them will be terribly happy at the comments made in their club’s subsequent statement.

There are, then, pros and cons to the ticket pricing arrangements for these matches. There was never likely to be a resolution to this issue that was likely to satisfy both clubs, and we should perhaps at least take solace from the fact that the FA came down on the side of affordable ticket pricing in this instance. Shrewsbury Town may wish to consider that, with just fifteen league places between them and Southampton, it would not be completely beyond the realms of possibility for their team to snatch a replay with all of the attendant financial benefits that such a match would bring. Southampton, on the other hand, have got what they wanted and what they wanted will benefit those that choose to attend this match. It is just a pity that they chose such a graceless way to announce it to the world.

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    24 Comments

  1. As a Saints fan I would have been far more sympathetic to the other team if it had been a club with some significant financial constraints like Barnet or even some of the smaller League 1 clubs. But Shrewsbury are financially to League 2 what Southampton are to League 1. Neither club really need the money from this tie, and there was never going to be a massive gate receipt whatever the pricing structure.

    But you are right, we have made a hash of the press statement. However, I think you’ll find a lot of Saints fans are not too bothered, for too long we’ve been run by people who were PR savvy but didn’t have a clue how to run a football club. Now we have a great modern structure, with an emphasis on developing and more importantly keeping young players, we just don’t know how to do good PR anymore.

    Chris P

    October 28, 2010

  2. What a one sided piece of crap southampton was pushed all the way to charge full price for this game by Shrewsbury , then had to take it to the FA to sort it out and you wonder why southampton are less than graceless as you put it ……. sure if this game was £25 i would be reading on here how dare they charge that much who do they think there are …. what a joke

    i read rubbish

    October 28, 2010

  3. So you don’t think that it might have been, well, better just to announce the prices for the match that pepper their statement with snarky comments about a smaller club than them?

    And as for “one-sided crap”, well…

    “Southampton, on the other hand, have got what they wanted and what they wanted will benefit those that choose to attend this match.”

    “there may be a grain of truth behind what the writer of the article is saying”

    “There was never likely to be a resolution to this issue that was likely to satisfy both clubs, and we should perhaps at least take solace from the fact that the FA came down on the side of affordable ticket pricing in this instance”

    If you’re going to be critical, at least try to do it constructively rather than reading the first sentence and a half, deciding that you can’t be arsed to read the rest and then going off on one because I have the temerity to not be glowingly supportive of your club’s behaviour.

    admin

    October 29, 2010

  4. To be fair to I read rubbish, your article does say the FA stepped in implying a more active role for the FA, whereas Southampton’s website says they took the matter to the FA, implying Saints wanted it resolved with the minimum of fuss. However, he could have been a bit more polite about it.

    Chris P

    October 29, 2010

  5. Well, if they wanted it resolved with the minimum of fuss, then they probably shouldn’t have put what they did on their website, should they? As I said above, the thrust of the article wasn’t about, “the rights and wrongs of whether reduced prices should or shouldn’t have been offered for this match”. It was about the statement on the club’s website.

    admin

    October 29, 2010

  6. The comments from the saints board state they are rewarding their ‘loyal fans’ due to the number of home games in November – there is no consideration for the away fan. As the league is surely the priority why not reduce league admission prices which only has a direct effect on one team?

    It will be interesting to see (if they progress) Southampton draw an away tie to one of the big four who will not view Southampton as an attractive fixture. Perhaps they will reduce prices to reward their ‘loyal fans’.

    Paul Williams

    October 29, 2010

  7. As a Town fan I find it amazing that a League 1 club can be so demeaning to a League 2 club on their official website, whatever the truth of the matter. I can see both sides of the argument.

    All Graham Turner needs to do to motivate his players is post the article on the dressing room wall with the offensive phrases highlighted.

    I was expecting to go whatever, but am happy to pay £10 less.

    Personally I don’t think either club has come out of this in a good light, but the Saints have made a bigger hash of it!

    oldshrew

    October 29, 2010

  8. Yes you are right maybe i should have been more polite and for that i am sorry , but all this saints bashing of late annoys me it was Shrewsbury that would not back down and showed contempt for the fans and as a fan i wanted to know and sure do not find it ” graceless “. like i said sure if saints was to charge £25 for the game the bashing would be out in full force

    i read rubbish

    October 29, 2010

  9. As we Tweeted when we saw this the other day, the baffling this is that Southampton could have lopped a few of quid off their base league price (£22) and charged £18/£19, which still would have been less than Shrewsbury fans will have to pay to go to league games against Bradford or Rotherham – and less for Saints fans.

    That it appears Shrewsbury’s stance was to go for full price is disappointing but, as you say, the point is Southampton’s unnecessary condescension.

    Good piece by the way, completely agree.

    Damon

    October 29, 2010

  10. Isn’t it the case that ticket prices for a replay should be the same as for the initial match when there has been a price reduction? If that’s tha case it would perhaps explain Shrewsbury’s lack of enthusiasm for the level of price Southampton were after.

    Haywain

    October 29, 2010

  11. As a Saints fan I agree that the wording of the announcement could have been less antagonistic, if it was needed at all.

    However I would point out that if you check attendance levels for early rounds all Cup competitions (FA, Carling, JPT) over the last 10 years you will see Saints home fixtures regularly coming out as the highest of the round, and always in the top few. This is because we have always had a sensible pricing structure for such games. Doing so has always attracted the casual fan and enabled families to take children at a reasonable cost.

    And @Paul Williams, Saints HAVE reduced the price of their many league games to reward their fans. I – a full paying adult – am attending next Tuesdays game against Dagenham & Redbridge for the amazing price of £7.50 !

    Wurzel

    October 29, 2010

  12. @Wurzel – is that under the Saints scheme whereby a Season Ticket holder can take someone along for £7.50?

    When the gate receipts are kept solely for the home team I have no issue but when it is split then it should be a joint decision.

    As said in the original post if Saints progress and play Man united would they be happy with United allowing their fans on lessor income the chance to attend for free?

    This decision only benefits Southampton this is clear. I know of some Salopians who will not travel to this game now as they do not want to line the pockets of a team with an over inflated ego complex, perhaps we could ask the delightful sports editors in Swindon to draw us the action?

    Paul Williams

    October 29, 2010

  13. @Paul williams. Yes my ticket is thanks to that scheme (work prevents me getting to most games so not a ST holder myself) They’ve also extended the offer to anyone buy one get one half price on the day.

    Re your Man U away scenario, free entry is against FA rules (minimum ticket price for FA Cup is £10 I believe). But yes, I’m sure we’d take the view that maybe a 60k crowd at £10 each would raise us more money than a 20k crowd at £25. It’s why we are consistently amongst the highest attendances for cup matches.

    Don’t understand your last paragraph. How many away fans would Shrewsbury be likely to take? I’m guessing around 1000 for the cup, likely to be relatively unaffected by ticket price as away fans usually travel whatever. Home attendance at £25 likely to be around 5-6K . At £15 likely to be more like 12-15K. So Shrewsbury get 50% of considerably higher receipts so how does this “only benefit Southampton” ? And how do SFC “line their pockets” by charging Shrews fans £10 less (£15 less if it hadn’t gone to arbitration) than Shrews wanted us to charge them ?

    Wurzel

    October 29, 2010

  14. @ Wurzel

    Well the D&R ticket offer is dependant on clearing a hurdle – someone who does not know a ST holder cannot take advantage of the scheme.

    Totally agree the number of travelling fans will largely be unaffected some people cannot be priced out! However the view is why should they put money into the coffers of a club (Southampton) with an unbelievable sense of grandour?

    Not sure what you don’t understand, The Man Utd scenario is straight forward – you and I know they near capacity on most games regardless of price so a reduction would not benefit the Saints and I’m sure there would be complaints from your board. The 20k corwd at £25 would not happen at Old Trafford. I don’t believe football is specifically price elastic and as such you are quoting figures you cannot back up.

    Remember the gate receipts are equally split but I don’t believe associated matchday experience add ons like programmes and refreshments are split so the shortfall in ticket price may be slighlty offset for Southampton with additional sales lets not forget business in the clubshop.

    Anyways it is what it is the FA have decided on the price and that’s that, your boys would have certainly come out of this better had they kept their mouth shut.

    Any good pre match pubs?

    Paul Williams

    October 29, 2010

  15. I think Shrewsbury have more than a decent chance of progressing anyway, which would teach the smug Southampton Board not to be so arrogant with such unprofesional and “we’re bigger than thou” statements on the official website.

    Shrewed50

    October 29, 2010

  16. You state “The rights and wrongs of whether reduced prices should or shouldn’t have been offered for this match, however, are neither here nor there.”

    Surely this is the crux of the whole matter and yet you dismiss it effectively as irrelevant. As for the remarks on the SFC website, what is there to argue? It was just a simple statement of fact. Had the opposition been some glory team like ManUre, the Arse, Liverpool, Chelski, etc, then the law of supply and demand would have allowed ticket prices to have been at a much higher level. All they were saying was a statement of the obvious, that Shrewsbury are hardly likely to excite the fans into paying top whack to see them, so it was inevitable that their crass attempts to force prices up to that level would lead to the response that they were doing it solely to line their own pockets. Their plan all along was probably to have reduced the home attendance numbers, which the price of £15 to see minnows like them will have achieved, simultaneously employing a bit of psychological brinkmanship.

    Wes Tender

    October 30, 2010

  17. I don’t think that the argument is irrelevant, more a debate to be had another day.

    admin

    October 30, 2010

  18. Interestingly, Shrewsbury’s general manager and secretary resigned yesterday. I’m not an expert on how clubs are run but wouldn’t he have been the one ultimately responsible for ticket negotiations?

    http://www.shrewsburytown.com/page/NewsDetail/0,,10443~2200569,00.html

    Chris P

    October 30, 2010

  19. Does anyone else appreciate the irony of one the clubs that broke away from the Football League to form the Premier League (an over ambitious move designed only to line their own pockets if ever there was one), criticising one of the 72 clubs they left behind for being greedy?

    Salop_Ian

    October 31, 2010

  20. This nonsense happens all the time.

    Just last season the lovely Crawley Town announced the prices for our FA Cup tie there without even consulting our club first.

    They were subsequently reduced by the FA to a more suitable level after we complained.

    Too many clubs use these cup pay-days to prop-up their otherwise dodgy finances.

    Martin

    November 1, 2010

  21. “But Shrewsbury are financially to League 2 what Southampton are to League 1.”

    What a load of crap!

    I’m not a Shrewsbury fan but I can see their point of view.

    Martin

    November 1, 2010

  22. “but all this saints bashing of late annoys me”

    What saints bashing? Where?

    Most fans of higher level football have forgotten that you exist.

    Football fans are paranoid.

    Martin

    November 1, 2010

  23. £15 as opposed to £25 means needing a crowd more than 60% higher to make the same income. It’s higher than that because the matchday costs are deducted before the gate receipts are shared and will be higher with an expected larger crowd. It’s easy to see why Southampton would want to do this because, as has been pointed out, all the ancillary benefits apply to them. But I’m all for making football more affordable so I hope there is a big crowd for everyone’s sakes.

    I think it’s good that FA Cup ticket prices are agreed (if necessary by the FA) – even if some seem to forget that.

    oftenscore6

    November 4, 2010

  24. Interesting to note that the attendance for the match was 10,410 – half the Saint’s current average for league matches. Shrewsbury had reportedly 727 visiting supporters.

    It seems that this type of FA Cup tie has a ‘natural’ audience level which is not really price elastic. Take the price down to under £10 or up to over £20 and the effect on the attendance would probably have been marginal.

    Salop_Ian

    November 7, 2010

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