A selection of Fans’ Parliament members were recently invited to Molineux to meet club officials as a consultation process about the Early Bird scheme for the 2013/14 season.
The minutes are printed below.
Matt Grayson, Head of Marketing & Communications, welcomed a group of Wolves Fans Parliament members to Molineux for a meeting aimed at discussing pricing and strategies relating to the club’s Early bird plans for 2013-14.
Matt, who was joined by Head of Ticketing & Membership Lynne O’Reardon, Marketing Manager, Laura Price and Supporter Liaison Officer Paul Richards, started by saying the club recognised that they had had an ‘horrific’ 12 months with only four League games won at home in that time.
He reminded those present that there had been an Early Bird price freeze last year from 12 months earlier and asked whether £16 behind the goals was considered to be an appropriate starting price. Lynne O’Reardon asked whether fans were more tempted by thinking they were in effect having ‘free’ games within the price of a season ticket. Clive Smith said he felt the monetary comparison was best as he spends £28 to get in at some away games, so paying £16 at Wolves seemed ‘very good value.’ Regarding the ‘free’ games, Lesley Matile said: “Most fans miss a few games anyway.”
When Lynne asked whether the club had the right price point, Greg Asbury said: “You’ve got to look at reducing because that was for the Premier League.” Hilary Clews said consideration should be given to a two-tier system whereby those who renewed by, say, the middle of March, might pay £25 less than last year. Then after mid-March, it could be the same.
The question was asked whether reverting back to 2008-09 prices was logical (as that was the last time Wolves were in the Championship before this season). Greg reiterated that he still doubted whether those levels were enough of an incentive to get fans back. Matt said the club had to be wary of decreasing the revenue from Early Bird by too much as other ‘jaws,’ such as TV income and parachute money, were closing.
Tom Bason suggested that a voucher for drinks or for use in the club shop might be included in the cost of a season ticket and Hilary Clews said that while £25 either way may not see a big amount, it added up to £100 for a lot of households. Lynne asked how high the voucher might have to be to be well received and wondered whether £10 may be seen as a derisory amount.
Lesley Matile enquired whether admission to some cup ties could be included in the cost of a season ticket but Lynne said that was complicated by the gate-share factor. And she pointed out that clubs weren’t guaranteed to get a home tie in a season – and that if they do, it might be a game against someone like Manchester United in the fifth round, when the club would be understandably reluctant to be effectively letting lots of fans in free.
Ian Smith wondered whether 10% could be shaved off what the prices were in 2008-09. Matt Grayson remarked that VAT had increased in that time. Hilary said she thought if there was not a two-tier system, the date for renewals needed to be put back, maybe to the end of March rather than the middle, or even well into April. Tom Bason said it shouldn’t be scheduled too late because he didn’t like paying early on what others did much later. Hilary said she thought there should be a stepped approach whereby fans who bought earlier paid less. Greg and Lesley both said the club needed to try to get more season ticket holders in. Hilary said the fans had to be convinced anyway that the players were giving 100%.
Matt asked those present whether they thought more fans would come if the prices were dropped. Hilary said it was more about keeping those fans that came now and then hopefully building up numbers. Matt, in summarising, said the general mood seemed to be in favour of a 2008-09 Championship season price level, with a gesture on top of that and the whole structure possibly in steps. Ian Smith went a step further and said the booking fee rankled because it seemed to be a charge for nothing. He asked whether it could be scrapped and found support from Dave Benton, who said: “I’ve always found the booking fee an issue. Why are we being charged? It’s a nonsense. Put the price up and be done with it.” Clive Smith said he had to multiply the booking fee by three in his household, so it seemed like £18 for nothing. Lynne O’Reardon explained that the fee was £6 on a season ticket and £1.50 on a match ticket.
Matt moved on to the matter of communication and asked the meeting what tone they thought should be set in any correspondence. “We don’t want to patronise and be anything other than honest,” he said. Dave Benton replied: “For years, I’ve heard Early Bird is a reward for loyalty. That narks me. It’s for cash flow. It was then used as a stick with fans being told they would be hit by a high price in the summer. It’s a threat.” But Lesley Matile said if fans got in early, they secured a good deal and it didn’t feel like a stick.
Tom Bason said he had heard of a campaign in Spain that reminded fans that their club might regularly lose to Real Madrid but they stayed as fans and they went to matches because it was in their blood. Matt checked that this meant it was a call for supporters to ‘Stick with us through thick and thin.’ Ian Smith said Steve Morgan should have his name on any correspondence and Lynne asked whether the manager should be on it. Hilary Clews said getting the manager on the pitch to make an appeal might be effective. “They would shut up and listen to him,” she said. Greg Asbury proposed a tone of: “We’re all in this together. Come on...... let’s get Molineux rocking. Let’s kick on from here.” Matt felt the use of the word ‘sorry’ for recent disappointments might be important and Lesley said she would like any communication to include the sentiment: “We need you and value you. Before the demand comes a connection.” Laura Price said the matter wasn’t just one of revenue but of getting people into the ground as well.
Dave Benton expressed the view that not many supporters attended 23 games. “With matches on Thursday night and Friday night, people can’t get to them all,” he said. “And a lot of people are falling out of love with it.” Lynne reminded the meeting that the club had operated a ‘Recommend a friend’ scheme at the early-bird window in 2007-08. “It was successful and sold us about 1,800 seats,” she said. “I’ve wanted to address loyalty of fans for a long while and offer something as a bonus for the (unbroken) longevity of season ticket holders; as in a no-claims arrangement on a policy.” Greg Asbury had said he doubted whether his father was going to renew for next season but followed up by saying he thought such a bonus might make a difference to him. Lesley said the club should think of rewarding fans by allowing them access to an area they don’t normally see. “Coming to events, even like this meeting, is good for me because it gets me in different parts of the ground,” she said. “And these don’t cost the club money. You’re talking about emotion…..what could be more emotional for a fan, for example, than being allowed to go round the changing rooms or the training ground?” Lynne said vouchers for the club shop, the museum or for hospitality, or even towards the cost of the following year’s renewal, were other possibilities – because they kept money in the club.
Clive Smith asked if an invitation to a forum could be considered. Tom Bason said he had really enjoyed the Stale Solbakken one. Lynne said a similar evening with Dean Saunders would be planned as well when possible. Lesley said that would be quite attractive. Tom Bason said any access fans were allowed at the training ground, as well as Molineux, would be appreciated also.
To an observation from Dave Benton that the mood at the moment was one of apathy, Matt Grayson asked whether the goings-on in the transfer window year by year affected the members’ thoughts on early-bird renewals. Tom said: “Yes, if it’s a question of signing a player we get excited about.” Clive Smith said that if fans thought the club were apathetic, they would also be apathetic. Greg Asbury said he would favour loaning a couple of young Premier League players while Hilary Clews said she would prefer the club to just get the best out of what they had.
Matt asked whether the meeting agreed the early-bird should be less about the players and more about the fans. Dave Benton responded: “I want to think they value us. We feel like customers, not supporters. I don’t feel valued. And we need to trust them.” Lesley Matile said she believed fans needed to feel loved. Hilary said players should have more accountability.
Dave suggested that the correspondence regarding early-bird renewals might come from Steve Bull but Matt said: “Does that suggest we’re hiding behind Bully when we ought to be accountable ourselves?” Lesley said a secondary piece from Bully might work and Tom Bason felt Jody Craddock might be seen as a good players’ representative.