4 December 2009 ~ During Crystal Palace’s 4-1 win over Blackpool, my friend Chris and I had the break-up conversation, the one in which I said: “I’m not renewing my season ticket.” Although October 3 seems ridiculously early to bring it up, it was the date that Crystal Palace published its season ticket brochure for 2010-11. The marketing department has developed the same affliction as supermarkets. If the Christmas displays go up before the season ticket prices, heads will roll. If I feel so inclined I can buy a season ticket up to the end of the 2014-15 season. However I don’t, which probably isn’t great news for the players who are suffering as a result of Simon Jordan’s cashflow crisis.
So the win over Blackpool has not led me to reach for my debit card. Nothing about the win was exceptional. Blackpool’s defence gifted us goals, the slip to allow Alan Lee a free header for the first being the funniest as most Palace fans assumed that even free headers were a skill too far for him. In 2006, I renewed my season ticket on the back of one of Palace’s best displays in recent years as Ben Watson tore through Norwich showing a range of passing beyond his years in a 4-1 win. The next week I felt cheated by a turgid display at home to Leeds.
It is, of course, an overactive imagination that leads me to imagine that Jordan might offer incentives to the players linked to season ticket deadlines, especially as paying the players at all is proving to be a problem. October is too soon to renew. Even a good performance cannot take away from the memory of the 2008-09 season when Palace scored 26 goals at home – with 13 coming in just four games.
The price of the ticket is due to rise steadily throughout the season. This, obviously, rewards the committed, the financially confident and the financially risky. The steady decline in average attendances over the last four seasons, from a post-Premier League high of 19,457 to 15,220 last year suggest there aren’t many of those.
Palace fans like to laugh at away fans who pay high our high prices but we don’t do enough to question where that money goes. Or ask what happens to our season ticket money or the £29.50 plus home fans pay for Category A match tickets. When the season ticket cut-off points were introduced the first rise was at the end of January, then December. The constant creeping of these dates does not inspire confidence in the finances of the club. Although I’m confident that the guarantees about safeguarding season ticket payments until that season begins, I’m worried that the club is borrowing against future income, or at least guaranteeing its overdraft.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the wages crisis is all the creation of the marketing department. Perhaps that’s why the club keeps writing to me to let me know it has extended the first deadline, exclusively for me. Andrew Scowcroft