For those of you not aware, Saturdays final game of the season is now sold out. Another 4000 plus crowd flocking into Kingsmeadow has been an exception during our first six years, but the excitement generated by our arrival in non-league football’s top flight will surely see this close-to-capacity sort of crowd become the norm next term, at least as far as Saturday home games are concerned.
The club are yet to announce ticket prices or season ticket details for next season yet, however Erik has been pretty open about the fact a small rise will follow promotion. Checking current Conference ticket prices, a rise to £12 will keep us as one of the cheapest in the division – a ticket in the all seated away sections at Stevenage and Oxford will set us back £17 for example. The low costs and current popularity of tickets suggests there may be a surge in season tickets overthe summer – its likely we will end up selling over 2000 for the first time.
Plus fans may have to get used to buying in advance, at least for high profile games. The way the St Albans match sold out almost unnoticed suggests Dons fans have got used to this following recent ticketed away trips. This could happen more and more next season, as the more you look for big games, the more appear. True, games against the likes of Eastbourne Borough or Salisbury City may not pull in much more than 3500 for a Saturday game, but visits from the likes of Luton, Oxford, Cambridge, even teams without a league background but a large following like Stevenage could see demand far outstrip supply.
Erik has been consistent to point out that no major development will take place while the club is in the Conference. With a capacity of 4700, would the temptation to erect even a semi-permanent structure prove irresistable if the board find themselves having to turn down requests from a thousand ticketless fans. How much would it cost, for example, to remove the roof over the Kingston Road End, and add a bank of seats raised behind the terrace as at Brightons Withdean Stadium, or several rugby clubs? Would we make our money back in two seasons? One season? The added benefit being you could carve up the Kingston Road End roof and pop it either side of the John Smith Stand, effectively covering those corners.
I suppose a lot would depend on the outcome of the Perimeter Lease, as far as I know talks are still ongoing, and I sincerely hope that Kingston Council are not using it as a ‘ransom strip’. I wonder how much thought has gone into the possibility of a temporary structure, I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this before? The thoroughness of the Stadium Working Group suggests to me it has been thought of and disregarded, perhaps due to costs, or even the possibility it could compromise the current planning permissions we do hold.
I am neither an expert on planning, nor costs of temporary seating (if I was I’d be on the Stadium Working Group!), the above shouldn’t be regarded as anything more than idle speculation. Perhaps it’s for the best if we don’t increase capacity for other reasons. In their first season in Major League Soccer, the Seattle Sounders have managed to sell out pretty much their entire home schedule at the vast Qwest Arena, mainly by restricting capacity to the 22,000 lower bowl in the 60,000 capacity stadium.
With games selling out quickly, the Sounders seem to have realised the marketing potential gained by having the hottest tickets in town, and seem reluctant to open even a few blocks of the Upper Bowl, presumably due to the increased costs of doing so. Could our club benefit from supporters turning up for less glamorous games as they couldn’t get tickets for the big games? While there is a whole world of difference between the way tickets are sold and marketed for a sporting event in the USA and a non-league game in England, have I stumbled onto a major new Dons related conspiracy theory?
No. Even if a marketing intern dreamed that one up, the chances of it actually working outside of this half-baked article are probably pretty slim. English people (Dons fans especially…) are far more likely to say ‘Sod it!’ and go home, than ‘Sod it! We couldn’t get tickets for Oxford, lets get a couple for the Tamworth game instead…’. Plus the board would be forgetting their duty as a fan owned club to make sure as many owners (actual or potential) have the opportunity to be in the stadium come matchday.
Back in reality, we’re all going to have to get used to either having a season ticket (which I haven’t yet done in the AFC era, but naturaly will for next year) or buying our tickets in advance, on the website. Perhaps I’m mistaking a short term ticket spurt caused by the urge to see a winning team, for actual long term growth. Stuck in mid-table (especially if the football doesn’t turn out to be that great…), we could see a couple of spikes when the big boys come to town, while the attendances against ‘normal’ clubs remains pretty much the same. Indeed if we play an Oxford or Cambridge on a wet Thursday night and the game’s on tv, is it even likely to sell out at all?
In these tough financial times, its going to be impossible to know whether and by how much the gates will rise. So if you aren’t a current season ticket holder, and you can afford a season ticket this year, do yourself a favour and buy one. If you can’t afford it, make sure you get your tickets well in advance next season. The only thing we can be completelycertain of next season is our own loyalty.