At most Premier League grounds £5.26 would barely get you a pie and a cup of tea, but at Huddersfield Town’s Kirklees Stadium it will get many supporters through the doors next season. That’s because chairman Dean Hoyle has kept his word and has rewarded loyal fans who took part in his ‘Premier Pledge’, an initiative launched in 2010. He promised that all those who had bought a season ticket in every year of his tenure, from the 2008/09 campaign onwards, would be rewarded with one costing just £100 if the club made it to English football’s top flight and, one penalty shoot-out and play-off final victory later, over 4,000 fans have secured it.
This past week the club sent out the packet containing details on the £99 refund on the £199 subscriptions and the move has rightly been commended. What has often been overlooked in the discussion of Huddersfield’s initiative is the fact that fans not benefitting from the discount are still only paying £199 for adults, £79 for 8-year-olds to 17-year-olds and £29 for Under-8s. That may not be quite as interesting a story, but it is still cheaper than any season ticket offered by Premier League clubs in 2016/17, according to the BBC’s Price of Football study. Given that the average cheapest season ticket from last season was £473, Huddersfield’s full-price 2017/18 offer is 58% lower.
So will there be a long-term impact from The Terriers’ fan-friendly prices, both their extra-impressive fiver-a-game deal and their almost-as-impressive £199 offering?
For too long, Premier League match-goers have been paying over the odds to see their teams play, especially when comparing prices with clubs across Europe. Again based on the BBC’s Price of Football study, the cheapest Premier League season ticket last season was Hull’s £252, but that was still £20 quid more than the £232 Real Madrid members paid to see the European and world champions. The side from the Spanish capital are not a one-off, though, as the likes of Barcelona, Ajax, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Porto and Bayern Munich all charged even less for their cheapest season-long package last year. Bayern not only outscored Arsenal 10-2 on the football pitch last season, but at the turnstiles the German fans were paying eight times less than their English counterparts for their club’s cheapest season ticket of the 2016/17 campaign.
If there is to be any ripple effect from Hoyle and Huddersfield’s 2017/18 promotion, it won’t be seen this year. Their reasonably priced season cards may have made many other clubs look bad, but it is too late for them to change anything for the current campaign, with prices strategically determined well in advance. It could, though, force some clubs to rethink their approach for 2018/19.
Matchday revenue is becoming less and less important to English clubs, as the amount earned from broadcasters increases, so many clubs could afford to lower prices at the turnstiles. As the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation Malcolm Clarke has said: “On their current £8.3bn deal, the Premier League could afford to let every single fan in free for every game and they’d still have as much money as they had under their previous TV deal.” Of course, footballs clubs are businesses too and no business can simply give away freebies just for PR purposes, but it is true that Huddersfield’s 2017/18 prices have made the other clubs look bad. Even in football, appearances still matter and it will be interesting to see if any other clubs follow the newly promoted side’s lead when it comes to setting next year’s fees.
The Huddersfield initiative, combined with the general growing calls for ticket price reductions – such as the £30 cap on away tickets, or the £20 one-round cap introduced last season – could finally force Premier League clubs to consider how much more they are charging their supporters compared to other clubs across the continent. At least that must be the hope.