The Club has secured bums on seats in the short term, but it has not secured hearts and minds. And its thinking is out of step with that of many fans. We don’t intend to reopen old battles. But we will be urging the Club to take supporters’ views on board and look to rebuild the sense of togetherness that marked the final season at our old stadium.
A total of 3,500 fans gave their views, the highest number in the survey’s five-year history. Just over half the respondents were Club Season Ticket holders. There was a fairly even split between Season Ticket holders who had bought for the first time at Wembley (43%) and those who had held a Season Ticket for over a decade (40%).
Significantly, new Season Ticket holders were least happy with ticket prices. Some 65% of those who had held a Season Ticket for just one year said they were dissatisfied with pricing, compared to 58% of longer-standing Season Ticket holders.
Despite the Club Board frequently saying that price is not the most significant factor in the decision to buy a Season Ticket, 82% of new Season Ticket holders said it was, along with 76% of longer-standing Season Ticket holders. Across all Season Ticket holders, price and view of the pitch were named as the most significant factors when choosing a seat. Despite the Club’s heavy hyping of facilities in the new stadium, just 7% said their decision was influenced by the facilities on offer.
Almost half of fans who had held a Season Ticket at White Hart Lane said they had moved to a different stand in the new stadium (49%). That is going to have a significant effect on the atmosphere and crowd dynamics. And 40% disagree with the Club’s assertion that the position of seats in the new ground cannot be compared with those in the old ground. Dissatisfaction with the location of the seat purchased runs at between 20 and 30% and this should give the Club cause for concern.
Removing two home cup ties from the Season Ticket package is hugely unpopular, with 84% of longer term ST holders and, significantly, 78% of those who had been Season Ticket holders for just one year, dissatisfied. The £50 compensation deducted from Season Tickets for the removal of the two cup ties last summer has completely vanished with the pricing structure for the new stadium; a point we’ll be taking up with the Club.
Removing Cup ties from the Season Ticket package does open up the chance to sell packages of cup tickets, such as the Champions League packages offered in the past two seasons. A total of 86% of our survey wanted to see discounted group stage ticket packages offered for the Champions League games again. We are picking up indications the Club may not do this, and we will be lobbying strongly that it should.
Our survey also found that over 80% of Season Ticket holders considered they were likely to renew beyond next season. But the figure of 18% of new Season Ticket holders who said either that they would not renew or are uncertain should be cause for concern. That’s potentially 3-4,000 non-renewals, on top of regular churn caused by changes in circumstance.
Given the fact the Club was offering Season Tickets to people sitting at sub 50,000 on the waiting list and given the dissatisfaction levels with pricing, the concern we expressed when the prices were announced at the impact on our support long-term is underlined. The Club has some serious thinking to do.
In other findings, 66% were unhappy with the premium-lite 1882 ticket offer, with only 7% approving. The positioning of these tickets across the middle of the home end flies in the face of much of what the Club said about what it wanted, and the fact that it was introduced with no prior consultation indicates a last-minute attempt to cash in. The Club has needlessly damaged its relationship with fans for an offer it is struggling to sell. Lessons should be learned.
The Club's decision to introduce a Young Adult category has been widely welcomed, and concessionary discounts - currently 50% for Under 18s and OAPS and 25% for Young Adults – were also backed But 54% of respondents said the concession should be linked to the person and not the seat.
Fans also disagreed with the assertion that higher ticket prices were “necessary” to pay players higher wages – arguably illustrating a more advanced knowledge of football finance than many Club executives and journalists credit them with. And 76% of those surveyed said that: “Once the stadium debt has been paid off, there should be a reduction in ticket prices."
We also gathered some information from One Hotspur members about why they took out membership and what they expected from it. By far the most important aspect of membership was access to tickets, with 92% citing that. Just 36% said having a position on the Season Ticket waiting list was important to them, while 64% said their membership was important in giving them a sense of belonging to the Club.
Only 28% said they would be likely to take out a Season Ticket if offered one this summer, with 63% saying they were unlikely or highly unlikely to do so. Of those that would consider taking a Season Ticket if offered one, 73% said price would be the most important consideration.
We have long argued that the Club should not assume every member joins because they eventually want a Season Ticket. These findings back our view.
Access to tickets for occasional games is important to many members though, and this raises concerns about the number of General Admission match-day tickets the Club has made available. We estimate there will be around 8,000 available per League match. Again, this balance between Season Ticket and casual access was not what we were led by the Club to believe would be offered, and the concern is now that many fans will not see the point in membership.
We have said we don’t want to reopen old battles. But there is enough in these findings to give a genuinely progressive Club Board cause for concern about retaining and attracting support in future. We do not believe the current set of ticketing policies will enable the Club to retain the unique passion of support it has continually referenced when promoting the new stadium. And we do not believe first season excitement is a reliable indicator of sustained support in future – especially if the team does not maintain its top four presence.
That possibility is not one we like to think about, but it would be foolish for any club to base its strategy on guaranteed success. Achievement in a competitive sport goes in cycles – something which is in itself an attraction to many spectators – and discontent is less easily glossed over when the level of achievement falls.
We strongly urge the Club to address these issues honestly and constructively with the Trust.
1 August 2018