“Did you see Man United/Liverpool/Chelsea/Real Madrid/Barcelona etc win on the weekend Sir?” echoes within the four walls of my classroom as a child born and raised within a few hunderded feet of St Andrews is blissfully unaware of what it is like to truly support a team. As a teacher and an avid Birmingham City fan, this is something that has frustrated me for countless years yet I simply cannot blame them. Why would they support Birmingham City? Ticket prices were often excessive for families and yet these are the families who live within a stones throw from the ground. With transfer prices sky rocketing and ticket prices ever increasing, there seemed little I could do in order to encourage them to go to a game (apart from continuesly show them highlights of the Carling Cup victory in 2011, where they would question how Nikola Zigic became a footballer) yet Birmingham City actually took the initiative for once, which has become a game changer!
The club devised a ticket incentive scheme for schools, grassroot football clubs and charities. The basic priciple of the scheme allows tickets to be purchased for specfic games at reduced prices (£10 adults, £5 13-18s, £3 Under-13s). The good news does not stop there as for every ticket purchased, your school/charity/club recive 50% comission to reinvest into your organisation or buy tickets for the following game. Then you are further rewarded by recieving a signed item from the club when you sell over 100 tickets.
As a school, we have taken advantage of this on countless occasions, with last season seeing our highest number of children attend a game, a staggering 100 of them! The impact this has had upon the children has been astonishing. Not only has it encouraged many more to find local football clubs to play for but many more are now attending games with family members. One boy has even gone to the extent of buying a season ticket with his older brother, who have yet to turn into synical Birmingham fans and often spends any given opportunity debating with me who played well in the previous game! Whilst I am in no way on comission with the club to sell this incensitve scheme, I do think its advertisement of it has been poor as the take up has not been great, hence why I felt compelled to write this article.
The ticketing probem is far from resolved at Birmingham. Too many empty seats and unaffordable tickets still plague the stadium on a weekend and far more could be done however this is certainly one way of providing an opportunity to fans of the future. The comparisons with German football are astonishing but unfortunately, the way the game operates in Germany and England could not be further apart due to ownership rules and the approach to financial stability through big money transfers etc. Ultimately, success for the club will bring fans streaming back into the ground. This is the unfortunate reality of modern day football but could Birmingham be doing more to get fans into the ground?
There are many problems at the club and the dubious start to the season will not have encouraged those stay away fans to return. The fan base for the club is big, which can be seen when we sell out for big games such as the Villa games. There’s an incentive here as they are arguably the biggest games of the season for many but what else could be done to increase attendances? I find it baffling how more free tickets aren’t given to schools and local football clubs. Lowering ticketing prices to appeal to a wider audience as many are priced out of football nowadays. Many clubs, particularly using Germany as an example, have incredibly low season ticket costs, which in turn increase the number of people attending games on a regular and consistent basis. My final proposal would be to implement ‘kids for a quid’ for all home games, thus meaning the younger generation would have a greater chance to come to games as their parents can afford to bring them.
With numerous problems currently existing on the pitch, it would be great to see the club take the initiative and implement some of these changes.