I was once told that the best money in football originally belonged to someone else. I knew what the gentleman meant – prize money (generally from cup competitions), television rights fees, windfalls from sell-on clauses when a former player moves again, and so on. Also into that bracket comes revenue from matches where the gate receipts are shared. Monday night’s FA Cup first round draw threw up some interesting ties with regard to such income.
Three Conference South clubs – Weston, Gosport Borough, and Havant and Waterlooville – are all at home to teams from League One. Halifax and Forest Green from the Conference Premier entertain Bradford and Scunthorpe respectively, where again an upset could be on the cards. Havant and Halifax have pulled in the cameras, and will get a £67,500 cheque as a result.
There is also a local derby between Cheltenham and Swindon, who have not played each other in the League since August 2011. Ticket prices for the tie have been set above Cheltenham’s normal rates for games in League Two, with a £2 premium across the board. It’s an interesting strategy.
For Cheltenham’s last three home ties in the first round of the FA Cup, crowds have been considerably down on the league average for that season, with the proportion of home fans attending being somewhere between 70% and 80%.
This season’s average – home supporters only – is 2266, so losing 20% or so of that crowd would wipe close to 500 fans off the gate, something few clubs can afford.
The move is even more surprising when you consider the highest number of home supporters attending a game this season was when Cheltenham reduced their prices for a Wednesday night JPT game against Bristol City which was actually being televised.
Over 2,700 supporters were happy to pay £12 on that night. Fans wanting to stand against Swindon will pay £18, with seated tickets at £20 or above.
I can only assume the club think the appeal of the match means the risk of eroding the average home crowd from current levels is smaller than in previous years, and that Swindon fans will travel in big numbers given the prices are the same as the cheapest tickets at the County Ground, but in any case Cheltenham will only get a share of the benefit.
Based on the trend illustrated earlier, if the home crowd was to be 2000, and Swindon bring 1000 fans of their own, the ticket premium would add £6000 to the total gate revenue before expenses, with the net figure being shared.
To make that up at normal prices, the overall crowd would need to go up by 300 – not impossible, but I repeat the point – Cheltenham only get a slice, and not all, of the extra revenue.
I would not pretend this is an easy equation to solve, but the Robins also have three Saturday home games in League Two in November – matches where Cheltenham keep all the gate money.
Bearing in mind the lower level of season ticket sales during the summer compared to previous years, a greater proportion of those attending are now paying week to week for their football at Whaddon Road.
Perhaps there was also a thought that facing a team from a higher division could mean November the 8th might be the last chance this season to harvest some extra, unbudgeted revenue. There is, however, £18,000 from the FA prize fund for winning the game. If the fans vote with their feet, that’s one thing, but you can bet the players won’t give up a cup run lightly.
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