With Niall Quinn recently bemoaning fans watching games illegally in pubs, combined with the latest released accounts of SAFC showing a loss of £27m, Roker Report has been inundated with messages asking "Where should we go from here? How can we correct this?" Here are some of our suggestions on some ways things could be corrected. Note, we are in no way financial experts, in fact, quite the opposite, so obviously these thoughts would have to be investigated further by people more in the know, but they all seem viable on paper.
Option #1: SAFC work with the biggest offending pubs.
Niall has already said SAFC have done investigations into which pubs are doing the most business when it comes to dodgy broadcasts on a home match day. This suggestion is that instead of making enemies of the pubs and bars in question, we work with them.
How can this be done? Well, Quinny loves to talk. If anything, he does it far too often. We all know no matter what he says, it's coming from the heart, and not for any personal gain. We suggest that Niall gathers up the landlords and ladies of these pubs, and gets them to a general meeting, where deals can be done.
Niall has the upper hand, as whether it be on Romanian TV, or live in the flesh, SAFC are the attraction. The club could do a lot worse than include the bars in pre-match experience.
In return for them not showing matches live, SAFC could offer:
- The owners of the bars hospitality at SAFC in return for not showing the games.
- Fans at these bars pre-match free transport to the Stadium of Light.
- Talk-ins with current and former SAFC legends to give the bars opportunity to re-earn cash lost by not showing games.
- Help kit bars out with SAFC merchandise and memorabilia as part of a 'Official Pre-Match Pub' scheme.
Obviously these options will come at a price to SAFC, but it's small fry when Niall says that 5,000 people through the door on match day equals an extra £1.9m in the clubs back pockets.
When the owners of the pubs are, in the majority, SAFC fans, I can't see many reasons why those incentives wouldn't make them want to sign up to an official scheme.
Option #2: Increased revenue off the pitch.
When Roker Report spoke to The Swiss Ramble about SAFC and the soon to be introduced Financial Fair Play Rules, I was quite startled that SAFC's off field turn over went down last season. Obviously the league finish didn't help matters much, but it as mainly sponsorship and the like, where SAFC were one of only two teams (the other being the Mags) whose revenue went down in that area last season.
Now then, I know we can only take the best deals on offer from who actually wants to sponsor the club in various areas, but I can't help but feel more could be done. For too long now when it comes to sponsorship, SAFC have focussed too heavily on the 'local' aspect. Vaux, Reg Vardy & Tombola all locally based companies who have had their name plastered on the shirt, along with BoyleSports during our brief Irish infatuation.
Quite simply, if we want to make money, and start balancing the books and being more prudent in a business sense, there isn't much room for sentiment. Offers need to be encouraged from all manors of companies, all with cash to spend from around the world, not just within SR postcodes.
Option #3: Stadium Naming Rights.
We sell them, to put it so obviously. This might prove to be a controversial move, but I've never felt much kinship to "The Stadium Of Light" and if calling it something like the Umbro Arena or something equally soulless brought in an extra £3-4m per season, I'd be more than happy.
Niall has spoken out about this, and floated it as an option. However he stressed that it would need to incorporate the area. As stated in Option #2 though, there's no room for sentiment in big business, nor is there room for another spectacularly shit stadium name in the Premier League now have the SportsDirectStadium@StJamesPark.com or whatever the piggery is calling itself these days.
Option #4: More ticketing options available.
I'm aware that many people have put the idea to the club in the recent fans survey, and its something that we may well see introduced sooner rather than later.
I propose systems akin to what you get in other sports and in other football leagues around the world. The introduction of 2/3 or even 4 game 'bundles' of tickets which come at a reduced rate for buying in bulk.
Varying mix and match prices dependent upon how many Category A & B matches you include in your bundle, but either way, a saving is made for the fan. The club's profit in this is that a) more bums are on seats to buy stuff within the ground b) If say 1 ticket in a 4 game bundle goes unused, the club have got some money as opposed to no money for that particular week.
As I said, I'm led to believe this may well be coming into force from next season, and I'd welcome it, as would many fans I'm sure.
Another option would be incentivised ticketing. For example, buy a Category A game ticket for £30, get £5 off a Category B game, making the second ticket work out at about £20. Someone who previously didn't fancy say WBA at home, may well be swayed for £20.
Obviosuly with SAFC announcing a slight price increase in Season Cards, all these ticketing options, for the time being, would have to be on match by match sales only.
So what is the logical conclusion? How will SAFC manage to turn the deficit around? Personally, I feel the answer is 'All of the above' if we want to get things in action.
I think we have a fantastic team at the helm. Niall Quinn's unquestionable passion for the club and the area, and Ellis Short's ruthless business smarts will see us good in the long run, but there's still a lot that the two could learn from each other. Niall would do well to learn from Ellis' "Strong & Silent" persona, and perhaps Ellis will pick up a little of Niall's boundless passion. Not too much mind.
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