Upon Preston North End’s relegation to League One last season, the club announced a reduction on both season ticket and matchday prices - an effort to keep fans coming through the turnstiles despite the drop to a lower division. Manager Phil Brown declared it would be a ‘one-season stay’ before promotion back to the Championship. The prospect of entertaining, attacking football saw the club sell almost 5,000 of these reduced tickets by the start of June.
Fast forward one year later - a year which saw Brown sacked, star players sold on the eve of the season, Peter Risdale appointed as chairman, reports of player unhappiness over the ‘bizarre’ behaviour' of new manager Graham Westley - and you have a club seeminly in turmoil with an unpopular manager, unattractive football, and a solid flirt with relegation to League Two.
Sounds like the perfect time to keep the fans happy, bring in some new players, lower/freeze ticket prices, and re-float the leaky ship, no? Apparently not.
North End recently announced a heavy increase in ticket prices for next season, including a whopping 67% hike on the price of season tickets for students in the Allan Kelly Town End. While student tickets have been given the largest bump, including a 40% increase on the price of single game tickets, prices in all areas have gone up.
In the words of one North End fan: “it just doesn’t make logical sense.”
“We have only just escaped relegation and now they are increasing it by 67%, it’s not something I agree with,” said Garratt.
“I paid £120 last year for an early bird price, this season they wanted £200,” he added.
Confusion is certainly one emotion felt by those who are being asked to pay higher fees to watch a football team who have hardly delivered the goods this season. Westley’s reign to this point hasn't exactly been a success, with fans booing him off after many drab performances - including back-to-back 0-0 draws at home.
The club have placed an element of spin on the announcement, in an attempt to hide the price hike by promoting various discounts for those who renew their season tickets for multiple seasons.
“The fans need to see something positive ‘cause I think most people were just like, what the heck, how is he justifying the prices going up,” commented Garratt, of the new ambassador’s scheme.
Does the 21-year-old think the club announcing the ambassador’s scheme will be enough for fans to overlook the prices and sign up to another season of League One football at Deepdale?
“I don’t think there will be anywhere near as many people buying season tickets.”
Tom Hurley is a sports journalism student at the University of Central Lancashire. You can follow him on twitter @TomHurley.