Harrogate Town defend rise in ticket prices as supporters voice their discontent

Harrogate Town supporters cheer on their team at the CNG Stadium.
Harrogate Town supporters cheer on their team at the CNG Stadium.

Harrogate Town’s managing director Garry Plant has defended the rise in the price of match and season tickets for the 2019/20 season.

The cost of a standing season ticket for an adult has increased from £277 last term to £312, while it will now cost £342 rather than £303 for the seated equivalent.

Adult pay-on-the-gate admission to home fixtures on a match-day has also risen from £16 to £18 (standing) and £17 to £19 (seated).

Prices have gone up across the board, meaning that both concessions and juniors will also have to pay £2 more per game on the day during the forthcoming National League campaign, much to the dismay of a number of Town supporters.

“The first point to make is that I don’t think that there is anywhere in the world where people will applaud an increase in cost, but full-time football comes at a price,”Plant said.

“The same as household bills increase, our costs have increased. Our travel expenses have gone up, we’ve invested heavily in improving the ground with no funding from elsewhere and invested in the playing squad.

"Since we went full-time we've been promoted from National League North and qualified for the National League play-offs. We're batting above our average but we want to sustain this.

"As custodians of Harrogate Town we are trying to ensure sustainability. You only have to look at the calamities we've seen at other clubs, such as Gateshead just this season. This is something that we want to avoid so we can make sure that there is a football club going forwards."

Town will no longer be offering a discount to anyone wishing to buy 'early bird' season tickets, nor the opportunity to purchase advance match tickets online at a discounted rate, yet Plant insists that supporters are not being short-changed.

“I still think that we are offering fantastic value for money," he added.

“The product we are delivering is an entertaining one and just look at the facility in which it's taking place.

"We have been nominated for the National League Away Experience of the Season Award, which is voted for by the fans of all the other clubs in this division. Why? Because they're coming to a much-improved ground with decent facilities to enjoy a good football experience.

“People are talking about the cost of a season ticket at Huddersfield Town or Bradford City, however these are clubs with huge fan-bases. Bradford have gone down a different route, but they know that they'll get 15,000 people turning up. Let’s compare apples and apples.

“I sincerely hope that supporters understand what we are trying to do and that the fan-base continues to grow.

"Football is all about the supporters and about filling the terraces. Nobody wants to see attendances drop.”

Jordan Ford, a member of the Harrogate Town Supporters’ Club committee and organiser of away travel, does however fear that the rise in admission fees may price some fans out of attending home games.

He said: “I believe that around 50 per cent of our hardcore support is made up of fans who were priced out of following big clubs like Leeds United and Manchester United and started following their local team because they could get a similar level of enjoyment at considerably less expense.

“With the prices going up for next season, that won’t be the case any more and it’s disappointing to hear the amount of supporters who are saying that they simply won’t be able to afford to go to as many games.

“It’s really sad. We’ve created a really enjoyable atmosphere at home matches and we’re in danger of losing that if people aren’t going to go.

“For myself and my two children to attend it will now be around £500, which is too high a price to justify. I’m not saying I am going to stop attending but I’ll have to look at the cost.”

Another fan, Geoff Riley, believes that the club’s reluctance to consult with supporters has made the increase in cost of tickets even more difficult to accept.

“It seems that there is a disconnect between the club and the supporters’ club. There has been no communication or consultation about this matter and if there had been it might have helped soothe the waters,” he said.

“The price hike is significant and the explanation given doesn’t wash. I have big doubts as to whether this will raise more revenue. I believe that attendances could well fall.

“I know three supporters who won’t renew their season tickets and will pick and choose which fixtures they attend. These are genuine fans, not keyboard warriors.

“This is a major issue and I really want the club to look at their decision again.”

A U-turn does however appear unlikely.

When asked about the possibility of the club reviewing the cost of ticket prices, Plant replied: “We’ve sat down and poured over the figures. We’ve had to budget for next season and need to meet that budget.

“Some decisions are difficult to make but we have to be brave.”