16 June ~ In the days of the multi-million pound footballer earning a weekly wage of £250,000 where can you watch League football for as little as £4.34 a game? Answer: Victoria Park, the home of League One side Hartlepool United. It's all thanks to a new ticket offer – if the club can sell 4,000 season-tickets before mid-July then adult fans will pay just £100 for the privilege, or £200 if the club sells 3,000.
Last season the average gate was just 2,933 so this is no easy task, but the response has been promising with more than 2,000 sold so far. The local paper, the Hartlepool Mail, is backing the campaign and there have been stories about Australian-based fans buying tickets despite the possibility they won't even get to see a game, while a father bought a season-ticket for his eight-day-old son. Businesses and schools have also purchased tickets to use as incentives.
Hartlepool United chief executive Russ Green said: "With the high unemployment in the area, we were obviously down on matchday ticket sales and we realised we had to do something quite radical to try and get the fans in. We put the onus on to the fans to sell the tickets and so far the reaction has been brilliant. We sold more season-tickets in the first ten days than we did all last season. We are essentially offering fans the chance to come to matches for less than £5 per game and we have slashed the prices of children's tickets, because they are the future support of this club."
Pools – who are offering child season tickets for £50 – are not the first League club to have slashed prices in this way. In 2007-08, Bradford City, who had been relegated to League Two the season before, slashed prices and sold 12,000 season-tickets. The club's average attendance rocketed from about 8,700 the previous campaign to almost 14,000. It hasn't been a flash in the pan either, as the Bantams averaged an impressive 11,127 last season. This season, the cheapest adult season ticket is £150.
A year later, Huddersfield Town slashed their adult season-tickets to just £100. The deal – to mark the club's centenary – saw 16,000 season tickets sold, almost doubling their average gate. Green sums up Hartlepool's outlook: "I think it is the way forward for clubs. Football is getting too expensive and we have got to make it more affordable for all fans." Richard Mennear