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Revealed: How the SPL clubs are faring in their battle against the credit crunch
Feb 27 2009 By Neil Cameron
MOST SPL clubs are set to freeze season-ticket prices to try to lure fans during the recession.
Record Sport canvassed all 12 sides to see how the credit crunch has affected replica strip sales, corporate hospitality and sponsorship.
It seems football is the last thing people are willing to give up, certainly in Scotland.
All clubs face pressure to attract business and while the next 12 months will be even more challenging, the SPL are more than just surviving.
And the good thing for punters is that for the most part, prices should stay the same.
SPOKESMAN Dave McDiarmid said: "So far we have avoided much of the trouble that has perhaps affected others clubs because in Aberdeen we have our own mini-economy.
"But we have taken on board problems fans may be facing and that is why we've had some reduced prices this season.
"There is certainly more of a challenge for those people working on the corporate side. This is done on a seasonal basis so it hasn't really affected us so far."
A CELTIC representative said: "These are difficult times for supporters and we were delighted last year to introduce fantastic new prices at Celtic Park - with the freezing of adult season-book prices and having season books that allow kids to come to matches for as little as £2.63 per game.
"These measures have proved extremely popular and Celtic now have more season books than ever before.
"We are not complacent. We value our supporters highly and will do all we can to encourage as many fans as possible to enjoy the unique experience of Celtic Park."
DEREK ROBERTSON, the club's director of communications, said: "It's perhaps a bit early to gauge the full impact on clubs.
"The bulk of our funding comes at the beginning and end of our financial year with season-ticket income and SPL distributions.
"But our half-season ticket income held up very well this year, with very similar numbers to last year, a record for the club.
"We're currently working on next year's season-ticket packages and while we have some of the lowest prices in the SPL, we don't envisage any increases.
"Similarly, the impact on replica kit sales cannot be determined as we are in the midst of running down stock to make way for a new kit supply deal, to be announced shortly.
"One thing I would say - despite credit crunch-influenced pressure to reduce prices, football club costs don't seem to be going down any - quite the opposite, in fact.
"Our utilities bill will be well over a six-figure amount this year and policing, stewarding, licensing and other match related costs seem to be increasing.
"We have also had to spend £250,000 to upgrade floodlights to meet European standards.
"Plus, creditors all want paid quicker due to the crunch pressure on themselves."
PRESS officer Keith Hogg said: "Season ticket prices for next season are still to be decided and this was raised at a meeting on Tuesday with fans. What I do know is they won't be going up in price.
"There hasn't been too much of a change in terms of corporate hospitality but we have noticed some differences.
For example, we had planned to host two club dinners but they have been merged.
"Companies who had always taken a table of 12 just weren't doing so.
"The club shop in the town centre closed and that was, in part, due to the credit crunch, although there were other factors.
"What we have found is there are fewer away fans coming to games. That means less cash through the gate and less money coming in from food and drink sales.
"I was speaking to Dundee United this week and someone there told me they had taken 900 fans to Aberdeen.
"But as our match with them is on Tuesday and live on Setanta, that figure will go down to maybe 500.
"Inverness Caley Thistle brought only 183 a few weeks ago and I know how hard it is for our supporters to make the trip up there.
COMMERCIAL director Terry McGeadie said: "Our corporate hospitality has gone up by 700 per cent compared with last season.
It's been phenomenal. Every corporate box has been filled to capacity.
"For the Rangers game this Saturday, I have 200 people in one box paying the maximum price.
"But we are aware these are tough times for people which is why chairman Ronnie MacDonald has come up with several initiatives this season, including charging only £5 for a ticket into next week's game against Hibs. Our gates are up but we can't price the next season books because we don't know if we'll be an SFL or SPL club."
THE club are discussing prices but insiders hinted there will not be a rise. There was a dip in attendances until October but they have risen steadily since then.
Corporate hospitality remains popular and replica shirt sales went up at Christmas
SPOKESMAN David Forsyth said: "Our corporate hospitality and sponsorship are on target but we have had to work even harder to achieve that.
"There has been a downturn in retail.
This has been the most challenging area."
COMMERCIAL manager Darren McIntosh said: "We have had to work harder and be smarter to meet targets, which so far we have done.
"Because we are a community-based club, local businesses are very supportive.
We sell hospitality at the start of the season and so far they have bought as normal.
"Whether that will happen in the long term remains to be seen. How the recession will hit us won't really be known until next season. At the moment we don't know for sure what division we will be in.
"If we do get relegated then everything changes.
"The season-ticket prices are decided at board level but I certainly would not expect them to cost more."
CHAIRMAN Michael Johnstone said: "We have not seen a major change this season but there has been a drop in corporate hospitality. Banks and financial institutions have not taken up their usual tickets.
"Selling sponsorship and advertising for next season will be difficult because businesses will have much tighter budgets unless there is a major improvement over the next few months - and that seems unlikely.
"There will perhaps be one or two minor adjustments but I don't envisage any increase to the main season-ticket prices and we will continue to offer substantial discounts.
GENERAL manager Lee-Ann Dempster said: "There is tremendous goodwill towards the club from local businesses because of all the troubles we have had here in the past, such as the administration.
"We have had to work a lot harder - I think everyone has - at corporate hospitality and such like. We are actually upgrading the hospitality suites for next season.
"We have also done well on trackside and programme advertising. Much of that came on the back of last season's success and we wouldn't believe we would do so well this year.
"What we're doing with season-tickets is trying to show supporters they are value for money. Some people have questioned because of various price-cutting initiatives put in place this season."
A SPOKESPERSON said: "We are currently working on the ticket-pricing strategy for next season but are pleased to say that so far the credit crunch has not had an effect on sales as we currently have a record number of season-ticket sales for this stage in the season - 43,000.
"Most league matches have also been selling out.
"This could be attributed to the various initiatives and campaigns that the club has implemented as part of an ongoing strategy to make football more affordable and attract families to the club.
"It includes the reduction in juvenile and concession season-tickets by one third, freezing adult season-ticket prices, reducing ticket prices for matches against five SPL opposition teams and supplying fans with free tickets for away European ties last season.
"In terms of hospitality, prices for the coming season are being worked on, taking into account the current economic climate.
"Target hospitality occupancies for this current season are being achieved with domestic sales to date on par with last season."
COMMERCIAL manager Campbell Kennedy said: "The credit crunch hasn't affected us - yet. We are hopeful it won't happen but we are like everyone else.
"I was at a meeting at Hampden last month and from speaking to some other commercial managers I know there are clubs who are struggling.
"But even before we moved to the new stadium, our hospitality suites were virtually full every week.
"And the newness of the stadium means there has been a lot of interest.
"It also means that we have a lot more space to fill.
"Season ticket prices will be decided at board level. But I would be surprised if they opted to put them up."
Taken from the Daily Record
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