In part two of our look at Crucible tickets, we shed some light on the 30 season tickets for the Betfred World Championship, why their time may be up, and why holders, some of the sport’s most longstanding and loyal fans, are very unhappy.
SEASON TICKETS – WHAT’S THE DEAL?
Historically there were a number of seats that were offered and taken as ‘season tickets’ at the Crucible, offering holders the right to buy one or more tickets for every session of the World Championship. These currently number around 30.
Until the renewal this year for 2017, they got a 10 per cent football style ‘early-bird’ discount for taking all the tickets at what this year was an outlay of around £1,300 per ticket. Next year that will be around £1,900, or a rise of almost 50 per cent.
It is understood that World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn, who felt saddled with the deal when he took over the sport, is to scrap the season tickets thereafter, meaning that from 2018 those fans will enter the same process as everyone else.
The driving issue behind all of this, including the Viagogo problem, is capacity. Demand hugely outstrips supply for many sessions, there will always be people disappointed.
If the Crucible were bigger, that problem would not necessarily go away, but the capacity of 900 hugely accentuates the situation.
A friend, the Head of Media at Premier League-chasing Brighton and Hove Albion, dropped in to the Crucible yesterday and we discussed a situation that football clubs wrestle with on an almost daily basis. How to raise the money, while keeping fans onside and appearing to be fair, and not appearing to be ripping them off.
Obviously he has a capacity of 30,000 to play with, but many of the issues are the same in a promotion run-in. What many football clubs do of course is a highly developed staggered pricing system, so that there are tickets at a very low price, then more for better seats, and most for the corporate market. The high face value prices paid by the corporate market help to subsidise the lower prices, because it is felt for community and ethical reasons there has to be a low entry price for ‘normal’ fans.
One problem with the Crucible is that if you did this, the ‘low’ price might not be for that many tickets, nevertheless maybe this is the way forward.
But back to the season ticket holders. You will know many of these people, either personally if you come to the tournament, or by sight if you watch on TV. They are almost part of the fixtures and fittings of the place.
Some of them might have paid £25,000 foe a pair of tickets over 15 years, others maybe £50,000 over 30 years. Just yesterday two of them were filmed around the Crucible for part of a BBC documentary scheduled for next year, celebrating the 40th anniversary at the venue.
It is not hard to see why see why some of these people might be upset at a) a huge price rise for next year after such support and outlay, and b) that being a prelude to their right being scrapped from after next year.
But there is another side to the argument. World Snooker would claim that many of these fans are getting the premium best seats in the house, which should be the most expensive, actually at a discount. And given the capacity restrictions above, there are other fans failing to get tickets who wonder why this arrangement exists.
Feelings are running pretty high on both sides, as you can see from below. Knowing some of these people, I wouldn’t exactly describe them as the most militant Arthur Scargill types, but there has been talk even of a staged walkout during play as a protest from these front-row seats, and had the planned Q&A fans’ forum gone ahead earlier in the week rather than being cancelled, the subject would have arisen.
They feel their years of support, principally financial, has been taken for granted and they are being seen as unwanted irrelevance. World Snooker feel they have a good deal for a very long time, and it has to change because the arrangement restricts their revenue-maximising ability. The two positions appear irreconcilable.
The only way in my opinion that there is any room for negotiation is if the season ticket holders agree to pay a much higher price than they are paying now for what are the best seats in the house. I have no idea whether there is any mileage in that for either side.
SEASON TICKET HOLDERS’ VIEWS
One said: “I am disgusted with our treatment by World Snooker, there has been no loyalty whatsoever and the attitude stinks.
“It is not just the rise, but the plans to scrap them. We shouldn’t be dismissed as irrelevant after the money we have put in.
“For me it is maybe £30,000 for a pair over 15 years, for others £50,000-£60,000 over 30 years.
“What do they want, a load of rowdy yobs on the front row? For England football tickets if you have been to all the matches, then you move up the queue for tickets at tournaments.”
Another said: “We should be rewarded for loyalty, and not penalised.”
WORLD SNOOKER CHAIRMAN BARRY HEARN
“It is a big hike [46 per cent 2016 to 2017] – and the reason is they should never have had a season ticket in the first place, and have had a good deal for a long time. We were in it when I took over.
“These 30 have had a hugely beneficial arrangement, and don’t talk to me about loyalty because there are loyal fans that can’t get a ticket at all.
“Why do I want to see the same faces sitting in the same seats every year at a big discount? I don’t, I love every customer, but I also want to see a younger, newer, more diverse range of fans.
“They might say they have shelled out £30,000 for a ticket if they have had it for 30 years, but it should have been £60,000.
“We will give them a year’s notice, there will be no season tickets from after next year. I say you owe me 100 per cent for the last 30 years, please send me a cheque now.”
Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos