Paul Newman: Attendances stay healthy as Bradford show price matters

The Football League Column: Bradford's example shows what can be achieved with a sensible pricing policy

Figures released last week showed a drop in Football League attendances this season, yet support for the fourth-most successful competition in Europe is still impressive. More than 16 million spectators watched Football League matches in 2010-11, which will be bettered only by the Premier League, the Bundesliga and La Liga. A six per cent drop on last season's 50-year high is put down to the difficult economic climate.

Championship matches were watched by more than 9,500,000 fans at an average of 17,389. Leeds topped the list, with average gates of 27,299, while Scunthorpe were the only Championship club to average fewer than 10,000. Southampton, League One's best supported team, averaged 22,160, which was more than 18 Championship clubs, while Sheffield Wednesday (17,817), Charlton (15,582) and Huddersfield (13,728) all broke the 10,000 mark.

The most remarkable attendances of all, however, were Bradford City's in League Two. The Yorkshire club finished 18th – their worst end-of-season position for nearly half a century – yet enjoyed average crowds of 11,127, nearly 4,000 more than the second-best supported club, Oxford United. The Bantams' lowest gate of 10,392 was higher than the best crowd at any other League Two match.

Bradford's example shows what can be achieved with a sensible pricing policy. When they were relegated four years ago for the third time in seven seasons – their first return to the League's bottom division for 25 years – their gates averaged 8,694. The club reduced season-ticket prices to £138 and the response to what was named as the Football League's marketing campaign of the year was hugely positive, with 12,200 fans buying season tickets to boost the average to 13,756.

The average attendance dropped by 1,000 in the second season and by about the same figure in each of the subsequent campaigns as the players' performances failed to match those of the fans: in their four seasons in League Two Bradford have finished 10th, ninth, 14th and 18th.

Since the new pricing policy was introduced, the current season has been the only year in which season ticket sales fell below 10,000 (to 9,600).

Some 6,000 tickets for 2011-12 were sold (at an advance price of £150 each) in December last year, putting the club on course to match the 2010-11 figure. David Baldwin, the club's director of operations, said: "We started the Christmas campaign simply because I had a request from a grandparent asking: 'Why can't I buy a season ticket now for my grandson for next year as a Christmas present?' The first year we ran it 2,000 people took up the option, the second year 4,000 and the third year 6,000."

The final phase of sales for next season will start soon. Prices have not been announced yet, but the club have always kept the cost below £200. "Pricing is important," Baldwin said. "You have to realise that in the current economic climate."

Bradford offer season tickets at half-price to under-16s, while under-11s are admitted free if accompanied by an adult. "We know that around 18 per cent of a crowd of 10,000 are under-11s," Baldwin said.

"There's no greater way of promoting future fans than creating a situation where a dad can bring his son or daughter to a game for free. We hope that they become Bradford City fans for life."

The club's support is all the more remarkable when you consider what they have been through since losing their Premier League place 10 years ago. One of the last clubs to be relegated before the introduction of parachute payments, Bradford went into administration three years later, which resulted in their stadium and offices being sold off. They now have to pay £1.3m a year just to use the premises, including £750,000 in rent for the 25,500-capacity stadium.

"I think the vast majority of fans realise that we're operating in a difficult set of circumstances," Baldwin said. "We're carrying the costs of a Championship stadium and operating on a League Two budget."

He added: "We've had fantastic support when you consider the decade we've had as a club. We have very long-suffering fans and we're desperate to give them something to smile about in the future."

News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions