Mike Ashley has been writing to MPs telling them his investment in Newcastle United has “enabled Newcastle United to establish an affordable ticket-pricing policy for fans”. He says “this includes a number of season-ticket price-freeze schemes, which allows over 20,000 supporters to secure their ticket at a significantly-reduced rate every season.”
But what about the other 30,000 that make up the majority, those that didn’t have a season ticket when the prize freeze was offered all those years ago, or didn’t trust Ashley enough to take him up on the offer given what he’d done to the club?
And will those on the price freeze see prices as “affordable” when their deal ends in a couple of years time?
I cancelled my season ticket after John Carver was entrusted with the responsibility of keeping us up in 2015. The subsequent appointment of Steve McClaren and a £50m summer spend on five players did nothing to convince me Mike Ashley deserved my long term commitment to his project. I’ve never had any trouble getting single tickets since (all these prices assume you know a season ticket holder who will be able to get you member prices) but the prices have been rising since Rafa Benitez arrived.
Back in 2015 I could get into most games for under £20. 14 games that year were between £15 and £19 in level 7. Last season there wasn’t one game I could attend all season for less than £23.
So far this season the minimum ticket is £25, and I can’t imagine many will be cheaper than Brighton. This represents a 66% increase on the cheapest tickets of 2015.
Of course, being in the family enclosure, this assumes you have a child and buy them a ticket too.
Seats in the Gallowgate/Leazes and East Stand haven’t risen as much but have seen massive increases of their own for the lowest category games, on already higher prices. A 36% increase in the Gallowgate (up £9 from £25 to £34) and 52% in the East Stand (up £15 from £29 to £44)
*Up to and including Bournemouth (10 November)
The price to see top teams has not increased comparably, in fact for the most part they’ve decreased. Even if you take Sunderland out of the equation (obviously not a top team, but derby tickets were always costliest and could exceed £50 before they fell of the radar).
Only the East Stand has seen the price of a top category ticket increase and then only by £1.
Corresponding tickets have dropped £5 in both Level 7 (16%) and the Leazes and Gallowgate (12%).
*Up to and including Arsenal (15 September)
Despite the overall drop in prices for top category games, the large increase in cost for ‘cheap’ tickets has led to an overall narrowing in the range of prices charged across for different games but an overall increase in the price you would expect to pay to see every game.
Even spread over 3 seasons, the increases can be steep, £63 extra in the Gallowgate & Leazes, £90 in the family enclosure and £174 in the East Stand corresponding to an 11%, 24% and 27% increases respectively over those 3 years, or 3.8%, 8% and 9% annually.
Given the price increases on single tickets a season ticket is now more cost effective than paying game by game, a situation that (bizarrely) wasn’t necessarily the case when I cancelled my own season ticket.
This is due to a slower increase in Season ticket prices than in single tickets.
Level 7 has seen the the smallest increase, £47 is just a 13% increase over a decade.
The Gallowgate and Leazes have seen a much steeper increases at £146, or 30%.
The largest increase is in the East Stand though, where the £189 increase from £583 to £772 is a 32% rise.
Over a decade these are not unreasonable rises of 1.3% to 3.2% annually, however, back in 2008 Newcastle fans already paid a higher price than most other fans for their season tickets, reasonably so for a club that regularly qualified for europe and competed with other top clubs in the transfer market.
The rises over the past decade are at a club that have slashed costs both on and off the pitch, qualified for Europe much less frequently, fought relegation with far greater regularity and failed to win that fight twice. Should a general increase in ticket prices go hand in hand with a general drop in standards in the quality of player, quality of stadium, and quality of football?
We can only gauge if Newcastle charge a fair price by comparing to other clubs, which the BBC did last November.
Compared to others
The BBC compare prices on standard tickets. Not for those on a special offer, not for members and not for those with kids. They provide the cheapest and most expensive season tickets and single tickets.
Newcastle designate a small section in the north west corner as Category 3, in this section season tickets are sold at a reduced price and this is the price provided to the BBC. In addition to this section I have added the other standard areas for a comparison.
It’s clear that in any standard area, Newcastle United do not compare favourably for cheap tickets with the other Premier League clubs we hope to compete with. We’re a top ten club when it comes to high priced cheap tickets. Eleven other clubs had cheaper tickets available.
Newcastle’s pricing structure defies the north/south divide too. Take out the big six and the only three clubs that charge more for their cheapest tickets are all on the south coast, Brighton, Southampton and Bournemouth, all other clubs in between offer a cheaper standard option.
For costlier tickets Newcastle drop out of the ten, but still push it close.
Again, the north/south divide is clear, only West Ham joining the south coast three in having costlier tickets than the rest of the league outside of the big six, but Newcastle have the highest priced ‘expensive ‘ seats of any club north of London Stadium.
Remember, these prices are from last season too, as outlined above, Newcastle have increased the Gallowgate and Leazes to £628 and the East Stand to £772, it will be interesting to see how this compares to other clubs in the next price of football survey.
Finally a look at how Newcastle compare on single ticket prices according to the BBC.
Once again, in either category Newcastle can be beaten on price by at least 8 other clubs and generally only charge less than the big six or those in the south. Everton, Burnley and Huddersfield being the notable exceptions for cheap tickets.
Chris Holt – Follow on @bigchrisholt