It’s Wednesday evening before our second biggest home fixture of the season and we’ve still got good tickets on sale.
In the three seasons I’ve been here, that’s something I’ve not experienced. And that’s telling me yes, our start’s not been the best; yes, the ‘credit crunch’ is biting, and, maybe our sales and marketing effort is not what it should be? I’d like your views.
Only two weeks ago, I was saying almost the first line we ‘ink’ into our budget every season is 3,000 travelling Geordies. In the end, there were just over 1,400. Near to being the second line we ‘ink in’ would be a full house for United. That’s now in doubt. And that hits our budgets badly.
Ticket income is by far and away the biggest revenue stream we control. It represents over 50% of our total income after broadcast revenues. 1,000 missing fans over 19 games hits us hard; hits us to the tune of £0.5m. That’s money we’d be able to invest in the first team or Finch Farm. In very simple terms, that’s why we dedicate so much time to developing activities and initiatives that will fill the stadium.
* We’re well advanced on changing the culture of the Box Office. Turning it on its head and making it proactive and sales-focused rather than just taking bookings. Hopefully, some of you will have ‘had a call’ offering match tickets. I know also some fans react badly to the Club calling but our view is we need all fans to support and we shouldn’t be shy to ask.
* Linked to this we’re investing in technology that will allow us to make those calls on a more informed basis – e.g. to fans who came the week before, and using an up-to-date mobile phone number. Not rocket science, I know, but something not well-practiced, to date, at Everton or I suggest across football.
* We’re looking at how and where we sell tickets. Box Office opening hours are longer than they were; more and more fans are buying from the web; and, recently, we’ve launched a text-to-buy service. We’re also looking at remote kiosks and other ways to make it easier to buy.
* We want to ‘put back’ too and we’re making tickets accessible in the local community – rewarding well-performing children, supporting needy community groups and offering junior clubs and schools the chance to fund raise by purchasing Everton tickets.
Can we do more? Should we be offering low price trials to fans that’ve never been or haven’t been for a while? Should we be offering bigger blocks of perhaps heavily discounted tickets into schools? I’d like your ideas.
It’s not a straightforward decision. Clearly, we have to maximise revenue. ‘Nineteen shopping days a year’ is a bit of a cliché but has some truth. In the face of ever-wealthier competition, we have to get the most from every seat at Goodison, every time we open the gates and once the game’s gone, that revenue has gone for ever. Advisers have suggested all sorts of ways to maximise seat yields - selling tickets on the same basis as Easyjet sell plane seats - buy early at £20, later at £25, later still at £30 and on matchday at £35. Some have said reverse this on the basis that securing a fiver at ten to three is better than nothing. Even if we had the systems to make this work, I’m not sure this is how our fans would like to buy?
There’s no evidence that discounting does work, although one of the problems is it’s very hard to prove or measure. And it’s also worth remembering that our tickets remain amongst the cheapest in the Premier League. When we’ve reduced prices for the Carling Cup, it’s hard to know if it’s worked; hard to compare on a like-for-like basis one fixture with another; hard to know whether 30,000 paying £10 would have been 20,000 paying £20. We absolutely need to get a better understanding of price sensitivity.
The toughest thing for me is the impact it will have on our most loyal fans, our season ticket holders. Fans who’ve committed their loyalty and their cash up front, who’ve scrimped and saved to find £500 for a seat they’ve had for years, or, Mums and Dads who’ve worked hard to find the £190 to take their child in the Family Enclosure. How do they feel about hefty discounts? How do they feel about a classmate coming home with a free ticket? We don’t really know the answer fully enough and we’d welcome feedback.
Repeating myself, I do know that one of the most important things we can do as a Club is fill Goodison Park every week, not least for the simple reason that 1,000 more fans per game can add £500,000 into the business. For me it’s our ‘barometer of success’. After checking results on a Sunday morning, the next thing I look at is gates. Clubs doing well fill their stadia. Clubs doing really well fill their stadia when they’re not winning.
Last year, we filled Goodison – every last seat (including the bad ones) – six or seven times. Our challenge is to make that nine or ten, then fourteen or fifteen, then every game. That’s the challenge for our Box Office, Marketing and Communications teams.
And we welcome your feedback, your views on discounting, your views on how easy it is to buy a ticket, your views on us getting the message out that tickets are available, your views, as a season ticket holder about the Club offering deals to non-season ticket holders.
Drop the Club a line, below.