The Telegraph reports that Manchester United has sold 50,000 season tickets, with the Premier League campaign beginning in under four weeks. After an aggressive summer marketing campaign the total falls 6,000 short of last season’s total. The club confirmed that this figure does not include executive seats sales.
Last season’s total executive seat numbers of 7,500 were added to season ticket sales of 56,000. United’s current shortfall of 6,000 tickets represents a drop in sales of just under 12 per cent on standard season tickets.
The club also said that executive seats are “tracking in line with last season’s sales,” although the Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association (IMUSA) reports more than 1,000 seats were downgraded ahead of the new season.
Even if executive sales have held up, the drop in standard seats is significant given the aggressive push this summer, which has involved email and tele marketing to current and former season ticket holders, One United members and even those who have not bought a membership during the Glazers’ tenure at the club.
The club then launched a glossy ‘Season Ticket Waiting List’ brochure, which was pro-actively sent to the club’s marketing database after the 13 June renewal deadline.
Moreover, the club’s stance on a potential organic boycott, which has not been officially organised by either of the supporters’ groups, included the claim that thousands of fans were on a season ticket waiting list. With seats still available, the wait is now negligible.
Whether the shortfall in season ticket sales is compensated by One United members buying match-by-match tickets is as yet unknown, although gaps in the stands were noted at some of United’s less glamorous matches last season.
Whatever the reduction in sales, however, it is now clear the Glazer family’s ownership has eroded United’s core support, with the blended average season ticket price increasing 48 per cent over the five years the Americans have been at the club. Whether the family sells up in the short-term or not, a generation of United supporters has walked away from the club.
The club will reveal more details on the financial impact of season ticket sales on 27 August, when Red Football Joint Venture Ltd publishes its end-of-year accounts. The accounts, which show the financial year to 31 June 2010, will almost certainly still show a healthy cash surplus.
However, with no transfer business done by the club this summer more than £100 million cash is likely available for Glazer family to remove in dividends this financial year, with the interest rate on the Payment in Kind (PIK) debt rising to 16.25 per cent in August.
The end of year accounts will, of course, allow the club to claim that the Ronaldo money is still available, and Sir Alex Ferguson to continue his line that there is no value in the market. Until the club publishes its Q1 2010/11 financial results in November that is.
Whatever the season ticket sales by the time United take the field against Newcastle United on 16 August it seems unlikely that green and gold protesters will be placated by United’s summer dealings in the market.
Indeed, anti-Glazer banners were removed during United’s match against Celtic in Toronto last week, mirroring aggressive action by stewards at Old Trafford last season.
Fans can expect more of the same in the coming season, no matter how many have bought season tickets.