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Meanwhile three divisions lower…

Just occasionally I take my eye off Arsenal, the EPL, internationals, and all that stuff and glance at matters elsewhere – partly because of my background (my parents moved from north London to Dorset when I was 11, and Dorset has always been a little lacking in division 1 clubs), and partly because I seem to find all football fascinating.

My “second team” is Torquay United, whom I don’t get to see much, but they were the last team my dad and I went to see together (after my parents retired to the south west), so my interest in division four (League 2) has increased following our staggering triumph in getting back into the league.

And therein lies the tale. Not Torquay, but Bradford City. I’ve watched their progress for a couple of years, and was reminded of it yesterday as the Observer (a paper which I don’t like but my partner bought it because it had a free “learn Italian” CD in it) took up the theme.

Quick history – Bradford City, one time big club, then little club, unbelievably got into first division again about ten years back, and then slipped back to the 4th.

When we all went there for a Bradford v Arsenal game it was quite a shock. Lots of empty areas in the city centre used for car parks (just open land – not multi story), the municipal buildings in their Victorian splendor, and the worst top level football ground I have been in since Luton Town were hob-nobbing with the big fellas.

Anyway, three years ago Bradford decided to cut their season ticket prices in half – providing that they sold 10,000 of them. Which they did. Ever since they have been doing different deals but the essence is the same. If we can sell enough the price goes down in half.

The result is simple – twice as many supporters in the ground.

There’s no financial advantage here – the income of the club is much the same – but the ground is much fuller, much livelier, and people who otherwise would not participate with their local club on a regular basis, do exactly that. The club has a real part to play in the city’s life once again.

Indeed if, in the coming season, you take a look at the gates in the 4th division you’ll see 2,000, 4,000, 5,000 and the like – with some bleak mid-week games dipping below the 2,000 in places like Accrington. But at Bradford its 10,000, or 12,000.

Although, as I say, there’s no financial advantage, and the club has not shot up to the top of the league as a result of the extra support, it strikes me as utterly obvious that this is a good idea. Just for the noise in the ground, if not the extra interest that the local media and people all around show in the club.

And that leads me (at long last) to my point. Why are all the other clubs not doing this? But as far as I know, not a single one has gone down this route. It is not as if they will lose out on cup matches (they can easily be excluded so if Bradford play Arsenal in a cup match they can charge extra). It is not as if they can’t edge up prices a little if they get promotion – the deal is only season by season.

So why doesn’t everyone in the division do this, and bring an extra 50,000 people or so into watching football every week of the season?

When I first went to Arsenal we had to pay to get into Arsenal reserve games (6d I think – don’t worry about the “d” it’s an old man’s thing). I don’t know when it went free, but I applauded the idea. Go to a reserve game and you see lots of parents with youngsters who are desperate to go to a game, but who lack the knowledge and staying power – and so a cheap or free reserve game is a perfect intro.

But the next step up needs to be there – which is obviously cheap matches at your local third and fourth division club.

I don’t have any emotional link with Bradford – my trip there a few years ago was my only visit. But I do think the rest of football should follow their lead. But maybe there is a good reason as to why other clubs have not run the experiment. Is it something to do with ground size? A worry that even at half price the support isn’t there?

If you know, do tell. Meanwhile although obviously no one from the club will be reading this, congrats to Bradford are still in order for a clever idea that seems to benefit everyone.

If commenting for the first time on Untold Arsenal please write Ref Bradford at the top of your comment, so I can see it isn’t a cut and paste job. If you have been, thanks for reading.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

25 comments to Meanwhile three divisions lower…

  • avatar Adam Smith

    Interesting article Tony, and i confess I hadn’t a clue as to the state of League Division Two. I did a little research and found this table,which backs your argument up to the hilt.Make football more affordable, so people can support their local team.

    .1 – Bradford City – Avg 13,694 – High 15,510
    .2 – MK Franchise – Avg 9,456 – High 17,250
    .3 – Peterborough – Avg 5,995 – High 10,400
    .4 – Shrewsbury – Avg 5,659 – High 7,707
    .5 – Stockport – Avg 5,643 – High 8,838
    .6 – Wycombe – Avg 4,746 – High 6,202
    .7 – Notts Co – Avg 4,732 – High 10,027
    .8 – Brentford – Avg 4,469 – High 6,246
    .9 – Wrexham – Avg 4,234 – High 7,687
    10 – Rotherham – Avg 4,201 – High 6,709
    11 – Grimsby Town – Avg 4,115 – High 5,829
    12 – Chesterfield – Avg 4,103 – High 6,300
    13 – Lincoln City – Avg 4,078 – High 5,286
    14 – Darlington – Avg 3,818 – High 6,965
    15 – Hereford – Avg 3,421 – High 6,020
    16 – Rochdale – Avg 3,057 – High 4,692
    17 – Mansfield – Avg 2,821 – High 5,271
    18 – Morecambe – Avg 2,677 – High 4,761
    19 – Bury Shakers – Avg 2,601 – High 6,271
    20 – Chester City – Avg 2,479 – High 3,849
    21 – Macclesfield – Avg 2,298 – High 3,585
    22 – Barnet Bees – Avg 2,147 – High 3,074
    23 – Dagenham – Avg 2,007 – High 3,451
    24 – Accrington – Avg 1,634 – High 2,898

    If I may mention,good luck to John Hartson who has been diagoned with brain cancer as well as testicular cancer.

  • avatar JediKnut

    Interesting piece. Definitely a wonder that more clubs don’t adopt this approach to selling tickets. Unfortunately, I guess what matters more to most clubs is the actual finances increasing instead of the seats being fulled, which would actually also incentivise the teams to play better…

  • avatar steww

    Surely the extra support offers the club other marketing opportunities too. Also the improvement in atmosphere can only be helpful to the players, even if results don’t appear to bear that out so far.
    It is good to see some forward thinking management in football which benefits the die hard fans.

  • avatar waltergooner

    I do think that Bradford is gaining money on those cheaper incomeprices.
    If you pay a lot and get 5000 in the ground or if the people pay half the price and come with 10.000 makes no difference. But those 10.000 are hungry and thirsty and will eat a peace of junkfood or drink a pint or whatever they like most and so it would bring extra money in to the club. Offcourse not all 5.000 extra wil eat and drink but if half of them do, its extra income wich they otherwise wouldn’t have made.
    Now filling the stadium isn’t Arsenal biggest problem. For a lot of fans it is getting in the stadium that is the biggest problem. But if the stadium doesn’t get filled anymore: a good idea. ;-)

  • avatar Marc

    Tony – You could actually apply the above to some PL clubs. Bolton and Blackburn have pathetic attendances.

    Off topic (sorry!) apparently Man City are in talks to sign Ade and Fergie has said that ManU will not be spending anymore money this summer. If that is true are we finally seeing the wheels come off ManU’s business model?

  • avatar Jess

    Ref Bradford

    Tony sorry to post off topic but I noticed your post on Spanish’s blog and thought I’d stop by and have a read. Enjoyed rreading so far and hopefully I’ll have more productive comment in the future.

    I don’t think Man City are really all the interested in Ade. What could they possibly need him for?? The money would be great for us but I don’t think even Citeh is that pound foolish.

  • avatar LRV

    Any club that can benefit from this should definitely go for it. Extra sales even in scaffs is worth it.

    Sorry Marc, did I just read your comment right – Man City & Ade? These guys are going to start bidding to buy football fans soon!

  • Yes – I know this is not the topic I wrote about, but of course it is the subject of the moment. According to Sky, and the Murdoch man who listens into Arsene’s mobile (see my post a couple of days back) Manchester Arabs are in discussion with the Mighty Arsenal for the purchase of Ade.

    Personally I think that IF he goes, and IF Eduardo is fit, we don’t even need a replacement.

    And with luck we might know about Eduardo, Rosicky, Gallas and Clichy come saturday at Hi Barnet.

  • avatar Jonny Neale

    Good post – read the article in the Observer and was pleased that someone is setting an example.

    However there IS of course a financial advantage: more beer sold, more food sold, more people in the shop = $$$.

    Everyone should take note.

  • avatar Faron

    Ref bradford,
    “Personally I think that IF he goes, and IF Eduardo is fit, we don’t even need a replacement”.
    I agree completely tony.

  • avatar stuartlondon

    Absolutely agree with both your points Tony.

    It’s in all our interests to see football flourish at all levels. It promotes interest in the game and increases the general level of happiness, well, on average, over a season, or perhaps several.

    And I do not see a pressing need for a replacement if Adebayor leaves. It’s more important in my view to resolve our defensive vulnerabilities, and to have a team that feels confident in its abilities and the support of its fans.

    May also I echo Adam’s comment and say all the very best to John Hartson.

  • avatar LRV

    I’ll rather Ade is sold out of the EPL completely. However, if ManC buys him, that’s a big if, I forsee a big, old-fashioned, ego clashes there very soon.

  • avatar Pete the First

    Reg Bradford

    Surely they are selling more pies up there now? Should double the takings surely?

  • avatar Eskaia

    Great piece, once again, Tony. John Hartson is my big topic of the day, I really hope he can get his cancer taken care of. I lost both my parents and a grandparent to cancer so I know what his family is going through, and there’s nothing worse. God Bless you, John.

  • avatar rafael

    Just before we give it the big Hurah about the possible departure of Adebayor i would like to state that i am a little bit worried by who we could possibly attract to replace him ,i know he has a skinking attitude sometimes ,but the fact is he gets the goals for us ,just can’t see us getting Eto as if he wants to come to the prem i can see him ending up at Man U or Chelsea on a Big Big Wage and with his age just does not strike me as a Arsene signing ??there seems to be a lack of options out there for us to sign who will fit in straight away & RVP & eduardo will not go a whole season with out breaking down

  • avatar Gun_Slinger

    The only real problems with Wenger pertain to the mismanagement of the squad e.g. keeping players who lack motivation, some bizarre line-ups, inept substitutions. The funding to strengthen is not his call despite what you think. Do you really think he refuses money for the sake of an “EXPERIMENT”? Get real. If you had an employee like Wenger who’d worked wonders with the limited funds he’d had and kept us relatively competitive up to a point, would you bank (gamble) on him to do more of the same? That’s what the board are doing. The more debt that is paid off before the inevitable takeover, the more the current shareholders will make. It’s not rocket science. It can be argued that it will indeed benefit the long-term future of the club, but I think it’s a more than bit insulting to the fans that pay good money in good faith because the main beneficiaries will be the shareholders who sell their stakes. Wenger has deserved criticism but not as much as he’s been getting when you consider he’s an employee that HAS to work with what he’s given.

  • avatar steww

    Gun_Slinger.
    Some of what you say has a grain of truth but it really was apropos nothing at all as far as the above discussion is concerned. Why would you suddenly start a response to the above post with “The only real problems with Wenger” ?

  • avatar Gun_Slinger

    sorry i had to let it out what with the transfer news going around

  • avatar Gun_Slinger

    there are a lot of finance related articles on here; I am sure some of you may have read the below article, but Tony what are your thoughts on this?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2009/07/ive_obtained_a_copy_of.html

  • avatar Christianjimmy

    Sorry to remain off-topic Tony, but the Adebayor thing is still intriguing me.
    £25m (if thats what the offer is) seems like a fair amount to me for a player who can certainly score goals, but whose heart isnt always in it. From the way he wasnt included in the match squads for the last few matches despite no injury problems it seemed that he might be on his way – but whether Lord Wenger wishes to replace him is less clear. Bendtner, Eduardo, RVP plus Vela, Walcott, Arshavin, Rosicky, Diaby(?) and Nasri seems like a good selection of attacking players.
    However I can imagine wenger signing an unknown striker as additional backup for a million or so rather than going for a big name replacement (if anyone comes in upfront)
    Either way though, expect more “Arsenal in crisis” headlines, as we “lose our best player”, not to mention “player turmoil” and “dressing room unrest” at “Wengers unwillingness to splash the cash”. Idiot media.

    And finally I want to echo all the best wishes and prayers for John Hartson and his family. I always had a soft spot for the big ginger welshman, and hope he comes through.

  • avatar Marc

    Tony – Sorry but it’s not good enough. You’ve had all day to write a fresh piece and what do we get – nothing. I think a fair punishment is 25 pieces on why ManU are screwed and yet the press will still run with Arsneal crises stories.

  • avatar steww

    Yeah – come on Tony. There’s been a whole day of rabid speculation dressed up as fact and here we are desperate for the soothing balm of your evidence based journalism.
    I’ve even had my intelligence insulted by one poster who claimed Arsene was about to sign Van the Cheat to replace a striker we have not even sold. Come on tony, make sense of it all for us, please.

  • avatar KG

    where art thou tony … where is my dose of untold arsenal today
    [u can delete this totally unrelated post; but a new post please :)]

  • avatar steww

    KG – it shouldn’t be deleted, I think it’s important to let him know he’s missed.

  • avatar JediKnut

    He’s been missed… and how!