It’s fair to say the club’s decision to give away 10,000 half-season tickets free of charge has been met with a mixed reaction.
It may seem a nice gesture on the face of it – and I’m sure many will benefit from is hugely – but there’s one baffling flaw. Charnley claims it ‘rewards’ current season-ticket holders ‘for their loyalty and support’, but how does it?
Current ST holders are paying full whack (all after a price increase of 25% over the past 2 years), while those now wanting to fill Ashley’s empty seats after staying away can get one for free. Surely it’s a slap in the face for so many, not a reward?
When Steve Bruce said in his post-match interview on Sunday that maybe the club should do something to help fans come to the games at this expensive time of year, I posted on Twitter that Bruce’s comment will probably have angered Mike Ashley. How wrong I was!! I could barely believe my eyes when I woke up today and saw the news last night.
Lee Charnley’s statement just doesn’t add up, however. Here’s what Penfold has had to say:
“Steve and I spoke after Sunday’s win against Southampton about what we could do to bring as many people as possible into the stadium.
“As Steve and the players will testify, a full St. James’ Park does make a big difference and we want to support them in achieving that.
“While of course we want to encourage fans to come back and also to attract new fans, at this time we wanted to do something specifically for our existing season ticket holders to reward them for their loyalty and support of Steve and the players.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been to matches so far this season.
“The support Steve, the staff and the players have had has been fantastic and it has helped to produce some very encouraging results on the pitch. We want to move forward together and I hope this gesture is another step towards achieving that.”
I’m absolutely at a loss here. What exactly is this doing to reward existing season ticket holders for their loyalty and support?
I’ve spoken to a couple who quite rightly, aren’t overly pleased that other people are going to be able to get for free, what they pay through the nose for. In fact, those who do still attend matches saw a bigger price increase for season tickets last summer than any other Premier League club.
More clarity is needed on this from Charnley and the club.
Charnley is right about one thing, a full SJP is better for Bruce and the players and there are a lot of positives about this unexpected move. Predictably though, it’s been met with cynicism by some.
Here’s a selection of fan comments from social media:
Then, there is the question of what the motivation is behind this shock announcement.
I mean, was Mike Ashley visited by the ghosts of Christmas past and future, shown what could have and will be, realised what an abhorrent owner he’s been for our football club, and finally decided to look after the fans with festive spirit in his heart? Probably not.
There have been suggestions a fuller St James Park makes the Sports Direct branding more effective. Is it a coincidence there is a Sports Direct share holders meeting on Monday?
Don’t get me wrong, if these free tickets find their way into the hands of families and people who otherwise don’t have the financial means to go to games, then that is a positive, and as Charnley says we do need to attract new fans.
However, surely it’s also a slap in the face for those who have continued to attend matches, and Ashley simply doesn’t do good intentions, even if it is Christmas.