The other day I wrote a piece about the ongoing ownership debate.
How, to my mind, the succession had happened and the more frustrated of Norwich’s punters would just have to suck it up in terms of the owners’ lack – or otherwise – of ambition.
It prompted a welcome raft of comments; something that – ten years in – still delights me. That it is possible to have reasoned and passionate debate about the ever-changing fortunes of a much beloved football club without the bile and vitriol to be found elsewhere.
There was, however, one comment that stood out. The one that suggested putting a lower cap on the number of season ticket holders.
The more I thought about it, the more sense it made.
Time was – pre-parachute payments – when getting in as much guaranteed income as possible as early as possible was essential to calm the frayed nerves of the local bank manager.
He or she could see guaranteed income there in front of them. Ticket sales in the bag and in the bank. Job done.
And with summer finances duly secured, the managers transfer budget could be allocated accordingly.
Let’s argue that the whole financial landscape of football has changed for a yoyo club of Norwich’s ilk.
Now the TV cash is king. And whilst guaranteed season ticket is still important, it pales by comparison to the riches on offer via simple membership of the English Premier League.
The club can afford to be more creative with its season ticket policy.
Which might not be music to the ears of many.
For long years, the club was in thrall to its season ticket fan base; hour upon office hour was spent making sure everyone was seated in their desired location – where they had been for the better part of a generation.
But here’s the danger. That sense of entitlement to that seat there, year after year, can underpin the thought processes of those that do nothing but moan. Which then devalues the experience for those that just want to kick back and enjoy their Saturday afternoon.
If – and it’s still a huge if – the club did limit its season ticket base to say 12,000 then the mood could be lightened by a fresh crop of supporters sampling the occasion for the first time; encouraging a whole new generation of kids to support their local team.
Sure, they might struggle with the words of ‘On The Ball City!’ – but is that a price worth paying for opening up the match day experience to a wider fan base?
And then there would be those that didn’t renew their season tickets simply for the level of moaning they encountered; they may well return knowing their chance of being within ear shot of that particular Miserable Old Git had been substantially lessened with a new, open door policy.
So, OK, I’ve donned my Devil’s Advocate cape and mask.
But at a 12,000-type level, some 50% odd of the existing season ticket base would still have a chance of being there the next season; albeit there would be issues accommodating those that have signed up for a lifetime deal…
Given the breadth of hinterland Norwich enjoy in terms of its catchment area, I don’t see empty seats on a Premiership match day.
This isn’t Wigan with the two, big neighbours to fight against interest-wise.
This is Norwich and Norfolk. And the top half of Suffolk. And much of Cambridgeshire. And bits of Lincolnshire.
City would get bums on seats. Just not the same derrières for year after year. With all the stagnant thinking and perceptions that can breed.
I’m sure logistically adopting such a policy would be a nightmare. Well, I guess it would.
And threatening to alienate certain sections of your season ticket fan base might have repercussions.
But as the commenter noted, if you’re not enjoying the fare on offer, don’t go. Give yourself a break for a month or two. Come back refreshed and renewed; interest restored.
The Championship is not built for entertainment. It is a job that has to be done.
It’s a grind and a slog, a war of attrition en route to the riches of the English Premier League.
And if it’s not for you, then fine. Let it be for someone else – a six-year-old kid and a parent; making that first appearance at a live sporting occasion. One of those rites of passage that last a lifetime.
As I say, it’s the Devil’s Advocate speaking.
But year on year, the glass fulls versus the glass empties come to dominate the debates; rancour that invariably spills out onto the pitch as the players match the mood.
So how about opening up the occasion to those whose glass has never been filled? One way or the other.
Lighten the mood, change the atmosphere and see what happens…
John Hipkiss says
Out of the box thinking , very interesting and thought provoking article , maybe a risky strategy which I doubt would ever happen but it would certainly freshen things up.
Alan Jones says
Out with old and in with the new,sounds great to me.Although our fan base is solid,there is a back water of supporters who lack the drive to even clap at games.I have been a season ticket holder for over 15years ,and initially I had to move seats /areas to find an area where the passion /buzz was audible.I travel also to away games where you have to shout to be heard if you want to hold a conversation.WE ALL NEED A TONIC! Maybe revise how we conduct ourselfs with the battle Cry of on the ball city at the start of matches> it is quite corny to have a count down and a prompt-it should be about passion.As soon as its over it is as if the job is done <it's not it is the part of where you feel alive,hungry,passionate with a drive to push forward .Lets mix it up a it and rock carrow road.
el dingo says
I’ve had my ST for 28 years, first in the LB and latterly in the UB. I know most people around me, thoroughly enjoy the matchday experience, belt out OTBC, stand up when I shouldn’t and yell like hell at appropriate moments.
So do all the guys I know and we’re almost all in our 40s and 50s. Sure we have a few quiet grumbles, but rarely is there a boo from D Block. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and that’s for sure.
I’ve also got the benefit of sitting with a guy who was an ex-pro keeper with Reading and knows his stuff to a degree this ex-Sunday League player never could, some of the best banterists in the world in a block of four behind me, two of my good mates in front of me, have known our Stewards for years, know loads of faces in the UB bar and on and on and on.
I’m not going to vote to give all that up now am I?
I sometimes vent about how the Club is run, but ona matchday there is NO-ONE in our little group who does not get behind the team.
Perhaps if this ever happens there should be an exemption for the Barclay and the Snakepit!
Stadium redevelopment would be an obvious alternative, but I guess that’s not viable while we continue to yo-yo.
Anyway, two cracking articles in a row by Rick Waghorn and I bet this one gets loads of comments too. Good writing indeed.
Interesting article. I asked a question at the last AGM, about what we’re doing to create the next generation of supporters and the former Chief Executive’s answer was that they did want to do more, but the Season Ticket cap effectively meant that whatever they did, it wouldn’t have much impact as there literally weren’t the seats there to fill. He mentioned too that we have an ageing fan base for this reason. I’m guessing that there was perhaps a hope to solve this problem with ground expansion, had we stayed in the PL, but that seems not to be a path open to us right now.
As it is, I don’t think it would be right to boot anyone out of their seats if they want to stay, as much as the atmosphere is suffering, and what would you do with the current waiting list? However, I wonder if there’s a creative solution to be had – what about offering current season ticket holders a “holiday” – they could get the money back for a few months’ worth of games? Of course there would be a risk of not being able to sell the tickets, but could it be worth the gamble to try to get a bit of the old atmosphere back?
Graham Fuller says
Out with the old and in with the new? Sounds good to me but I’m not thinking of season ticket holders.
Its a thought provoking piece of journalism. Barclay, snakepit to be taken over by newbies then? That would make it a cauldron of noise…not.
It’s unfortunate we can’t extend the ground and then all those who are clamouring for tickets and those wishing to move away from Mr Moaner can be satisfied.
Simon Woods says
This is one the most interesting articles I’ve read on here for a long time. Of course it wouldn’t ever happen & I wouldn’t want to be a victim of it, but I think there’s real sense in the argument. I have wondered for a long time why certain people go to the match at al when it seems to give them no pleasure, ever. Maybe over familiarity is the cause, for some…
Entirely agree with the premise behind this piece – that we desperately need to get new support into the stadium. In the Premier League there are only ever a handful of very expensive tickets on casual sale (usually gobbled up by super members) which means many fans I know can only attend if they know season ticket holders that can’t. Many others think getting a ticket is too difficult or expensive, and have simply fallen out of the habit of even trying.
The upshot is an atmosphere that is only occasionally good, frequently sterile and sometimes febrile.
With the possibility of expansion looking some time off, it is time to think of some imaginative solutions. Lowering the season ticket cap to 12,000 is probably too extreme, but a slight reduction and targeting discounted seats at certain groups (e.g. 16 to 21 year olds)is worth exploring.
Nobody deserves to be told they can’t come any more because of a habit of whining. But my God we need more people in the ground with a more positive perspective and less of a sense of entitlement.
If you want my season ticket, come and take it. I’ll fight you to the death for it.
Jason Smith says
Then maybe it is time to push for safe standing? Lower-priced tickets with a higher density of supporters per square foot for younger and hopefully more passionate supporters…
a to z says
If people want a season ticket, it’s easy to get one. Join the waiting list and get one next season. there is enough turnover already every season that those who want them can get them. Having been a season ticket holder before moving abroad for a number of years, I was able to get tickets for my entire family of 4 for the next season just by joining the list when we moved to Norwich.
We have since bought the 3 year extensions and I certainly won’t be giving them up. My kids are really starting to enjoy the routine of going to the ground and watching the games and the club holds wonderful events for keeping the kids excited about the club and the players. Why would we now give up these tickets and pay more than twice the price and add the hassle of ordering tickets for every match?
Inevitably any future ground redevelopment will require a cap on season tickets for a season or more as the expensive seats are going to get turned to rubble when the City stand is knocked down, which is one hesitation I have heard mentioned in more than one article on the subject. That said, the club will struggle to justify terminating tickets for people who already have them though, whatever the scenario so are move likely to close the waiting list for a couple of years and let the cap reduce organically when people don’t renew.
My only gripe with the season tickets in that we have never been able to get our 4 tickets in a row in the area we want because there is never any ‘resetting’ of where people sit when we have turnover of season ticket holders – we have tried at the ticket office at the end of a season but have had to settle for 2+2 in nearby rows. I know people like their spaces but it makes sense to consolidate a little, from time to time.
Where would be the harm in allowing people a say in this also. Plan it ahead of time and it can be managed. The biggest issue is that they offer you seats but no chance to go and sit in them and check the view – what they need is an open day in the close season where people can go and see what seats are available and sit and pick. I’d be happy to organise it ; )
But when people complain about sitting in a quiet area and being told to sit down, etc. that is a symptom of a wider issue about seat allocations – West Ham are seeing the same thing in their stadium. We had issues when we opened the new south/Jarrold/Galway stand – what is wrong with trying to fix it?
Personally, I’d consolidate the casual tickets into specific blocks/rows in each stand and then get the season ticket holders to consolidate. I am sure there is a solution but we don’t have ‘movers and shakers’ week anymore so I think people just stay put.
Complete drivel, for all the reasons listed by others. Key has to be increasing capacity, through both safe standing and ground expansion, (and stopping gifting tickets to some of the columnists on this website), something the club should but don’t have a clear strategy for.
Hit. Nail. On. Head.
Spot on Jason.
Jason , I think that would be the answer. Great shout.
I personally would be gutted if it was made more difficult for me to retain my ST. I’m not a moaner in the slightest. 25000 of me and the place would be rocking every game regardless.
Rick’s article is interesting however you could argue his suggested model is already put into practice for home cup matches and even though the atmosphere is more positive it’s certainly never any louder.
Jason Smith says
Here’s a plan, make the corner infill between the River End and Main Stand and the Snakepit safe standing areas. Younger fans could start in the infill (a kind of “nursery” for harcdcore fans) before moving around to the Snakepit when they feel they are ready to replace Snakepitters who have reached an age where their back has started playing up when they stand for extended periods…
General Melchett says
Interesting idea, but I’m not sure a workable one. We do have a derth of available tickets to casual supporters and this in turn will limit new fans from attending. But how do you reduce an allocation of season tickets and what of those already on a waiting list? Last in first out? Not what you want because these are the fresher/newer fans supposedly breathing new life in. The first in? After 40 years of paying into the clubs coffers I would argue these maybe ammoungst the most passionate and least deserving to be turfed out. there is no guarantee that the elder statesmen are those who complain the most or sing the least even if time has dampened some of their furvour.
The least unfair way would be to cut the season ticket list off at it’s current point, then once they all have their ST any that do not renew represent a reduced ST allocation to a target for example 18000. This would take years though.
You could accelerate it slightly by bringing any older age or long term support concessions into line with normal prices, harsh but in an era where a youngster cannot hope to have retirement incomes of the Baby boomers perhaps fair. A young fan is an investment for the long term success of the club and should maybe be the only group worthy of concession.
None of this could solve current issues and would be no sort of pallitable option.
i still think we should be looking as other clubs have to have a reshuffle. Identify through surveying the fans and even recording them who the main singers are and bring in a noisy block or two. (I’d introduce a wingey, missarable, not sure why they bother section and plonk it in the upper riverend – actually has that been done already?) This could work. For one you could more easily juggle the contents of the LB within itself without too many noses being put too far out of joint and those in a grey area of nearly singy enough can be tacked on the side to hopefully spread from an all singing corner.
I’ve sat in the all of the stands over the years and frankly it just isn’t conducive to singing as a lone voice in the Riverend, South (Parts of)or most of the City stand. How you tackle those three is another thing entirely! (Not sure even Ethan Hunt could get them all singing!)
Stewart Lewis says
Thought-provoking article, as the comments show.
I can see the reasoning and wish it were that simple. But two rather big reservations. Unless we can categorise everyone on a Moaning Index (an interesting thought in several ways), then reducing the number of STs will be a blunt instrument – a move as likely to penalise fans like El Dingo as the ones we’d happily lose.
And do we have enough enthusiastic potential new fans to take up the slack? Hmmm…
Jason (9) and others – wait a minute. Safe Standing is a major debate in its own right, but just to point out that – for the foreseeable future – it does NOT increase capacity.
Look forward to reading more comments!
Cosmo P. says
The safe standing issue has been much debated on this site. Whether such a solution would improve atmosphere is debatable but is not at the club’s discretion to try anyway. It would require that part of the Football Spectators Act of 1989 to be repealed at Westminster for the top 2 tiers.
I think they’ve got enough on their plate with Brexit for now. Good luck with that one!
a to z says
I don’t agree there are a lack of tickets anyway. Most games this season have gone to general sale and average gate is probably a few hundred off capacity – the Wigan game had less than 26,000 in attendance.
The latter point is important because I felt the atmosphere was better in the Wigan game than the Cardiff game (from where I was sat at least).
Seems to be that if the boys are doing it on the pitch, the atmosphere tends to be better. I don’t agree that ‘new’ fans or more fans will suddenly change that.
RE: Safe standing; it would be great for those that want it but there should accordingly be a stronger clamping down on people standing elsewhere. Most people accept the reverse domino effect at a corner if you are sat in certain parts of the ground but, especially as I have kids who end up not being able to see, those that stand outside of the LB and SP are, I feel, just being selfish to those around them.
i can remember an evening game against Birmingham, captained by an ancient Steve Bruce, attended by less than 9000 people. Perhaps you can understand why this suggestion angers me so much. I dint notice anybody after my seat that night. Perhaps the club should look at some sort of temporary structure in front of that wretched monstrosity in the corner between the Barclay and the jarrolds stands to allow for more bums on seats and some new blood if it’s deemed necessary. I attend the game with the next generation my family and I’m proud to do so. I’m sure if the club tried this course of action and removed season tickets from supporters with no good reason there would be a good case for legal action, which I for one would pursue.
Jim Davies says
I first got my season ticket when we were standing in the river end, and I have been supporting the club sine 1957. When they introduced seating into the river end, I got a seat in the area where I always stood. I found that most of the people seated near me were those who had also stood there, and I’ve made many friends who come back year after year, a real eclectic group, and I wouldn’t want to sit anywhere else. I also wouldn’t want to give up my ticket to a “casual”, who may or may not come on a regular basis. Over the years my wife, son-in-law and three of my grand-children have also managed to get season tickets (although not in my area), so it is possible for new blood to roll through the system.
Unless or until, the ground is expanded, I don’t see the current system changing. If I was forced to give up my ticket, I would probably not bother trying to get a casual ticket. The waiting list works, as stated by A to Z (10), and evidenced by my own family. For those who just want to go to a football match, I know a ground not too far away with plenty of empty seats!
Rick Waghorn says
Darren 11… “gifting tickets to certain columnists on this website”
Don’t be coy – who?
el dingo says
I said a good article would attract good comments – and I wasn’t wrong:-)
As #14 Jason says: Safe standing I would go for tbh – I’d love it. But it’s a bit risky even in these more enlightened days. I’m still up for it though, even at 58.
I’d NEVER give up my ST, and I don’t think I’m alone on that one.
Anyway, a great read again: keep them coming.
Hey Rick, thanks for taking my small stream of conciousness and running with it! It’s interesting to see it laid out and the responses to it. Plenty of good debate – that’s what’s great about this site.
Dave H says
I commented on a previous article that now that I am restricted to a handful of away games and one trip to CR a season, I certainly appreciate watching Norwich games a bit more than when I had a season ticket.
Jim (20), perhaps I’m reading too much into the use of the word ‘casual’ and the general tone of your comment but just to point out that there are a multitude of factors which can prevent people from having a season ticket. It doesn’t automatically follow that being a season ticket holder makes someone a better fan and that anyone who isn’t is ‘casual’. It’s that type of arrogance which brings the need for articles such as this.
Jim Davies says
Dave H (24) I’m sorry if I offended you, but you’re not the type of supporter I meant by “casual”, and in no way did I mean to imply that a season ticket holder is a “better supporter” or a more loyal one. My main point was that the group of people I sit near is one that I would miss if I was forced to give up my ticket. I see this scheme as a way in which the club can only alienate a proportion of it’s fan base – if it’s not me this time, will my turn to miss out be next? The only way to satisfy the whole fan base is to increase the size of the stadium until its capacity exceeds the numbers who want to attend (and we all know the criteria for that to happen).
Dave H says
Sorry Jim, I clearly was reading too much into it!
I don’t think this suggestion would happen, but if it did, it could only be staggered out over the course of a few years to avoid alienating fans. While I’d welcome a increase in size of the stadium, I’d imagine they’d have to do something similar while parts of the ground are out of action due to the building work.
Won’t & shouldnt happen. It’s a Question of supply & demand , as in any buisiness . If the supply is greater than the demand there are 2 options 1/ Control the demand by putting up prices ( this has has been slowly happening , not just with admission prices , but with the whole match day package of catering etc ) 2/ Increase supply. Opportunities have been missed in the past to significantly increase capacity not just by short sighted policy , but by the lack of funding. Surely the question of funding is not such an issue today , with increased revenues from TV money & sponsors & historicly low interest rates. The debate on safe standing will continue , but that should not be used as excuse to do nothing. Given Norwich has no serious competition for top grade football I suggest we could do with a capacity of 33-35 thousand. This could be achieved by redeveloping the totally inadequate Main Stand , probably for the cost of a couple of Winkles or Neismiths.
Not only would there be increased ticket revenue , but new , & hopefully younger , fans would have access to live football at Carrow Road ensuring a healthy future for our club. UOTBC
Richard Garratt says
I’d love to be able to get a ticket when I want, but fear that reducing the tickets would effect the club’s (as a business) ability to plan ahead and would make them even more conservative and cautious in their transfer dealings. I would like to see more seats, more season tickets rather than reducing the number of season tickets.