At the time of writing, our beloved Newcastle United Football Club has just been drawn into the so called “Group of Death” in the Champions League. If you’d told me 24 months ago that we’d be pitting our wits against some of the very best in Europe, then I’d have driven you to the funny farm myself.
PSG, BVB Dortmund and AC Milan – It doesn’t get any bigger than that!! Stick Manchester City into the equation in the Carabao Cup and it’s reasonably fair to suggest that the balls haven’t fallen too kindly this week! As a season ticket holder, I can’t bloody wait!!
Since the takeover on that unforgettable day of 7th October 2021, Newcastle United has done little wrong on the pitch. Comfortably avoiding relegation since Eddie Howe succeeded the (insert adjective here) Steve Bruce, a first cup final for 20 years and a scarcely believable top 4 finish.
Off the pitch, however, it’s chalk and cheese.
Disaster after disaster has ensued, with some of the decisions having been made (presumably) by non-football people without a thought for the long-suffering Mags in the stands.
Where the fuck do I start? I’m going to try and dissect these decisions bit-by-bit, so please stay with me here.
Unlimited Membership sales and the home ticket ballot:
I’d like to think I’m relatively business savvy. After all, I run my own business, so I get the need to increase revenues, but selling unlimited memberships at £37 a pop and £20 for u-18s is just bullshit. Junior members can’t physically enter a member ballot without an adult, hence the empty seats in the family enclosure for the first 2 home games of the season.
Whilst I’m not unhappy that the ambling stick man has fucked off, I do feel for those members who have paid £37 and might not get to a single game this season. What an unbelievable cash-cow for the club. I have it on good authority every member ballot is 100% anonymous. Therefore, it doesn’t matter a jot whether you were successful or not in earlier ballots, it’s just pot luck.
I also feel for members (and season ticket holders) of previous years. There’s been precisely zero loyalty shown to them. Why could the club not have tiered memberships to give longer serving members priority over “Jonny Come Lately?”
Why will the club not show any transparency on the number of memberships sold, the number of ballot applications and the number of tickets sold in said ballot? I’d like to see answers to these questions in the name of fairness!
Add to this the shambolic timing of ticketing sales. Joe Bloggs who lives in London has a shit-load more to fork out on trains and accommodation because the club can’t get their house in order and sell tickets in a timely fashion. I note the brilliant Football Supporters Association has sent a request to all clubs to open their sales 6 weeks in advance of fixtures. I applaud this. Why is Newcastle United not listening?
Who is responsibility is it for ticketing pricing? £44-£74 for a single home ticket is a huge increase on last season. And when the initial ballot details were released, there were a lot of pissed off people taking to social media. Good on the Newcastle United Supporters Trust taking a stand and releasing their statement – You can find it here –
At least the club u-turned a little and changed their ballot to at least allow members to select a category that they could afford. And all this during a cost-of-living-crisis.
The above match day prices are some of the most expensive in the league, particularly at the bottom end of the scale. I also worry about how the end of the 10 year Ashley ST deal will impact those affected (me included).
Will the long term match goers be priced out next season? Only time will tell.
Peter Silverstone, our Chief Commercial Officer, joined us from Arsenal in October 2022. His job is to maximise revenue through winning new commercial deals. He’s doing a brilliant job on this, particularly with the recently leaked (someone from Prime Video is getting fired) announcement of the Adidas deal. If he’s responsible for ticket pricing and memberships, then he needs to understand we are a small city in the North-East of England, not one of the richest cities in the world. We come from humble, industrial, mainly working-class roots and should not be treated as an affluent city.
As a season ticket holder, you had the option of signing into the new cup scheme, guaranteeing your seat well in advance of the cup draws, dates and opponents.
I’m a long-standing season ticket holder, so snapped up this opportunity at the earliest possible time. However, £55 for a CL game, in comparison to £38 at Manchester City, just smacks of fucking greed. Oh, and those who signed up have paid £155 before the draw was even made.
Someone’s off-shore account is accruing a shit load of interest.
That’s if your payments worked by the way. There’s been absolute hell on with rejected payments and the ticketing site that isn’t fit for purpose being unable to take manual payments (I’ll come onto that in a bit)
On a personal note, I quite like the new digital ticketing process for home games. It’s worked quicker for me than the old card system. However, for many, this has seen long queues, particularly in the East Stand and the old “corner” of the Gallowgate. This should have been rolled out section by section to ensure it actually works across the board.
A simple solution is to allow access by any near turnstile to even out the flow of traffic. Who wants the anxiety of it all?
We just want to turn up and enjoy what’s happening on the pitch.
And for those who just don’t want a digital ticket – Give them the option of replacing with a card! I get the sustainability reasoning behind this. If this is the sole reason, then the bloody fire display before Villa should never have happened!!
Away ticket sales and process
I’m gonna get off my high-horse here and applaud the club for a much fairer process for aways. It may be too early to tell with odd kick off times and rail strikes, but with Manchester City selling out at 10 points, and Brighton at 1 point, it looks like the threats of removing loyalty points has detracted the hoarders from buying and shifting their tickets every week.
I like that the points required drop daily as it gives lower point fans a chance to enter the so called “closed-shop” There’s a massive difference in opinion here, and I think some common sense should have prevailed.
For example, what if you’re ill and can’t attend the game. There’s no way to transfer your ticket to a mate – So that seat just lies empty! Madness.
Here’s an idea for the club – Allow up to 3 transfers of your away ticket, to a select number of people on your friends and family list (or travel group) and lose your point for purchasing the ticket. It’s not rocket science. Let’s see whether the club make any changes here.
And whilst I’m full of good ideas, hold back a small amount of tickets for a member ballot. At the moment, they are frozen out from attending away games entirely.
It’s also a fucking mental idea to pre-void a small proportion of tickets. It just causes anxiety and hassle when you’ve got to plod to the box office that you’re unfamiliar with, to pick up a paper ticket, all whilst showing your ID!! – Here’s another sensible idea. Pre-select a small number of away dayers to pick up your ticket at the box-office. Let them know in advance of the game that they’ll need to take their ID along. Not a system that flashes red at the turnstile!
I’m a regular away day match goer, and it’s a royal pain in the arse having to make sure you’re carrying ID on the off chance you might get told to fuck off and pick up a ticket elsewhere!!! Advance notice please!
Corporate seating – Wings / Rooftops
To save myself rinsing and repeating, increasing revenue is needed; I get that. But turfing people out of their seats in the Leazes (where they’ve built up relationships over many years) to let the new money into the new Wings Bar is despicable. Add this to the requirement for buy a minimum of 2 ST in the new Rooftops area at £7K+ VAT (it was £1500+VAT last season) and not re-housing those ticket holders is possibly the worst of all their off-field crimes. Imagine that was you? Pay up an eye watering fee, or basically, fuck off.
Box Office and Ticketing Site
Only one thing to be said – Both are the fucking pits. I’ve heard of people spending literally hours on hold for the box office, only to be cut off when near the front. People given totally the wrong information when they do get through and being told that there was an error in signing up for the cup schemes, and after 20 years of waiting to see us in the CL, that it’s pretty much tough shit that you didn’t do it properly. Howay man…. Most of these new initiatives are just that, new.
Commons sense really should prevail – Hire some fucking staff and train them properly. I feel a little sorry for the old school at the box office. They’re under-resourced and under-trained on the new processes, and with the call-queues so insane, they just need people off the phone – Get it sorted NUFC!
The ticketing site is also not fit for purpose. I know of at least half a dozen people whose payments failed for the CL Cup Scheme through no fault of their own. Fine, the tickets drop into a reservations section on the site – But guess what, it’s doesn’t fucking work properly. OK, call the box office and they’ll sort it – Hang on, you can’t get through!!!
So head to the box office, in your own time, using your own fuel and paying for parking out of your own pocket – All to rectify an issue that wasn’t your fault. It’s all bonkers!
NUST have been running a survey for all fans, members of the Trust or otherwise, and I applaud them for that. I’m looking forward to seeing their report on this and whether they’ll be able to influence the club in any way on the shambolic way it’s treating its loyal fans.
It’s fair to say everyone who uses the former bird app loves a bit of training ground content but the overall communication on the majority of the issues being encountered is a big fat “bollocks” from me.
Why in the wide, wide world of professional football should the poor guys and girls at the Trust and NUSC have to act as the customer service arm of the club?
For fuck’s sake; if something isn’t working, please communicate it with the fan base. The club are radio silence and are just burying their heads in the sand on all of the problems with the box office, the ticketing site and more. It’s all just bullshit!
The PR spin will lead you to believe that the club is all for the people. I’ll challenge this; it’s all about the bottom line. More revenue means more strength in the transfer market. That’s the price we, as the everyday fan, will have to pay. The club knows our loyalty knows no bounds, and they are taking advantage of it.
The above leads me to one conclusion – the club is in real danger of forgetting about its loyal fans, whether season ticket holders, members, or the wider support. Football needs to be affordable for all fans and not just the new-money tourists.
Yes, I hear you; don’t like it, then walk away; someone else will jump at the chance of taking your seat. If the club aren’t careful, the atmosphere will become like The Etihad in no time.
Be careful Newcastle United. Get it right off the pitch like you are on it!
Ranting Raymondo III