BCFC: The Season Ticket Conundrum – Price vs Value

On Tuesday evening Blues finally released season ticket prices for the 2023/24 Championship season in what will eventually be a fully reopened St Andrew’s stadium. As to be expected after a price rise there has been a lot of talk on social media about ticket prices, especially considering the cost-of-living crisis many are going through.

BSHLOUT Protest St Andrews

Ticket prices are always an emotive subject. When I asked people for their thoughts on social media I was flooded by comments from both ends of the spectrum on both Twitter and Facebook.

Some fans saw the ticket prices as an insult to fans who have supported the club through thin and thinner while others thought the pricing was more than fair and that people should quit moaning.

For what it’s worth, I believe that any decision such as buying season tickets is a strictly personal one and that we have to respect that people have different financial situations and priorities from our own.

In the interests of transparency, I’m not a season ticket holder and haven’t been for some time. I think it’s unlikely I’ll get one this year too, for reasons I’ll explain in this article.

Price vs Value

I’ve known that season ticket prices were going to rise for some time now, which some may have noticed due to me hinting at it several times in the last month or so.

I expected there to be some pushback and I wasn’t surprised by some of the comments I saw despite it being common knowledge that the club desperately needs to raise more revenue this year.

Having read many comments I’ve come to what some might see as a controversial conclusion: namely, that price of season tickets is a red herring.

Whatever the price was likely to be, there are always going to be people who want a season ticket and just can’t physically afford to spend the money on one.

Likewise, at the other end of the scale, there are also undoubtedly people who can buy season tickets with as much thought as if they were buying a pack of chewing gum.

Most of us lie in the middle of those two extremes.

Those of us who are in that grey area have various financial constraints upon us which mean we have to prioritise what we spend our money on.

With this in mind I think it’s important for us to ensure we get maximum value for what we pay out.

Like price, value is a subjective thing.

While some people will buy a season ticket no matter what because why wouldn’t they, there are also some fans who remain so disillusioned with the club that they wouldn’t open the curtains if Blues were playing in the back garden.

Again, like financial cost most of us lie within the middle of those two extremes.

It’s my belief that a decision to buy a season ticket is based on what value we think we’ll get from the ticket and if we think the price spent will be worth it.

Take the much-debated season ticket prices for kids and teenagers as an example.

I know from being a parent who took their child to the football in the past that it’s a commitment to buy a kid’s season ticket.

I  knew before I bought one that we weren’t going to make every game together for a multitude of reasons.

Midweek games which clashed with school the next morning were out of the question; bad weather conditions would almost certainly make attendance of a match a doubt.

When it was free to take my child with me into the family stand it didn’t matter if we went together or not; no value was lost if they didn’t make it.

However, with a price of £110 for an under-16 season ticket outside of Arthur’s Area changes that somewhat.

I think it’s acceptable to say that a cost of under a fiver a game for all 23 games is undoubtedly decent value.

The problem starts when you take out midweek games etc as the cost per game quickly grows and the value gained decreases.

Value is not just about missing games or not either.

On the pitch we’re all hoping for a better season next year but we know this summer’s transfer window is going to be difficult.

For the more cynical among us it’s hard to justify spending money on a season ticket if you fear you’ll be unhappy with the football being played, especially if you can see yourself starting to resent that you are obligated to go.

I know that there were matches last year where I genuinely was pissed off that I’d wasted my time going to a game where I had a feeling we’d play badly.

I can understand the club have tried to address value by adding in for free Birmingham City Women’s home fixtures as well as the u21 games being held at St Andrews; however I think that for some there will need to be more of a sweetener to make the commitment to buying.

Time Commitment

It might startle some people, but those who know me personally will tell you that I’m not a money-oriented person at all.

I’m happy to spend money freely on anything that takes my fancy; in truth probably a little bit too freely for the liking of my bank manager.

With that in mind I can imagine people would be surprised that I think it unlikely that I’ll get a season ticket.

The fact is that while I don’t really care about money, I do care about my time and I’ve become a bit of a miser with it.

I hate wasting time on things I don’t want to do and as I’ve gotten older and more crotchety, I’ve become more insistent that I don’t waste time.

It’s for this reason alone that I probably won’t get a season ticket.

I could give you the solid reasons that I have family commitments that are important, or that now my workplace is the other side of Coventry travelling back to B9 for a home game in midweek wouldn’t be fun; particularly as I do not drive.

They’d both be factual, but they’re just me rationalising the way I feel.

If I’m brutally honest, the truth is that I do not want to commit myself to going to every home game for the next season without knowing what else I might have available to do.

In short, I don’t want to commit all of that time right now.

Mix that feeling with the idea that if I miss more than a few games during the season, then a season ticket would not represent value and my decision to not buy should become more understandable.

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling this way.

It does feel that there are more demands on our time than ever before, and I can’t believe I’m the only person who wants to ration what free time I do have carefully so that it’s not wasted on something unenjoyable.

This concept is a hard thing for the club to deal with, particularly as the TV companies (and the police for that matter) can insist on games being moved about in the schedule.

How do you guarantee people that they will get value for a season ticket if a few months down the line half a dozen games get moved?

One solution for this was posted by Ian T on the smallheathalliance.com forum on Tuesday; the idea of the club selling a “carnet” of say 5 or 10 tickets.

This carnet would entitle the holder to go to any 5 or 10 games of their choosing at St Andrew’s, allowing them to pick the games they know they can make and get the best value possible.

I can imagine there are technical issues with how seats are allocated for this kind of ticket, but in an age of digital ticketing I don’t think it’s unsurmountable.

If I can buy a flexible train ticket allowing me to travel on the days I need to during a month that is on my phone, I’m sure Blues could do something similar with some sort of dedicated ticket app.

Other ways to add value

With season ticket prices now released, there is no way that the club can change them regardless of how many people complain or how vociferously they do so. To ask them to do so is not reasonable.

However, in line with the idea of growing revenues rather than cutting costs, I do think there are things that the club can do to help improve value for fans.

I’ve seen a few people suggest loyalty schemes for season ticket holders and I think stuff like this is the way forwards.

The classic ways to do this are to offer season ticket holders discounts in the club shop, or to offer free food / drinks from concessions around the game prior to the game.

These are both good ideas, but I also think we should think a little further outside the box.

One thing I quite like in American sports is the giveaways that happen frequently at big league grounds.

As some of you will know, I support the San Francisco Giants MLB team and I’ve seen first-hand how they encourage fans to come to the ground early.

They do this by having giveaways of various promotional items to a set number of people who are first to arrive at the ground.

I know that in the past the club have tried this only to see greedy “fans” hoover up as much free stuff as they can. This is a problem, but it’s one of having the resource so that stuff has to be individually handed out to fans rather than just left to be collected.

One idea I had would be to get some local Blues fan designers to knock up simple tshirt ideas which can be printed in one or two colours on a plain tshirt, which are then given out to fans who attend a game early.

Maybe it’s a design based on something funny that’s happened (think the K2 Steward with the tennis ball vs Luton), or maybe something based on some young breakout player, or even an old stager who’s leading by example.

The idea is the same every time – a unique design which is valuable from a fan perspective.

These promotional items wouldn’t just have to be tshirts; it could be anything really. As long as it’s limited in number, easy to produce and given out in a way where people can’t take the piss, I feel it could work.

I think in the longer term the club definitely need to work on ways to encourage fans to get to the ground early to spend money, regardless of how they do it.

I was lucky enough to visit the Emirates Stadium last month to see a friend who works there.

The one thing I quickly got from looking around the stadium was the sheer number of opportunities that Arsenal had created for fans to come in early and buy drinks and food.

Rather than offer something cut-price, Arsenal have gone the other way and are offering a “premium economy” style deal where ordinary season ticket holders can upgrade their experience via lounges and bars inside the stadium.

I’m certain if people perceive there is value in the experience, they will spend the money. This could be a good prospect for Blues to raise revenues in the future.

While the season ticket release is a bump in the road for some, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as bad as it could have been.

I really was concerned about how high the price rises were going to be and judging by the replies I’ve seen, in the main they’ve been at least grudgingly accepted by the majority.

It’s worth noting that until the EGM has happened, Shelby aren’t getting involved in anything really to prevent issues. I think we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer to see the full extent of what they want to do for fans.