It is, I think, fair to say that Sheffield United’s season has not exactly gone according to plan. So far at least.
Twelfth in the table ahead of tomorrow’s game against Oldham Athletic, six points behind the play-off positions and, despite a wage bill large enough to keep Imelda Marcos in shoes for a year or two, a whopping 15 behind second-place. (Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. But only just). An even more yawning chasm is the one between United and swathes of the club’s support. A rift carved by a combination of legitimate and fallacious grievances although all, as co-owner Kevin McCabe recently acknowledged during an interview with this newspaper, real nonetheless. Against this backdrop of disappointing returns on the pitch and discord off it, I also think it’s fair to say few people will be surprised that an announcement on season ticket prices for the 2016/17 campaign has seemingly been delayed. No doubt the marketing gurus have advised Bramall Lane’s hierarchy to keep their power dry for now.
Hopefully, though, something with a little more substance than slick PR slogans can come out of this deferral too. A cut, regardless of whether Nigel Adkins’ team gains promotion or not, in admission fees for United supporters. Something yours truly believes could go a long way towards ensuring, even in the worst case scenario, remain relatively constant next term and would also represent a gesture of good faith from the club’s leadership towards its followers.
To his credit, McCabe has always been keen to keep a tight reign on the cost of watching United, reckoning higher average gates are more likely to encourage positive outcomes. In the present climate, a reduction would probably also make sound economic sense. I cringe when I hear club chairmen, especially those who paint themselves as altruistic benefactors, claim fans must pay more to deliver trophies or promotions. A £5 per ticket increase over 23 matches would, assuming an average attendance of 20,000, produce £2.3m in revenue. Probably just enough to cover the annual wage of many bog-standard Championship players. Equally, I cringe when I hear fans of any club claim they “deserve better” or “more.” Nobody deserves anything success-wise in football. It’s not in the emotional contract. You get good, indifferent and bad. Results can never be guaranteed. But, in this instance, United should consider cutting their prices. Simply, I think, because it would be the right, not to mention constructive, thing to do.