So Leeds United announced that ticket prices would be frozen for season ticket holders. However, there is a catch. A very significant catch.
The ticket price freeze is only for fans who renew their season tickets before 30 March. Yes, you read that correctly, 30 March.
The prices for the renewals are a little extreme as well. And while the “frozen” prices are one thing, the price has been significantly increased for new applicants AND those who purchased half-season tickets. Adults in the North and South Stands will pay £445 for renewals before 30 March, £536 for half-season ticket holders or new applicants before 30 March, and £562 for everyone after 30 March. West Stand prices are £537, £646, and £710 respectively. East Central Lower and East Upper are £537, £646, and £678 for the various categories, and the Family Stand is £398, £484, and £508.
The only price that remains the same no matter when you buy is the East Upper Wings, which is £349, but that price is for the back eight rows only.
According to the BBC’s Price of Football the most expensive season ticket at £710, compared to last year’s prices, would only be less expensive than three other clubs: Ipswich (£842), Fulham (£929), and Norwich City (£856.50). Other Yorkshire teams in the Championship have varied prices, with Hull City, Barnsley FC, and Sheffield United all cheaper, with prices of £468, £475, and £492 respectively. Sheffield Wednesday has comparable ticket prices, with the Owls charging £705 for their most expensive season ticket.
The most expensive season ticket price at Leeds would actually be more expensive than a number of teams in the Premier League, with Burnley, Huddersfield Town, Swansea City, Everton, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, and Watford all having a most expensive season ticket that is a lower price than at Leeds. Leicester City, Newcastle United, AFC Bournemouth, and Crystal Palace also have their most expensive ticket prices in the £700 range, so over half the Premier League has similar or cheaper ticket prices.
The Supporter’s Trust has issued a statement about the new ticket prices, saying in regards to the new pricing details:
The Trust notes that the proposed pricing structure creates a three-tier pricing structure that not only differentiates renewals and new applications, but further seeks to set a new price for those who were driven to buy season tickets either ahead of or during the 2017/18 season. The Trust wishes to ask the club for clarification on the decision to introduce this new pricing bracket, and why fans who chose to support the new ownership at Leeds United are paying a penalty for doing so.
The Trust has also been informed by some members that half season tickets were sold to them on the basis that they would be able to take advantage of renewal prices for the 2018/19 season. The new renewal bracket was not communicated to these supporters at the time of purchase.
Besides the prices, the other issue that fans are upset about is the early renewal date. 30 March seems very, very early to ask for season ticket renewals. For example, West Ham United usually have their season ticket renewals in May, and while Everton has a ticket renewal deadline of 1 April, their ticket drive started back in December.
Leeds fans pay some of the most expensive ticket prices in England, and for what? Andrea Radrizzani has gone on record saying that the team can’t compete financially with other clubs in the Championship. And while some of the clubs have parachute payments, none of the current top six clubs were relegated last season and two of them, Hull City and Sunderland, are at risk of being relegated again.
Leeds are getting beer budget football, with the club not spending more than £4.5 million on any one player in the transfer window. And while teams like Middlesbrough threw around a ton of money at players with not a lot to show for it, teams like Derby County, Aston Villa, and Wolverhampton have spent more money and look to be rewarded for those efforts with two of those three teams likely to be automatically promoted this season.
Champagne prices are a hard sell when the team seems to be taking great pains to not break the bank on player acquisitions. Even if it’s sensible to not break the bank on players and player salaries, it doesn’t make any sense to charge premium prices and expect fans to be happy about it, nor is it a good idea to claim that the club has to be sensible about how money is spent, and then raise ticket prices in the West Stand by £173. It just seems like an excuse to gouge fans, and the early ticket deadline seems like an attempt to give a PR spin of “freezing prices” while not allowing fans time to save up to make a significant purchase.
The demand for Leeds tickets have increased this season, and while it might be good business to increase prices, as their is a limited supply of tickets, unless Elland Road is sold out every single week, it just looks bad to raise prices even more. Football clubs are more than a balance sheet, and fans are more than customers, no matter how much income is generated by a club and its commercial activity. Ticket prices shouldn’t be about maximizing revenue, but about finding a sustainable model that can provide for the club to be stable financially while still being affordable enough for the average fan to enjoy a day out at the local football club.