Sing in the cheap seats!
The club announced this week that 'Level 7` will be exclusive to season ticket holders and 'Toon Army 12th man` members for coming season. Given its popularity, due to the atmosphere and the close proximity to away supporters, the North West corner of the Leazes might well become a near season ticket sellout anyway. But in the meantime, the club have moved quickly to effectively capitalise on the current demand by restricting access further to only those willing to pay the £20 annual membership fee to become a '12th man`.
Loyalty is something that comes naturally to most regulars at St James` and though numbers have dwindled in recent years, it wasn`t that long ago that some supporters sat on a waiting list to get in the ground. So to suggest that supporters being priced out and positioned out of going to games is a new thing would be unfair. However, the move has understandably been met with cynicism particularly in light of the lingering opinion towards the current incumbent, while other more liberal (?) views have argued that it is a necessary means to creating extra revenue.
Newcastle United will make good money this term, of that there is no doubt. There seems little to be made out of this move and much more to be lost. 'Rewarding` loyalty in this way to those who turn up week in and week out without actually committing to a season ticket or membership seems folly. These are the most vocal of supporters in the ground, arguably playing a big role off the pitch in encouraging matters on the pitch, and yet they now must pay extra for the privilege. There is a glaring contradiction in the statement by the club on the matter that suggests despite these restrictions they want as many fans as possible to experience the Level 7.
Yours truly will be safely ensconced in the upper tier and hopefully right in amongst it come the first game against Villa. Of course though I benefitted from the generous 'price freeze` my money was safely banked a while ago, with no sign yet of my season ticket (sorry, card…). And at the same time, I can`t help but sympathise with those who stood around me last year who have yet to make, and may be unable to make, that sort of financial commitment.
Already experiencing the expected price increase for match days, those same fans will almost unavoidably struggle to get positions in their preferred area for bigger games due to heavy demand. So any that take up the `12th man` offer face the prospect of paying a fee only to end up in a section of the ground they didn`t want to be in, paying more for the privilege in the process and so effectively counteracting one of the unique selling points of the membership, which is 'money off` match vouchers. In order to guarantee a place with Level 7ers, a season ticket appears to be the only surefire option and suddenly the cheap seats don`t seem so cheap anymore.