The Story Behind the 'Hard Pill' Villa Ticket Price Rises and the Club's Twin Ambition
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The hot topic at the moment is the recent Villa season ticket price rises, which I can give you a bit of a behind-the-scenes info about below and give you an insight to how the Villa Fan Consultation Group at least averted some unsavoury price increases.
There’s also a bit on how the club sees the bigger picture, in terms of the ultimate aim of breaking into the Premier League Top Six, and a step you can take to make the club think about the atmosphere at an expanded and more gentrified Villa Park.
Please add any questions you may have on any of the topics discussed in the comments section, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Give the newsletter a ‘like’ too, if you found it useful.
Hard Pill Price Rise
As I stated in the last edition of wtf, during the recent Villa Fan Consultation Group meeting with Villa CEO Christian Purslow, I was privy to the club’s report on the club’s last 10 years of ticketing prices and the various benchmarks it was compared to.
After three seasons in the Championship and a season-plus period of no gate receipts due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was inevitable that ticket prices were going to rise.
The benchmarking against the rest of the Premier League club prices, saw Villa in the bottom three of several pricing categories. Those three seasons in the Championship had certainly slowed prices down in terms of a Premier League context.
When you have this scenario, coupled with a season ticket waiting list that currently sits at 24,000, it was clear that the club were going to be embolden to take the opportunity of using this 10-year report for a hard reset on pricing Villa Park.
Unfortunately, the rumour of a 30% rise that preceded the meeting had set up a situation where the club’s 10% rise across the board was greeted with relief, rather than being questioned by the fanbase at large.
I wrote in the previous wtf newsletter, the FCG had sent the club a statement regarding their concern at some supporters being hit with the compounding effect of triple price rises - 10% across the board, zone change increases and concession reductions.
I personally did the maths on a couple of examples. For example, Under-21 supporters in the Lower North were on schedule to receive a 250% price rise, while a 66-year-old+ supporters in the middle Lower Holte would be looking at a 200% rise.
Eye-popping percentage rises that were always going to be seriously rotten PR for the club.
Due to these findings and the statement, the club called a meeting the evening prior to their price announcement on Wednesday.
They agreed that the compounding effect needed addressing and announced they had capped any potential rise to a 50% max.
There are potentially around 1,600 fans that this applies to.
Following the FCG’s feedback, we have addressed any anomalies where fans may see excessive price increases due to compound effects from concessions, zoning and general pricing. In these cases we have introduced a cap on these fans’ renewal price. They will be contacted directly and their price will be adjusted accordingly when renewing online.
I’ve also noticed from what the club have since published, that supporters aged 66+ looked to have benefited from the FCG highlighting this issue, as the initial proposed rejigged concession rate for them had been reduced considerably lower than the 35% average that was published yesterday.
We have also reviewed our over-65 pricing and have increased the concession age of this category from 65 to 66 in line with government changes to retirement and pension ages, bringing the level of discount to the Premier League average of 35%.
In my opinion, if you’re going to restructure the pricing system (zones etc) in the current economic climate, maybe it’s better to do it across two or three seasons (including a softer across-the-board rise than 10%), rather than a single season whammy, that will financially be a hard pill to swallow for some.
Still, at least the club had listened to the FCG when it came to some of the more extreme proposed price increases.
Speaking of listening…
Secondary Market U-Turn
As reported in the first edition of wtf, you may recall that the club were considering a sponsorship deal with Seat Unique to take over and run the resale of Villa tickets, as Viagogo and Seatwave had done in recent partnerships.
Such outsourcing is controversial as it leads to a situation where fans can exploit their fellow fans on resale prices.
Currently, Villa do ticket reselling in-house, but supporters only receive 80% of their season ticket price after it’s divided by 19, which is way below the face value of the general admission price of the ticket (almost 50% in some cases).
The club informed the FCG group that after the feedback from the group in the meeting regarding the proposed Seat Unique deal, they had decided not to go ahead with it.
I’d venture that the since the club have increased season ticket prices on such a major scale, that they should increase the % amount that season ticket holders can get back if they sell-on individual games (if they can't make the fixture) through the club’s in-house resale system.
Considering the constant late notice nature of fixture time and date changes for TV, it's the least they can do.
Atmos - Have Your Say
In other news, if you haven’t already, do take the chance of putting forward your views on the expansion of Villa Park via the club’s survey. The club have received over 10,000 surveys back so far and will only keep it open a few more days.
It might be a good opportunity to mention something about the actual potential atmosphere in the ground.
The increased gentrification of football stadiums (including price increases!) tends to lead to the ‘library effect’ ala The Emirates and The Etihad.
This is something that needs to be considered before the rebuild, rather than after it’s done, so it would be worth flagging it in the survey.
The Club’s Twin Ambition
For some big picture insight into where Villa currently sit…
“To be the best of the rest” is very much Aston Villa’s immediate objective when it comes to the Premier League’s current hierarchy, according to what Villa CEO Christian Purslow, said, when he last met the Villa Fan Consultation Group.
In short, that’s the spot behind Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs and Arsenal.
That goal is very much the first part of the owner’s ambition. Once/if obtained, then the focus would be very much a case of the club's hierarchy sitting down and looking at a strategy to then break the current Top Six status quo.
Obviously, the pressure of trying to compete at that level is a situation fraught with financial risk, and as Purslow hinted at, across the various topics he addressed, the clubs in power now purposely make it harder for other teams to compete.
Purslow welcomed the upcoming major strategic review of the FFP rules, but the level of effectiveness it could possibly operate at to level the playing field is questionable.
Obviously in sports in the USA, the idea of wage caps and drafts aim to level the playing field to keep the sporting element alive and kicking.
That horse may have already bolted in terms of being able to introduce such wage caps to English football. It should have been done back when the Premier League was initially founded out of the old Division One.
The idea of limiting a squad’s wages to a % of the total revenue has been long mooted. A current ballpark suggestion is 70%, which Purslow insists Villa currently fall under.
In Martin O’Neill’s final season with the club, Villa’s wage bill was 90% of their revenue, which was unsustainable and a clue to why Randy Lerner started to tighten the purse strings.
In that same season, Manchester City’s wage bill was 114% of their revenue, so you see already how ‘sporting’ that club’s approach had been from an early stage.
Currently, the top six club’s revenue is roughly between £400m to £600m each, while next year, Villa are projected to come in at around the £200m mark. So that gives you a insight into the huge obstacle they face in bridging the gap, if Villa are restricted in their comparative spend.
The current FFP rules have done nothing more than locked in and secured the status quo of clubs. And those who have blatantly broken it, mentioning no names, have constantly got away with it.
A wage cap rule could be used by the Top Six teams to try and peg Newcastle back in terms of their potential to spend freely now they are backed by a sovereign wealth fund (whatever the Premier League say about its status).
Purslow, like many Premier League CEO’s, was certainly not happy with how the Premier League dealt so limply with the Newcastle United takeover situation.
Chelsea (with their alleged laundering of a Russian Oligarch’s money), Manchester City’s perpetual flaunting of FFP (as persistently exposed by De Spiegel) and now the threat of Newcastle United’s spending power, have all warped the Premier League picture, and make it harder for Villa to break the top tier.
If the Premier League was a poker game, you’d walk away from the table, because the game is so obviously rigged.
Now, with Villa’s current spending potential, academy and first team squad, the potential to be the ‘best of the rest’ is there, but it looks like we may have to pray for a Leicester City-like perfect storm miracle to move-on from there.