I had a frustrating 15 minute chat with a stranger at a corporate event Thursday night, a “Celtic fan” who told me that the defeat to Morton was not a problem, that he wasn’t fussed about domestic performances and that Champions League is all that matters. I asked if he, as a season book holder, was happy watching sub standard performances. He informed me that he wasn’t a season book holder and only went along to Champions League games. Apart from wanting to shout (Your opinion on domestic football doesn’t F’n count!) I pointed out that without effort and application in domestic fixtures people wouldn’t buy season books. Without season book revenue we’d have a massive black hole in finances. With such a massive black hole we’d have to sell even more players. Selling even more players meant NO Champions League football – “Aye I suppose so…”
What this frustrating chat did highlight was the challenge our board face matching the requirements of those of us who attend every week and expect value for money for our domestic tickets and those who have no interest in domestic football whilst we have no competition. It is also a challenge for the board to deal with this in a fair manner, matching the conflicting issue of some supporters being selective because they just want to attend big games, and those who are selective because modern football is very expensive due to the massive wage inflation of the last 20 years.
What my chat confirmed, along with Gumtree and Ebay ticket sales for our Champions League programme, is that there are thousands of fans that would probably value their 3-match Champions League package ON A PAR with 20 home domestic games. The £100 season book reduction was an excellent initiative by Celtic but since only success in domestic football will provide the Champions League thrill I believe that for the next 5 years at least, the board need to adopt a far more radical pricing strategy.
Ticketing is perhaps one of the more contentious parts of the club business. When you have a ticket and it’s at the right price, their system is great. When it’s too expensive or you don’t get a ticket – it’s crap. So how do the board marry up all these conflicting demands?
As I say, there is no one size fits all solution and there are no doubt far more sophisticated pricing strategies but I would suggest that there may be some key points the board can take advantage of. First up is obviously that whatever system is introduced ALL competing demands require maximum income to generate maximum expenditure on the team. That brings the first challenge for a dynamic pricing policy. As Kilmarnock have demonstrated, the weekly customer is the bedrock of financial planning and therefore no targeted marketing can have ticketing undercut the season book holder.
First Up – The Basic Ticket
The reduction of £100 initiative was excellent so I would try to keep it for this next 5 years, until competition and the economy start to return. If this makes the average season book £400, let’s have that for starters.
Season Book + Europe
It’s a gamble, but many like a win some lose some offer, so I’d propose a Season Book + European games to Christmas, package for £475. Obviously if Celtic blow it, the club win big. If the club semi-blow it, they probably win from extra Europa league sales. If the club hit the big time I as a season book holder win because of the changes I’d make to CL packages to follow.
Champions league to Season Book Holders
For those who bought the basic ticket I’d offer the three match package at £90. That may seem like only a little saving on the Season+ Europe bunch, but they also get 1-2 qualifiers chucked in. The basic ticket would be as per this season. First qualifier only.
Champions league Only
Yes from my chat there are many for whom the only reason to come to Celtic Park is CL football. Well I’d offer a CL ticket which includes options on last 16 and last 8 tickets, and I’d whack the price up here to keep ticket prices low for the guys who’s weekly attendance keeps the lights on. I’d sell these 3 match season tickets at £150.
Sell Up Tickets
There are many other things that can be done to offer a more dynamic pricing strategy at Celtic Park, but one thing I’d really like is for it to be easier for the ordinary season book holders to upgrade to corporate on a per match basis, especially since it’s obvious to see corporate has taken a massive hit these past 18 months. I’ll give just one small example.
At the Morton game Celtic reduced my match ticket to £12. They also reduced the lowest corporate seat to circa £35. Once a year, going there with my 71 year old Dad would be a treat, but whilst a one off treat is priced at £35, as someone on the home ticket scheme it costs me £47. I am being penalised for being one of the guys who keeps the lights on. When I enquired, there was no co-ordination between the two departments, I (the customer) would have to do ALL the legwork. I was told to call the ticket office and cancel myself from home ticket scheme ASAP, before the ticket was posted and before the hospitality rate and availability was confirmed. Then purchase hospitality (once available), then reinstate myself on the home ticket scheme. No-one could tell me whether this would impact on my purchase record (if) we got to the final. We have such games whenever drawn in the cup but also during the winter (Dec/Jan) period for a home game against a lesser diddy team. Should it not be an automatic system to offer an easy transfer to season book holders? After all they’re already paying customers. Small upsell to existing customers is easier than selling to new ones!
Pricing is tricky and the £100 was a great offer. The problem I can see for the club is the great wailing and gnashing of teeth we’ll see when the £100 is reinstated. For that reason far more imaginative and far more dynamic pricing needs to help keep the masses going for the lesser games, even if the football division aren’t trying.