With Crystal Palace’s appeal in the footballing growing there comes with it new problems that growing clubs in other parts of the country don’t have.
On the face of it, getting more fans around the globe can only be a good thing. Gone are the days that, when asked who I support I get met with a blank stare when I answer Crystal Palace. These days, I no longer have to add ‘You know. Tomas Brolin’s last club!’ for people to know who I am talking about.
Sure, every club can do with more fans. More fans means selling more merchandise, have an increased demand for match day tickets, more sponsors and so on. What could possibly be the down side to that?
I guess it rather depends if the new supporters we are getting are people who live in the UK or not. No, this isn’t some Brexit inspired xenophobic rant about foreigners “coming over here, nicking our match tickets!” Far from it.
I have a friend, well, more of an acquaintance really and she told me how readily available packages are including Premier League tickets. To cut a long story short, it is estimated that the top clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United and so on, can have as many as 40% of their match days tickets sold to tourist packages.
This isn’t as absurd as you might think. I have known someone for 6 years and for as long as I’ve known her she has gone to England 4 times a year for a long weekend for a shopping trip. The holiday package always includes flights, transfer, hotel and Premier League tickets. She always goes with her husband and another couple. So with them alone it is 4 tickets.
Usually they go to Manchester because they have kids at university there but it stands to reason that as the Premier League is the biggest football league in the world that this will resonate to far bigger markets than Sweden. Remember, football is the 3rd or 4th most popular sport here.
So what does this mean for Palace fans? We have 2 problems. The first is that we have a capacity of only 26,000 and the other is that we are in London. One is only a problem because of the other.
If you were a foreigner where would you rather spend your weekend? Seeing a Premier League game in Stoke, Sunderland, Swansea or London? No disrespect to the three ‘esses’ but the average foreigner would want to be in or near London.
So, now that we’ve established that London is a major pull, what clubs might whore themselves out and take tickets away from their own fans and sell them to overseas supporters? Well, they all would, least of all because they pay more. Who do you think subsidises package holidays? The local tourist board.
It really doesn’t matter if Arsenal sells 5,000 tickets to foreign fans if 55,000 ‘Londoners’ (yeah, right) have access to tickets but a club like Palace? I don’t have access to figures and I dare say the club wouldn’t release this information but how many tickets can we afford to give away?
If our attendance is 26,000, we must be giving some to our sponsors. We must be giving some to be sold in the US in line with our US investors. Now remove at least 2,000 tickets we allocate to away fans and I can think that the local Palace fans have access to less than 20,000 tickets. Naturally season tickets have to be subtracted too.
Of course this ‘problem’ isn’t restricted to the Premier League. Music concerts also have this type of thing going on. How many times have you seen an advert for seeing <insert artist here> playing abroad as part of a package deal?
This might not be a problem for people living in London but take a smaller place, say, Denmark.
My favourite band, Depeche Mode, will play at Parken in Copenhagen once. Parken, home of Copenhagen Football Club, has a capacity for concerts of about 25,000. This concert has to service Denmark and the southern half of Sweden. It is a one off, they play Parken once every 4 or 5 years so it is annoying that while I have to fight to get a ticket there will be a few thousand going off to package companies to sell holidays in the name of tourism.
I get the whole deal surrounding tickets but I feel it shouldn’t be allowed.
Does anyone remember the 1990 cup final when we were allocated something like 18,000 tickets and Manchester United had 25,000? At the time Wembley had a capacity of 81,000, just after it was made all seating. So where 38,000 tickets go? A lot went to different football associations in England, armed forces get some but the bulk went to corporate people who had no interest in football. The rest went to the foreign market.
Back to our club, what should Palace do? Should we hold all our tickets for ‘real’ fans until we have a capacity where we can afford to give away a couple of thousand tickets? Or should we, as fans, accept that we need to welcome in foreign visitors who view coming to Selhurst to see a Premier League game in the same light as going to see a West End musical? Only with more tragedy, usually.
It’s a tough one and for as long as I’ve been going to Palace there has been resentment. I started going to Selhurst back when we were getting 2,000-3,000 people for games against Huddersfield. Even a derby against Millwall only brought in 12,000. Then, when we got promotion and started getting 15,000 every week there was the ‘big game supporter’ resentment.
I know we have to grow to become a successful club. We need to welcome in new fans, maybe convert fans of other clubs and expand in to foreign markets. But should this come at the expense of local fans not being able to get tickets?
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or leave me a comment on Twitter or Facebook.