Part four of our extensive Q&A feature with the chairman, who today addresses ticketing policy at Hillsborough:
The club’s ticket prices have come in for criticism from fans. What is your response?
The ticketing policy is something the club has examined at great length over the two and half years I have been at Sheffield Wednesday. It was and remains important to find the right balance between robust pricing structures whilst delivering a major uplift of quality on the pitch.
The players are better, our ambitions are higher and this has led to two successive seasons in the play-offs. This does not come cheap but for everyone who has supported the team so incredibly well since my arrival, I say thank you.
We have been in the top six of average attendances in the Championship for the last two years and this season will be similar I’m sure as only five teams have a higher average going into the latest international break.
I understand that not everyone can afford to come to Hillsborough and I would never ask one single fan to buy a ticket they cannot afford. This is something we recognised with the Community Engagement Scheme, whereby supporters on low incomes can apply for discounted tickets. We were the first club in the country to introduce such a scheme because the last thing we wish to do is price anyone out of attending our games.
We have made clear right from the beginning the value of purchasing a Season Ticket, the result of which has seen a major uplift of 40%, even though we lose money by encouraging supporters to buy a Season Ticket compared to matchday sales.
Also, initiatives such as the Advance Saver greatly enhanced the value of a Season Ticket, together with heavily discounted Early Bird prices. The three-year Season Ticket was another way of saying thank you and giving something back to our supporters.
Alongside the Season Ticket strategy, our match by match pricing policy was overhauled, giving supporters flexibility determined by the category of each game. By nature of supply and demand, the more attractive games on paper are categorised at the higher end, and the reverse is true at the other.
Elsewhere, our Membership packages, which include the biggest matchday price discount ever offered at Hillsborough, have proved extremely popular and represent excellent value for money across all age groups.
We do our best, as any club in the Championship with genuine ambitions to achieve promotion must prosper without the benefits of the Premier League broadcast money.
Of course, we could reduce the prices of Season Tickets, match tickets, replica shirts and executive boxes, etc. I could make every supporter happy I’m sure by cutting all the prices in half, for example. But what would this achieve? The answer is simple: we go back to where we were for the 15 years or so before I bought our club, we sell our best players, we play our academy players who show great promise but are far from the finished product in the first team. This would be the consequence of reducing prices.
Ultimately, my desire is the same as the fans - to see Premier League football at Hillsborough and sometimes there will be pain before sunshine for both parties. We have finished sixth and fourth in my first full two years and if we are to continue to aim for promotion against the backdrop of Profitability and Sustainability, we must drive our revenue streams across all platforms.