Date:Sunday March 26 2006
There has been a contrast at Burnley football Club in recent months. Off the pitch, progress is being made, the club is in its strongest financial position for some time, manager Steve Cotterill has committed himself to the club until 2010, and three new players have entered the Turf Moor door in the last two weeks. On the pitch however, the televised win over Norwich was only our second of 2006. The win suggests that we may at last be returning to form at the critical point of the season. Not only critical to silence slim relegation fears, but critical also because next season's season tickets are on sale. The bread and butter of any club, and the most important income source, particularly for a club of Burnley's stature in a town of Burnley's size. With all this in consideration, I met Clarets CE Dave Edmundson to find out more about the new package, and the clubs ambitions both on and off the pitch.
Ambition seems a fitting word to use for Dave, he seems happy, even excited when describing the package for next season's season tickets, a package that has clearly seen some revisions.
'I think it is stronger because it is at last addressing the inconsistencies that have been a problem, probably even before my time. The free match allocations were less in some stands than they were in others, so what we have done is actually ensured that we have a far more fair and consistent package that gives five free matches for the early bird buying of season tickets, and what we have done is frozen the prices in the Jimmy McIlroy stand to try and ensure that there are areas of the ground that are a bit more price sensitive than others. For the Jimmy McIlroy stand, we are trying to promote as a family orientated stand with lots of activities for children, to try and increase the matchday atmosphere.'
Five free matches anywhere in the ground seems fair, when last seasons had less free games in certain stands. Problem addressed. 18 games for the price of 23 also seems competitve when compared with other teams. Our top adult seats, North Upper and Bob Lord are at £379. A seat in Hull City's West Stand is at £435.
There seems to be plans for the Jimmy Mc upper, with the term Family Stand to be more apparent, encouraging family activities and younger attendees.
'I think itís a new part of the package. We have always had a family stand, but itís actually been a bit of lip service. We want to try and encourage more families to come. Itís the future of the football club, which is really through the kids. The more we can excite them, generally you find that the kids will bring along their parents and grandparents, so in many ways you are uplifting the potential amount of fans by focusing on the children. The package as a unit will hopefully prove attractive.'
One thing that the club has addressed, which was a large talking point last season was the match day price band, known unfondly to us Clarets fans as the surcharge. The fans spoke on this, and the band will no longer feature in matchday prices, though the pricing did encourage people to purchase tickets through the other methods.
'We listened to the fans. There were quite a lot of emails and letters about it. It did not make any real difference to the home fan support, but we showed that we are not averse to fans opinions and decided to change it, because it did seem to generate a considerable amount of fallout amongst the fans and so we have decided to remove it completely. We did achieve the objective that more people purchased via the contact centre, and the internet, and it did reduce the queues in our ticket office. We do now have a far more user-friendly ways of purchasing tickets via these methods.'
The tagline for this season's package is 'You'll Always Be a Claret', a motto which holds true to the fans of this club.
'It is really part and parcel of what we are trying to build the club up to be, which is a football club that is more than just football. We operate 365 days a year, and we do not want it to be purely and simply on the results, and as we have found over this last few weeks, the results havenít been anywhere near as we would like, and really, it is about trying to ensure that YOU are part of Burnley Football Club, part of being Burnley, and the actual win/loss column should have little influence. It is great when you are winning, and obviously awful when losing, but principally it is about supporting your football club.'
The club has budgeted for around 8500 season ticket holders next season, a target reached this season. The season tickets are available via the earlybird discount period, which runs from April 1-30.
'I think anything is a realistic target, because we have around 9000. We would always like to increase our target, but what you want to do is ensure that we have maintained the number that we have the previous season. We had around 9000 this season, we would like to get 9000 plus for next season.
'We have put it in the budget next season for 8500 season tickets. That brings in approximately £1.7 million. Thatís what we put in to the plank for our budgeting and our forecasts for going forward, and that £1.7 million is crucial to enable us to get through the summer where there is no football. We have a budget of 45,000 pounds per match, and that can also be determined by the away fans. If we only have a small amount of away fans, that would likely mean that we would need 2000 or so walk-ons to achieve that kind of figure.'
For a start, (the earlybird period)is cheaper. Everyone likes to see what is going on. We are trying to encourage and early buy because that helps the club a great deal. I understand some people may want to wait.'
One thing that the club is trying to achieve this season is the use of Premium Credit over Credit Card transactions. The Premium credit option is paid in installments at an interest rate less than that of a card.
'The reason is that with Premium Credit, the club receives the money up front. With credit cards, although the amount appears on the statement in full, the club only receives the money match by match. Premium Credit transactions can also be carried out over the telephone with the customer.'
The last two weeks has seen the purchase of Andy Gray, for a fee believed to be in the region of £700,000 from Sunderland, and the £200,000 capture of Alan Mahon from Wigan as well as a loan move for Manchester United's promising right back Phil Bardsley. The two transfer moves will be completed at the end of the season after initial loan periods. I asked Dave if there will be further transfer business in the summer.
'There will be team-building in the summer. Steve is looking at potential players already. There will be new players coming in.'
With that considered, and despite the recent poor run, the club seems to be in a stronger position both on and crucially off the pitch to take us on to the next level. There are burning ambitions on the pitch, from the players and manager, as well as the board, and there are methods of generating extra income from activities outside of football.
'We would like to increase our revenue through non-football activities. We want to ensure that we are making the progress that we are doing. On the playing side, we always want to try and be there and thereabouts challenging for the Premiership. We are receiving more and more bookings for our banqueting and seminars. We want to market the club as a seminar centre, where people will come and have conferences. We are doing more and more with partners like Myerscough college, working with the leisure community, and increasing in other partners in community and social responsibility. We are confident that we can increase the revenues that we have. It is important that we have that, so that the football, with the ups and downs, highs and lows doesnít have so much of a major impact on the revenue that we currently have.'
From a fans point of view, it seems that Burnley Football Club have taken note of some of the concerns that we had, with the surcharge gone and the acquisation of new players. The extra income off the pitch can only be a good thing, if it generates more money that the club can use to take ourselves forward. We have endured a difficult season, particularly since Christmas, but hopefully we can end strongly and see who comes in for next season.
Season tickets for next season can be bought online via www.burnleyfootballclub.premiumtv.co.uk, in person at the ticket office, by post or by calling 0870 443 1914.
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