The easiest thing to do for football fans and the media is to whack clubs over the pricing of memberships. Like it or loathe it, the fans are the lifeblood for any football club and sadly that sometimes (or nearly always) means footing the bills.
Macarthur FC have unsurprisingly copped plenty of criticism over the last few days at the pricing of their inaugural season memberships, $440 for active and $280 for general admission with reserved seating in between. A platinum plus package would set one back $540.
For a club starting in its first season in a lower socioeconomic part of Sydney, it seems too high, especially in the post COVID19 environment. However, if we dig a little deeper, the club argues they had little choice. Understandably so.
The cost of running an A-League club is phenomenal. Player and support staff wages for starters is huge. Fans want a team that competes. This isn’t cheap. At the moment the salary cap stands at $3.2 million - it will definitely go down, but by exactly how much is uncertain at the moment.
When you add training ground hire, equipment, facilities, travel costs, insurance and the other overhead costs of running a professional football club, we are talking millions of dollars. It is estimated on average it costs clubs $10-14 million annually to compete.
These costs are necessities. Every club is bound by a minimum standard from FFA, AFC and FIFA. You simply cannot run a professional club taking a “no frills" approach. The player's union, the PFA, would see to that.
To cover this clubs need revenue, and sadly in the current economic environment, there are very few streams available.
Sponsorship revenue would be majorly impacted, not many corporate entities have the budget to pay for advertising at the moment...the FFA can vouch for that. The Bulls have done well to secure Wisdom Homes as a major sponsor. However, the club have lost other key partners along the way, a consequence of COVID19.
Foxtel’s TV deal has been cut in half and every club will pay the price for this with their annual dividend likely to be a fraction of what it has been in previous years. There are two more mouths to feed in Western United and the Bulls now and no guarantee what broadcast revenue post July 31 will look like.
It is estimated FFA have lost $43.5 million in revenue this year from lost sponsors and the new cut price TV deal. All clubs received approximately $3.6 million each last season. It won’t be anywhere near this next year when the Bulls make their debut.
The A-League’s popularity was well down before COVID19 anyway, meaning the likelihood of the Bulls getting a large number of fans through the gates was always going to be a challenge regardless. This means less ticket revenue, less merchandise revenue and less matchday revenue.
Sadly this is all too familiar in the A-League, and other Australian sports too. The NRL and AFL membership packages for Sydney based clubs aren’t cheap. For general admission you are looking at a similar price to $280, give or take.
For all the talk about making the game affordable, clubs will always take advantage of their loyal fans. They are the reliable ones. The old argument that you are better off getting 10,000 people paying $5 as opposed to 5,000 people paying $10 often doesn’t translate into reality. It’s a nice theory that doesn’t work in the real commercial world.
No doubt you will get more fans if you charge less, but more than often, it's not even enough to cover the loss of revenue from charging a lower price to the most ardent of fans, who will always fork out.
The area the Bulls have copped the biggest whack is from “The Bullpen”. The active area should be the cheapest many argue and fair enough too. But at Campbelltown Stadium next season it will be one of the most expensive locations at the ground.
By all accounts there is a limit of 800 seats for that section. An economist would argue this means demand would likely exceed supply thus the price should be high. An accountant would say, ‘these fans are the most loyal’, so get as much as you can out of them because they will pay. That is $352,000 already safely in the bank.
In a region that has half a million people, it wouldn’t be that hard to find 800 people who would be willing to pay the extra $$$ to be part of the funnest part of the ground. It's troubling, but do they really have a choice?
That still leaves the other 19,200 seats to fill. The average A-League crowd was just under 10,000 last season. For the Bulls that is another 9,000 odd fans outside “The Bullpen” they will need to get through the gates. Not an easy task.