Season tickets miss the bigger picture

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Tom Dulat/Getty ImagesAn increase in the cost of season tickets for adults won't be of any help to Everton supporters.

It is that time of year again. Everton released season ticket details for the forthcoming campaign on Thursday, and it seems that the date gets earlier with each passing season. Continue at this rate and renewal forms will be accompanying Christmas cards through supporters' letterboxes.

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The highlight of the announcement is a club prioritising the fans of the future, while offering a more affordable method of purchase through a new direct debit setup. These are two sound, shrewd moves, but the club have missed the bigger picture in other regards.

Introduced in 2012-13, the Under-11s ticket remains the standout aspect of these yearly releases. The fans of tomorrow can watch their heroes for 95 pounds a season -- this price is unchanged since its creation -- which equates to a fantastic price of five pounds per game.

The club has also frozen the Under-16s ticket prices. Secondary school pupils attending Goodison can do so for either 149 pounds or 199 pounds, depending on the stand. This equates to either 7.84 pounds per game in the Family Enclosure or 10.47 pounds in any other stand. Both represent extremely good value.

There are also pleasing steps on the payment front, ensuring fans can spread the cost over a number of months. Adding to the existing nine-month interest free Everton MasterCard option, there is the opportunity to pay via Direct Debit in up to ten monthly instalments.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the safeguarding of younger supporters and the additional payment option, the club have fallen short by increasing prices for adults and concessions. After three years without increase beforehand, the adult and concession tickets will rise for the third successive season in 2014-15.

Speaking to the official club website, chief executive Robert Elstone said, "The combination of exciting football, great results and a fair pricing policy means we are seeing more full houses, record half season ticket sales and a healthy increase in average attendance."

When considering the above information -- more full houses, record ticket sales, and an increase in attendance -- any price hike, however minuscule, continues to undermine positives elsewhere.

Though the increases are small, with most equating to an extra pound per game, it is the principal that applies in this instance. There is no valid justification, financial or otherwise, for any increases being made.

Season tickets totalled 23,300 this season, up 32% on the previous year, and that total rose further in January thanks to a club-record 1,400 half-season ticket sales. As such, match-day revenue is in fine health at present, which only lends added weight to the case against price changes.

Regarding match-day turnover, consider the club accounts. Everton netted 17,486,000 pounds from their supporters last season -- gate receipts and programme sales. Outside of broadcasting, supporters are the biggest revenue source for the club.

Discounting TV and the supporters, the club generated a total of 13,212,000 pounds from all other avenues of turnover. This is comprised of catering, sponsorship, advertising, merchandise, and other commercial activities.

Subsequently, these figures suggest the Goodison hierarchy should look to improve upon the club's commercial performance, which clearly falls short for a club of this stature, instead of milking extra cash from their loyal fanbase.

After all, football is richer than ever: Everton recorded record turnover this year. Furthermore, the turnover will increase again, when the next accounts become available in 2015, thanks to the sales of Marouane Fellaini and Victor Anichebe, and the first instalment of the astronomical TV deal.

With the cost of living continuing to rise, and the average fan on the street without a pay rise in years, the decision to sanction anything other than a price freeze for the older supporters feels like a kick in the teeth.

The other decisions taken on season tickets are welcome, showing a clear strategy and thought process. However, those same traits appear absent when surveying the rise in prices. Prioritising the younger generation should not be at the expense of those who have poured their money into the club for years.

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