Saints Talk Sense About Stadium Expansion
Thursday, 18th Sep 2014 11:23
Saints have been talking to the Daily Echo about their plans for St Mary's and they seem to be talking sense rather than brash promises.
The Daily Echo headline is "Saints keen on stadium expansion" although reading the story it actually is more "Saints talk sense about stadium expansion" rather than making big statements about adding extra seats Ralph Krueger has said that at the moment Saints are comfortable in the current stadium set up.
He has however laid down firm guidelines about what would be needed before Saints started to consider expanding the ground.
“Within the stadium structure, I think we’re happy,” he said.
“Once we have no seats empty for a multiple row of games we’d love to look at expansion, but we’re still fighting to make sure the seats are filled every game.
“We’re sure we have a product where that’s going to be happening on a regular basis, but within the building itself we’re looking at opportunities of developing stronger segments, also in the restaurants and the VIP sections and so on.”
These are sensible words from Krueger, but the ball now is very much in Saints court, prices increased greatly with promotion to the Premier and the new board admittedly in its early days, in advisedly increased prices both for individual tickets and season tickets.
This increase along with the turmoil of the summer led to far less season tickets being sold than the previous season and a big season ticket base is the key to a healthy average attendance.
In 2012/13 the average for our first season back in the top flight was 30,874, last season that reduced to 30,212 and so far this season we have averaged 28,638 for our two league fixtures, just over 1,500 down on last seasons average.
This isnt all doom and gloom as the opening two fixtures with respect to the two teams involved were not the most attractive, last season our opening two games saw an average of 29,195, so given the turmoil of the summer the actual drop in fans has not been massive and with the increased excitement of recent weeks that figure could be pushed up a little with the next game.
The major problem i see it for Saints is attracting supporters back, many fans who were season ticket holders prior to the Premier League promotion have stopped going because of cost and are watching the games in one of the many pubs around the City that put on the games with a feed from foreign sattellite tv stations, this threat should not e taken lightly, when Saints play at home there could be several thousand watching the game in this way all within a few miles radius of the stadium itself.
The issue here is cost, when you are looking at paying £34 or more for a ticket to watch unattractive teams play it is a lot of money when you can watch it in the pub for free and even after a few drinks still have £20 in your pocket from what you would have spent on a match ticket alone.
But Koeman is talking sense and he is right when he says that before we talk of increasing capacity we have to have the demand there for more than just the visit of a few big clubs, we need to create a culture of going week in week out, offer cheaper season tickets that do give substancial savings on the cost of buying tickets individually, statistics show that a season ticket holder will not only guarantee you a figure but is more likely to spend money on merchandise and food and drink etc.
Someone who did not renew his season ticket in the summer will probably this year pick and choose his games, he is likely to go to less than a dozen games and spend about £400 in buying tickets, that being the case you would be better in the long run given the extra financial peripherals to sell him a season ticket for £550, an extra £150 is better than an empty seat for 7 games.
So Saints job is to do what many football clubs have not yet woken to, that is realising that football supporters are not cash cows to be milked, indeed over the last few season tickets have gone up each season, just because the club could do so, like other clubs just seeing how far they can go before they start to lose fans, it could be said that price has been reached.
Saints now need to put in place measures that attract fans back and keep them going wek out, Brighton despite being in the Championship increased their average last year by over 1,000 to 27,283, they did so by not only making season tickets cheap but making them affordable by 12 monthly payment plans etc, we need to be looking at doing this rather than asking fans to stump up large sums in one go.
We need to make the match day experience more atttractive although in fairness Saints have already had a few initiatives in this area.
Some fans will be disappointed in Krueger's words they will point to the half baked plans put forward over the past two years, plans which never really gave any reasoning either how the seats would be filled let alone funded, Krueger has been very open and transparent here, he has put the ball in the fans court, fill the sets we have and then we can consider more !
Now the ball has to go back into his court, make it easier financially for the supporters to come, build our hard core base back up and create the culture that makes going to St Mary's a given rather than an option.
Photo: Action Images
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