Two Tickets to the Can of Worms Show
So the price of tickets for the football is a hot topic yet again!
I’ve written in a previous blog that the prices are too high at football, and specifically at Hampden for Scotland games, but this time it’s Celtic themselves who are complaining about the ticket prices for the forthcoming Scottish Cup semi final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The following statement was released on April 1st:
“Celtic Football Club is extremely disappointed with the ticket pricing for our forthcoming Scottish Cup semi-final match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Celtic argued strongly that the pricing for North Stand tickets should be reviewed and lowered, to be brought closer to prices for other parts of the stadium.
“As in previous years, due to Celtic supporters being in the vast majority, a huge number of our supporters will be required to pay a ticket price which we believe is too high.
“Clearly, we feel that SFA and other Clubs involved should have taken a common sense approach to this matter in the interests of fairness for our supporters and to ensure attendances at the matches are as high as possible.”
For the record, the SFA have set the prices very simply. £15 for the East and West stands behind the goals, £23 for the North and South stands along the sides of the pitch. You’ll note that Celtic haven’t complained about the South stand prices, only the North stand prices.
Now, I can only imagine that the problem here is that for the Dundee United League Cup final last month, Hampden prices were £28 behind the goals AND in the North stand, while you were charged £35 for a ticket in the South stand.
However, that’s a recent change. Previously the SFA have set the prices for the North and South stands at the same level. The Scottish Cup final in 2013 between Celtic and Hibernian saw prices at £35 for North or South, and £28 for East or West. The prices were the same in 2011 for the final between Celtic and Motherwell. It’s no different for Scotland games as both the North and South stand season tickets came in at £250 – albeit with three of the games taking place at Ibrox and Celtic Park. The more recent four match package, where all four take place at Hampden, still has the North and South priced the same at £120.
The problem here is that Celtic almost always take a higher allocation of tickets than their opposition. So what usually happens is Celtic get the East Stand and the eastern half of the South Stand, our opposition get the West Stand and the western half of the South Stand, and then how big a support they have dictates how much of the North Stand Celtic will get. The best example here is that I was in the western half of the North Stand for the 2011 Cup Final against Motherwell as Celtic took the whole thing.
I can understand the frustration there, because it means that although we get the same number of cheap tickets as our opponents, the proportion of cheap to expensive tickets is skewed in their favour. But what else should they be doing?
I can’t explain why the North Stand dropped in price last month. For me, the North and South stands are pretty much the same at Hampden. The stands aren’t all that steep on either side, but the view you get of the pitch is good and you’re not that far away from the action. Go behind the goals though… geez. You may as well be watching at home. So I fully accept that there should be a difference in price between the ends and the sides. But a difference between North and South? I don’t see how you can justify it – especially not for a semi final. The only reason I could understand it for a final is that the South stand is closer to the trophy presentation and the party faces you instead of turning their back on you for photos.
I have a few other problems with Celtic’s statement though. The implication in the wording is that £23 is too expensive for Celtic fans to pay. Okay, I’ll accept that premise. Indeed, it’s backed up by Celtic’s own ticket pricing recently. The previous round was just £15 for the replay against Dundee United. Indeed, Celtic’s other home cup games against Hearts and Partick Thistle this season were set at that same level. I’ll be among the first to applaud Celtic for sensibly pricing those games.
But they’ve made a rod for their own back at the same time.
Our cup games haven’t exactly come against poor opposition. The runaway Championship winners might be lower league this season, but neither Partick Thistle nor Dundee United are. Indeed, Dundee United are only a place below Inverness in the league, and both are chasing a European place for next season. That’s almost as good an opposition as you’ll get domestically.
So, why then are Celtic charging £26 for league games against the same opposition? You can’t tell me that the league games are more important than the cup game? Look at the league table, we can afford to lose the odd league game. Lose a cup game though and bang goes your treble.
Well, it’s an easy answer this season. Simply put, the league ticket prices are restricted by the season ticket prices. So maybe we need a closer look at those.
Curiously, Celtic don’t change their prices for individual games regardless of where in the stadium your seat will be. It’s £26 for the upcoming Partick Thistle midweek game whether you’re next to the away fans in the corner, right behind a goal, or up in the top tier of the North Stand. Yet Celtic season tickets are a different price depending on where you are in the stadium. It’s hard to get a complete picture of how the prices vary, but what I do know is my own ticket is the second most expensive in the stadium at £575 for the season.
Now, a quick reminder. For that £575 I get 19 home league games, and two other games that are allocated by the club. This season it was two Champions League qualifiers. A quick division shows that my average ticket price is £27.38 per game according to the value of my season ticket.
Yes, that’s £1.38 more than I’d be charged if I just turned up for the Partick Thistle game.
You’ll note I’ve omitted the £100 discount we’ve had for the last two seasons. Well, I did that on purpose because that’s what Celtic call it. It’s not a revaluation of my season ticket, it’s a discount for being such a good fan. A discount we all know was given to us because they can’t justify the higher prices without ripping us off for Rangers games. I know this, because £100 is also the jump in price between my old “special” season ticket which didn’t have Rangers games and my current season ticket that did until 2012. We all know that discount will disappear as soon as there’s anything calling itself Rangers in the same division as us.
So my average ticket price this season is actually £22.62 thanks to the discount. That’s still rather high given the cup games against the same opposition are only £15, isn’t it?
Now, I could also point out that circumstances have seen me miss out on a lot of games this season, so my average price is actually even higher. But then that’s my problem and is why I’m not renewing at the end of this season. I’ll pay as I go for games I can actually get to because it’s more financially prudent for me to do so. You could also argue that I should get a move to another part of the stadium as I know I could save money that way as well, but I’d still be wasting games. But more on that decision in another blog when I go back to look at my complaints from earlier in the season.
So going back to the original point. If Celtic agree that a massive game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle is just £15 for a poor view, and £23 for a really good view – leaving aside where the North stand fits into that argument entirely – then why aren’t the slightly less crucial league games against slightly lower down the table opposition AT LEAST priced similarly?
Celtic have opened up a can of worms with this statement. For me, they cannot justify charging £26 for a league game, and since that’s related to season ticket prices those will need to come down for next season. As such, I hope this results in better pricing across the board from the club. I’m not holding my breath though, despite Celtic showing with the cup game prices that they can do just that.
The reason they won’t do it for season tickets is simple – it’s too big an income for the club presently. We’ve already heard them moan about how much it hit the profits to give us the £100 discount – aka Peter Lawwell’s claims about how no Rangers has cost us £10 million a year. That still doesn’t add up, but I’ll accept that discount does indeed cost money… that they probably shouldn’t have charged in the first place.
Making that discount permanent – or even better – would be too big a cost to pick up every year. And of course the attendances for the cup games don’t help either. When you can sell over 40,000 season tickets at higher than acceptable prices, yet you can only sell half of that number for reasonably priced cup games, then clearly pricing isn’t really the issue. But more than that, you’re not going to drop the price for the one thing that you can sell and impact your income further! Why would you? People will still buy them anyway!
I’d say “we never learn” but I’ve used that in a previous blog.
Anyway, lets face it, this is a problem across Scottish Football. All the clubs in the country are trying to find the balance between charging enough money that they can run their clubs, and making them affordable enough so that they can get people through the turnstiles. Of course, that’s another area where Celtic fans are continually fleeced. Other clubs have been doing deals with each other this season to ensure away supporters are receiving discounts. Celtic don’t get those deals because we’re the big money visitors – again, we’re punished for actually going to games.
It’s almost enough to make you stay in the house.
There’s other ticketing issues that can really annoy Celtic fans. Tonight’s game against St Mirren saw the Paisley club sell tickets only to supporters clubs. If you’re not in a supporters club, as many aren’t, then too bad and it’s BT Sport for you. And then of course there’s the add-ons.
The Scottish Cup semi final has a special delivery charge because the SFA won’t reprint tickets. You can opt out of it – but only if you phone them up to buy your tickets. Which costs money to phone of course. Personally, I prefer to book online, but that leads you to the next farce of the “internet charge”. That’s just an admin fee – which no doubt pays for Celtic’s outsourcing of the ticketing costs – but it becomes even more farcical if you happen to be buying tickets for one of the home games where you can “Print At Home”. Excuse me? Why are we charged money for using our own printer and ink?! We should be charging you!
Ticketing is just one area of football that really needs addressed better. If you want a reason as to why attendances are falling across the country then this is it. Back in the day – and this bit should be accompanied by Largo – football fans used to go to games involving teams they didn’t support because they could afford to do so. Dundee and Dundee United fans used to go to each others games depending on which of them was at home that week. It doesn’t happen any more because football costs far too much to just support your own team never mind support someone else’s.
I’m not saying we should go back to those days because football has moved on. But nevertheless, the pricing of football in general needs looked at. So I welcome Celtic’s statement this week – but how about we set an example ourselves across all games?