In part eight of our extensive Q&A, the chairman addresses the subject of corporate hospitality at Hillsborough.
Would it be a sensible business decision to reduce the cost of corporate hospitality to increase revenue streams, rather than having fewer customers providing less income for the club?
First of all, there is a misconception that our hospitality areas were full in the past. Before I arrived at the club, occupancy was only in the region of 60% capacity across 600 places.
Following a necessary uplift in price, the occupancy across this season’s hospitality is lower than before – however, we will generate greater revenue which is crucial against the backdrop of Profitability and Sustainability.
In the past, the club has significantly underestimated the value of the corporate pricing, to the point where losses were incurred after all related costs. In much the same way as regular tickets, seasonal corporate ticket prices offer the best value for supporters but the worst to the club. We would drive revenues far more aggressively if we sold match by match but we offer long term fans that have supported the club the chance to continue to do so at a price that represents excellent value, albeit representing only a small profit to the club.
I have explained many times why there was a need to increase the prices, but I know it is human nature that everyone wants to pay a lower price. Unfortunately, this is not possible for the reasons I outlined last week. There is a misbelief that lower prices means more people and more money. The club has tried this strategy in the past without success.
In the financial analysis overall, corporate hospitality contributes only a relatively small amount of overall revenue to football clubs and certainly not the millions perceived by many. Even at full occupancy, this arm of the business would generate less than £500,000 profit for Sheffield Wednesday - so the price rises were a necessity if the corporate areas were to make a real impact on our balance sheet. The bottom line is that current regulations deem that we need additional financial support, it is not possible for me to do it by myself, even when I am happy to do so.
It is not about filling spaces at any price to increase occupancy, they need to be filled at the right price to help the club. I remember clearly during my first year, many corporate clients said that they were not happy to pay more as we had not proved anything on the pitch yet, but if we did they would be happy to increase. However, we reached the play-off final in 2016 and many still asked for a lower price. Since then, some have not renewed on a seasonal nor match by match basis and, of course, this is their choice.
We will try our best within the constraints that we must work to attract everyone back to Hillsborough in the short and long term. In the meantime, I wish to thank all the corporate clients who have committed their ongoing support since I bought the club.
It is a shame that some were only happy to support whilst receiving the benefits of low prices, discounts and even free places for small secondary spend. The club at that time accepted this because the attitude was one of something being better than nothing, even if this led to losses, as ambitions and performance on the pitch were not so high. Moving forward, the club has received major investment and with that has come price increases because, as I say, I am not allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money myself.
I would like to think the door is not closed on either side for our former clients and it would be my pleasure to welcome them all back to Hillsborough. Our corporate strategies are under ongoing review and indeed we have introduced revised prices on certain match by match packages that have been well received to date. This process will continue as we seek to find the right balance between attracting as many corporate clients as possible whilst maximising revenues and profits.