Newcastle United are confident of agreeing reciprocal deals with ten Premier League clubs this season as they aim to lead an away ticket price revolution that will potentially save their supporters hundreds of pounds a year.
In what is a first for a Premier League club, United have struck agreements with both West Bromwich Albion and Swansea whereby they will match the prices those two clubs charge for away supporters.
That has seen costs slashed to £15 for the West Brom trip and £20 for the December 4 date with Swansea – a saving of 61% and 40% on last year’s tickets.
The club wants to end the exorbitant over-charging of Newcastle’s travelling supporters by some clubs, which peaked when Norwich charged £45 last season. In an illustration of the different pricing policies which hit Newcastle fans in the pocket, Canaries fans only paid £26 to visit St James’ Park last season.
Disappointingly, The Journal understands that the Canaries have rejected Newcastle’s offer of a reciprocal deal, which is likely to see Norwich supporters having to pay an increased ticket price this season.
That is a blow but United are confident their approach – which they see as “common sense” rather than a revolution – will spark a complete re-think among Premier League clubs, who have come in for criticism for away ticket prices in recent years.
Speaking to The Journal, the club’s finance director John Irving said: “I don’t think it’s revolutionary – it’s the right thing to do. If we can get more clubs involved it’s great for us and great for our fans travelling.
“I would say it is more common sense than revolutionary. It’s the best way for the Premier League to go. We want to fill our stadium every week, We have got 3,000 (away) seats up there – when a club brings 1,000 people we’ve got to sell another 2,000 tickets to our fans which is difficult, especially when we have to charge them exactly what we would have charged the away supporters.
“The first two clubs we asked said yes. There will be clubs that say no, for sure. I’m sure we might say no to some clubs.
“But where it works is when you’re playing on a Wednesday night or a team that is not a top four. When you’re not playing one of these teams or a local derby you still need to fill the stadium.
“I would hope ten other clubs in the Premier League will sign up to doing it. We discounted (away) tickets for 10 clubs last season, so we hope they will follow suit.”
In figures released exclusively to The Journal, Newcastle fans are revealed to be paying an average of £10 more per ticket than rival fans were charged to watch their team at St James’ Park.
That has led to the perverse situation of home crowds going up while away followings – traditionally a strong point for Newcastle – going down.
Irving said: “What our fans paid in comparison to what we charged away fans worked out as something like £300,000 difference over the course of the season.
“We have a history of travelling well and clubs are probably looking at that. But it’s beginning to fall. It’s less than it used to be and much of that is down to money.
“When you’re travelling 400 miles in a car or a coach and you’re paying £35 for a ticket, £20 for drinks – that’s a lot of money. Where they can we’d rather they were paying less and more were going because it offers us more atmosphere. But until now we’ve not been able to get other clubs to follow our model.”
Irving admits that the deal might hit the club’s gate receipts but believes the Premier League’s bumper TV deal – as well as the potential for increased crowds – will mitigate the potential losses.
“It does detract from the bottom line. But the key for us is to fill the stadium. If we fill it at a lower price, we’ll still do similar sort of money,” he added. “A lot of clubs will probably shy away from this because it will affect them but the TV deal is a consideration. It’s not totally related to the TV deal but we can probably afford to do some of these discounts and so could other clubs.”
United’s foresight has been hailed as a “significant breakthrough” by Football Supporters Federation chief executive Kevin Miles. He has urged other top-flight clubs to follow their lead.
“This is a significant breakthrough in turning the concept of affordable prices for away fans into a reality,” he said, “and Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City are to be commended for taking a lead in this area.”