Launching the new season...is non league ready for more fans?
The start of this season was always going to be a tricky affair with the season start dates unclear. The staged return of fans is potentially going to give some clubs difficulties with only a limited proportion of fans being allowed back. However non-league clubs might have a huge window of opportunity.
With some clubs boasting capacities of thousands but typically only attracting hundreds of fans. Any return with a limited crowd could see demand and attendances rocket. If a mooted 20% return of crowds is enforced then Premier League, EFL and National league teams may see a huge reduction in matchday incomes. Better than empty? maybe...probably not. Test events at many live events in other industries have shown that live events are currently financially unviable, with costs far outweighing the profits. With clubs at league levels looking for financial support from the leagues and externally.
With the latest news from the government with testing sports events being delayed. It looks like the ‘friendlies’ that so often provide a huge early boost to many non-league clubs will all be behind closed doors.
So the weight of fans looking to see live football with no where to go will be high and those missing out will be looking for an alternatives. Web links and live streams are ok, but not for the live football fan when the gates do finally open. What better way to end club rivalries with friends than to watch your local team together and in person.
Many clubs are now looking at the sale of season tickets to provide priority to their existing fans. Additionally to provide fairness and order to any ballots or ticket selection process. This implementation will mean that fans of premier league clubs could be looking to steps 3-5 to be able to watch live football on a regular basis.
With a step 3/4 season ticket often just the cost of 2 or 3 adult tickets at top flight level. The rush for non-league season tickets may dramatically increase as fans start to clamber for guarantees of watching live sport. There‘s definitely no guarantees of being able to support your local team and “shop local”.
However if your local club has the infrastructure in place. It could see crowds double or treble if capacities are high and Covid regulations can be met. If your club’s capacity is 3,500 and you usually attract crowds of 100-200, under the 20% rule you could have up to 700 fans coming in. Will those clubs be ready for a potential increase and how to plan financially, as well as practically for a potentially club saving situation. For those clubs that regularly reach their capacities or high levels - this will be a huge issue if they are basing their finances on previous attendance levels. How to keep your fans engaged when they can‘t attend, we’ve seen a rush to video and streaming, but will it be enough?
One thing we know is guaranteed is that no one is going to be “ready” for this season. Every club has to be agile enough to be innovative and act decisively in order to succeed.
What steps are your club taking?