The offer means away fans travelling to league fixtures at St. James’ Park could benefit from cheaper match tickets in the visitors’ section should their club guarantee the same price for Newcastle United supporters who travel to the Magpies’ corresponding away league fixture.
While the Magpies have already approached a number of clubs, with discussions to continue with others prior to relevant fixtures, two clubs have already taken up the Magpies’ innovative offer.
Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion have agreed away ticket prices of just £15 for adults and £5 for concessions for their return Premier League fixtures during the 2013/14 season, with the sides meeting at St. James’ Park in November and The Hawthorns on New Year’s Day 2014.
The agreement with the Baggies will result in a saving of £24 (61.5%) for Newcastle United fans from the £39 it cost for an adult away ticket when the sides drew 1-1 in the West Midlands last season. Albion fans, meanwhile, will save £11 (42.3%) compared to the £26 away ticket price in the preceding fixture at St. James’ Park in October 2012.
The Magpies have also finalised an agreement with Swansea City – Newcastle’s longest return trip at 719 miles. The clubs’ reciprocal deal will see fans of both clubs paying just £20 for adults and £5 for concessions for their fixtures in South Wales in December 2013 and on Tyneside in April 2014.
Magpies fans will save more than 40% on the £35 charged at the Liberty Stadium last season, with Swans fans receiving a third off the £30 they paid at St. James’ Park in 2012/13.
While away supporters visiting Tyneside paid an average of less than £30 for an adult match ticket last season, Newcastle United supporters faced a price hike away from home.
The average adult away match ticket for Newcastle fans was just short of £40 (based on the lowest-priced available ticket) – despite Toon fans already facing the longest average round-trip in the top flight at 447 miles per game (8,498 miles over 19 games). The cheapest adult away match ticket for Newcastle fans was £25.
John Irving, finance director at Newcastle United, said:
“Newcastle United plays a hugely important role in the lives of supporters and in the community which surrounds it so keeping football affordable continues to be a key priority for us. Ticket prices are too expensive generally across the Premier League and we believe the right way to encourage people to attend, and to therefore fill stadiums as the Away Fans Fund intends, is to look at charging reasonable prices.”
The Premier League recently launched the Away Fans Fund to reverse falling away attendances, with all 20 top flight clubs now ring-fencing £200,000 each per season over the next three seasons to assist away supporters.
John added: “While we respect the right of clubs to choose options which suit their individual circumstances, we believe there is room for clubs to work more closely to try to charge a fair amount rather than discounting very small amounts on match tickets in isolation.
“We are delighted to have reached an agreement with two of the first clubs we spoke to – West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City – and we applaud them for taking part. As prices indicated last season, fans of some clubs continue to pay far more than those of others and we hope this initiative will lead to a fairer system which can ultimately benefit all supporters.”
Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Federation – which has campaigned for fairer away ticket prices – said:
“The FSF is delighted to welcome the announcement by Newcastle United of their offer of a reciprocal pricing agreement for tickets for away fans at Premier League fixtures. This is a significant breakthrough in turning the concept of affordable prices for away fans into a reality, and Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City are to be commended for taking a lead in this area.
“We would urge all other Premier League clubs to follow the lead of these clubs, both by taking up this offer and by extending similar arrangements to other fixtures too.”
(Club calculations confirm that away fans visiting SJP for Premier League games in the 2012/13 season paid an average of just under £30, but for Toon travellers on the road that figure was just under £40).
‘SALE OR RETURN’ TICKETING
As well as its work on pricing, Newcastle United also lobbied the Premier League for the abolition of the prohibitive ‘sale only’ method of selling away tickets, which the Premier League duly ended in summer 2013 as part of efforts to halt a decline in away attendances.
Under the system, which Newcastle United refused to impose on clubs visiting St. James’ Park, away clubs received either a smaller allocation of tickets from home clubs, from which unsold tickets could be returned without charge. The alternative was a larger allocation which had to be paid for in advance. The financial burden of unsold tickets subsequently fell on the away club, leading many to continually choose the lower allocation – and subsequently fewer tickets for fans to purchase – to lessen a potential financial risk.
Under a new ‘sale or return’ agreement made between Premier League shareholders in the close season, clubs are now working closer to ensure visiting teams can service demand without financial penalty before unsold tickets are reallocated to home supporters.
PRESS STATEMENT FROM NEWCASTLE UNITED