So the new establishment at Bolton Wanderers finally released the long awaited season ticket prices for the 2016/17 season yesterday and it's fairly safe to say it went down just about as well as your da's awkward, sexist jokes he makes when at parties. Everyone looked at the club slightly bemused and then started shouting.
Before I wade into the murky waters of actually defending the club on this front, and it certainly seems like they need it, I want to make clear that I do agree in principle with most of the arguments people have been making in annoyance at yesterday's announcement, and I also near-completely agree with the excellent piece Jonny wrote yesterday (read here).
But while I do agree in principle, in theory, with what has been touted about on social media over the last day, I do feel like a lot of people's hopes and ideas are simply unrealistic because we are Bolton Wanderers, and sometimes things just can't go in the way people would love them to.
Lets discuss the closure of the upper tier. It's something I fully, completely support. It's a brilliant idea and, in theory, by compacting all the fans together in lower tiers it could generate a much better atmosphere in the silent, echoey, soulless bowl the Macron has become. I agree with it so much that when I attended a meeting with the club last July, to try and brainstorm ways of creating a better atmosphere in the stadium, I brought up the idea of closing the upper tiers.
The fine gentlemen, who's names escape me, who were representing the club explained that it is something that they have looked into and considered in the past, but the simple matter of the fact is that a lot of people have had their seat their for years, over a decade, and they simply won't want to move.
We all know Bolton fans and we all know they can be whinny and infuriating. I appreciate the likes of Jonny who do say they'd happily give up their seat for the good of the club, I'm sure plenty of people would, but it's foolhardy to believe that everyone is of an equal mindset. If the club try telling people where they can and can't sit and moving them from a place they've been going to every match day for years then some, a lot, of fans will inevitably get pissed off and won't come back. That's a risk the new establishment simply can not take at this moment in time, no matter the theoretical benefits.
In our current plight, a time when everyone at the club needs to be pulling together, it would be absolutely mad of them to alienate a section of the support.
Besides, I can't speak for next season but, I do believe there are more season tickets sold in the upper tiers than we realise, and it must be financially viable to open, staff, steward, cater for them or presumably they would have to close it. My point being, do we know, for certain, that everyone in the upper tier could even fit in the lower tier?
On to the price of the season tickets themselves. I can fully understand people's rage and disappointment that ticket prices do remain, for adults, at around the £385-£405 mark. With neighbours Wigan Athletic doing season tickets for £200 and Bradford doing the same last season, I can understand why people may have thought Bolton might have done something similar.
It would make a lot of sense, too. Cheaper tickets, again theoretically, would get more people in the door, create a better atmosphere and all that jazz. With where we are geographically with so many big clubs as close neighbours, it makes sense for our tickets to be as cheap as possible.
Now, clarification time again, I still believe the overall price of football everywhere is astronomical and I of course want all tickets to be cheaper, but I feel the need to defend the club on this one, too. We exist in this sphere in which football is expensive, so we can only operate in said sphere.
I do think comparing our prices to what Wigan are doing is a bit unfair.
First of all Wigan are financially stable with far bigger parachute payments than ours: transfer fees they acquired last season and the upcoming boost in TV revenue with being in the Championship. It would be brilliant if Bolton could have offered £200 season tickets, but match day revenue is probably a club of our stature's biggest source of income and with our current situation the club need to get as much money in as they possibly can.
It could well be argued that if they make season tickets cheaper than more people will buy them which equals more money, but that is no way guaranteed and I'd be willing to bet that the DW still looks deserted most match days next year.
Also, on the actual prices themselves, I do think they are actually quite fair and reasonable. The prices have been reduced, yeah only by 10%, and I do get why that must be frustrating to people considering we've dropped down to League One, but a reduction of any kind must have been a hard decision to make.
The most expensive season ticket next season will be £405, which equals to about £17 a game. Maybe, as I'm looking at this through a 19-year old's eyes, I'm not quite getting a sense of how much a season ticket costs, but that genuinely seems quite reasonable to me. The campaign is called Twenty's Plenty after all.
Upon the news being released and the subsequent backlash I did a bit of research and looked into season ticket prices next season for team's of a similar size as Bolton, teams that would also be realistically looking to gain promotion and teams close to us. Here are the most expensive, adult tickets I found at the clubs I deemed fit into those categories:
Sheffield United: £427
(Wigan won't be in League One next season)
If I have the time at some point I may do a comparison between every club in League One, but as you can see from those eight teams, Bolton's season tickets are competitively priced.
That's not even mentioning the excellent prices the Whites do for 23-year olds and under. Next a year a 23 and under season ticket will cost £185, down from £240 last year. An under 18s ticket can be purchased for £66 and an under 12s for £56. As many have rightly pointed out, Bolton really need to get more younger fans through the door so we have a next generation of supporters, and it's impossible to argue that Bolton haven't made tickets for youngsters incredibly affordable.
So, in conclusion, while I do fully understand, and agree with a lot of, the complaints that have been made over the ticket pricing for next season, I do think a lot of the criticism is slightly harsh and the club have done, in my eyes at least, all they can feasibly do in terms of reductions.
We all want to live in a world in which football is as extremely cheap, but sadly, to our club at this time, it's just a little unrealistic.
Whatever your view point, I do think the debate surrounding this has been insightful and healthy, and I encourage that to continue in the comments below.