Friday, 17 July 2015

Price of Rugby

Exclusive research has revealed the wide disparity in what fans around the country, and sometimes fans around the same ground, pay to watch their rugby.  From the eye watering near thousand pound season tickets to the much more modest tenner a game equivalent there is a vast gulf between the have and the have nots.

Let’s run a little Q&A:

Q: So how have you done this “exclusive research”?

A: We’ve painstakingly gone through Premiership rugby clubs’ websites with a fine-tooth comb and put the information is a spreadsheet, what a time to be alive!  Where possible we have used “Early Bird” or renewal prices, there will almost certainly be random other discounts that have been missed and the prices quoted are always the cheapest prices in those areas, for instance Newcastle’s two end terraces are different prices and we have taken the lower but we haven’t taken cheaper prices if only on offer for the front few rows.

Q: Ok so the basics, what does my season ticket buy me? 

A: In Leicester our season tickets buy us the most games at 17. Most clubs offer 16 games whilst London Irish have a novel approach.  You get two pre-season fixtures as standard.  But they’re both against Quins and both at the Stoop.  And you only get 10 Premiership games.  With the London Double header as a home game you only get 9 Premiership games in Reading.

Wasps include an international friendly against Samoa, were it not at the same time as our game against Argentina I fancy a few of us Tigers might have sneaked down the M69 furtively pulling our collars to cover our faces for that one.

Northampton however only offer you 14 games, with one of those in Milton Keynes to boot.  Worcester so far offer 15 games but have a friendly arranged with Saracens at a venue to be confirmed.

Q: Do all clubs employ the same strategy to sell their tickets?

Broadly these fall into three categories:  Flat pricing; a wide variety of prices; charge loads for everything.

Sale lead the way last year with flat pricing.  They offer three prices: standing, sitting, and what is basically a semi-corporate package with a meal and stuff included.  Standing costs £230, normal seats £335.  Nice and simple.  This season London Irish have joined them with two price points: Reserved (£345) and Unreserved (£260), the reserved seats cover the area between the two 22m lines with the rest of the sides unreserved and the ends closed.

Tigers, Worcester, Newcastle, Saracens, Gloucester, Bath and Quins all offer a wide variety of prices.  Quins are generally high charging £649 to sit on halfway but with the very cheap “Jester” package offered at only £199 in the corners.  Tigers similarly offer “Gold” seats at £562 but terrace tickets are only £280.  Saracens have an eye catching whopping £930 top price but have vastly more tickets available at £260.

Newcastle has dirt cheap season tickets; if you are willing to go in the uncovered North or East terrace and brave a Geordie winter you can get away with paying as little as £10 per game (£160 total), and even their top band comes in at under £30 per game.

Bath just about sneak into my definition of a wide variety of prices with a terrace ticket costing £292 but charging an astounding £589 to sit behind the posts, the only club to consider it a premium area.

Northampton and Exeter simply charge loads for everything.  Cheapest ticket in North Londonshire will set you back the equivalent of £21.74 per game, or £305 to stand for 14 games, whilst most seats are available £480 the central block is £600, or £42.86 per game.

Exeter’s tickets cost even more, though you do get 16 games, the cheapest season ticket is a corner block of the terrace costing £335.  The equivalent to the Crumbie costs a staggering £420.  For a terrace.

The highest price comes in the seats; behind the posts in a temporary stand costs £495 whilst the Grandstand costs £610 in the bits they’re even willing to sell to you.

Q.  I am a decrepit pensioner and/or an impoverished student/young person, where’s my discount?

A: Exeter are also the only club in the league that doesn’t offer a concessionary discount to older fans, most clubs are now transitioning to 65 as their concessionary age though Newcastle still start at 60.  At the other end of the age range Tigers & Wasps lets kids under 10 into certain areas for free whilst Newcastle go to 11, Worcester to 12 and Irish all the way to 13.  Sale offered this last year but decided to withdraw the offer because they felt it was being abused by fans claiming a free seat for the extra room with no junior even existing!

Everyone offers a student discount whilst there are an array of other discounts available for those deemed worthy.

Q: Okay so I know Exeter and Northampton charge me more at the bottom but what about specific areas?  How much does a solid blue collar shedhead have to pay compared to those posh boys in Bath?

A: Errrrr £7 more, £299 to £292.  Though in fairness you do get a roof in the Shed.  The Crumbie compares favourably at £280, with only Worcester’s bit of tarmac and Newcastle East terrace cheaper for a side on terrace.  At the ends Newcastle charge £249 for their covered South Stand, £89 more than the uncovered North, which is dearer than Sale’s £230 or Gloucester’s £213 in their West Terrace but pales into insignificance beside Exeter’s £380 for an end terrace.

Q: And how much to sit behind the posts?

A: As mentioned Bath are the only club to consider sitting behind the posts in their top category, whilst Quins charge a very reasonable £319 to sit behind the sticks.   Worth highlighting that this is the only equivalent view where Northampton is cheaper than Leicester; the Saints charge £375 for their two end stands, whilst Tigers consider it a silver category and charge £420.

Wasps’ early optimism sees them offer prices behind the posts of £250 unlike London Irish who in a similarly oversized stadium keep their ends firmly closed. 

Q: What about on the 22?

A: Quins start ramping up the prices the closer you get to the halfway with the blocks roughly on the 22m costing £539, only Exeter is dearer.  Northampton come next at £480, with only 14 games equivalent to £34.30 per match; Bath is £10 cheaper; Gloucester £11 cheaper than Bath and Worcester a further £10 cheaper than Gloucester.  All fairly competitive in the West Country.

Tigers and Saracens have similar prices at £420 and £415 respectively.  Irish and Sale obviously charge their flat rates, with Wasps splitting the difference at £340. Newcastle comes in at a very tidy £269.

Q: Alright then what about on the half way line?  What’s the damage for the best view?

A: Harlequins lead the way here with their central blocks costing £649, which quickly becomes very expensive for a family of four and their butler.  As mentioned a few times Exeter is the next most expensive at £610 but do beat Saints on a “cost per game” analysis; Saints £600 only gets you 14 games.

Bath charge £589 and Gloucester are the other club over the £500 mark by just the £58.  With just one side stand with seats there is at least a genuine premium on the best seats at Kingsholm.  Wasps duck just under my metaphorical limbo pole with a cheeky £499 offer.
All of those are the most expensive normal tickets at their respective grounds.

Worcester, Leicester and Saracens charge similar prices (£450, £420 and £415 respectively) but all offer a higher price ticket in their newer stands.  Platinum at Sixways sets you back £675, more expensive than the much maligned Chiefs, whilst Tigers’ “Gold” goes for £562.  Saracens’ Platinum is a staggering £930, which seems a lot for seats only slightly better than the “Gold” band at £620.

At Newcastle you can sit on halfway for just £360, cheaper than watching from the 22m at all clubs but Wasps, with the slightly better facilities on offer in the West stand costing £115 more.

Q: So any broad brush sweeping generalisations you fancy making?

A: Of course!  You know me, dear reader, I love a quick smear if I possibly can.

Northampton and Exeter regularly make profits and many people consider this A Good Thing.  But that profit is clearly coming direct from their fans’ pockets.

Tigers and Gloucester have to be commended for proving usually profitable yet still offering tickets within reach of the vast majority of fans.  And Harlequins deserve praise for keeping the very low “Jester” package at £199 despite constantly making a loss.  Would it really be better for them to charge £400 for those seats and possibly make a profit?

On the other side Newcastle fans will likely have to swallow large price increases in the coming years.  Not across the board but £360 for a ticket on halfway is too cheap to fund a competitive squad.  It’s difficult to drive prices with less than stellar performances and the likes of Tigers signing their better young players but that is their cross to bear.

Sale and Irish are in the same boat.  There is light at the end of the tunnel for Sale, their stadium is not cavernous and it would only take a small increase in attendances for there to be the pressure on places for the central seats.  Irish have a long old road.  They are simply miles away from seats becoming rare.

Comparing Saracens and Worcester’s prices are instructive.  Despite being the Champions, proving the most consistent team of the past few years and being based in a leafy suburb of the nation’s richest city Saracens in all but one area charge less than Worcester, a yo-yo club from a very small town in the Midlands.  Johan Rupert is regularly cast as a villain for his impact on the game but his generosity has given Saracens a top team yet fans pay budget prices, we can question its greater good but we can all see why Saracens value their main man so much.

It seems that the choice is between funding a top side through a lot of people paying a small fortune or a handful of people paying a large one.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Fixtures Announced for 2015/16

Last Friday Premiership Rugby revealed this season's fixtures and as we at the UltraSubMarines pride our selves on our fast breaking news service we bring you the news only 5 days late.

What we lack in punctuality though we make up for in occasional accidental wit and searing insight.

As has been well signed posted Premiership Rugby is starting late next season and the LV Cup has been scrapped, allegedly for one year only but we'll see if PRL actually let the RFU re-start the cup and what bastardised format they insist on.  

This means that there is a game every weekend for 25 weeks and you only get a rest if you are knocked out in Europe.  Player Welfare?  Nah after all that England flog them for three friendlies Down under in Australia for good measure.

Anyway the Premiership kicks off on 18th October and the first three weeks of the season clashes with the Rugby World Cup.  With Burt "Stuart" Lolcaster's men facing Wales and Australia its not exactly impossible that we will only be missing Marcos Ayerza and only from the first game.

Those three weeks see us away to London Irish, and at home to Harlequins then Wasps.  Irish away is a good test first up, really even with World Cup absences it should be won if we have designs on a home semi final.  Next we face Harlequins either without Brown, Marler and Robshaw or captain fantastic has seen England knocked out at the group stage, or by Samoa or Scotland in the quarters.  

Somehow I don't think England failing so badly will have a particularly positive effect on messers Brown, Marler and capitaine fantastique so either they're not there because Lolcaster's brave boys and bring Rugby home, what ho! Or they might as well not be there because of a shattered spirit after the humiliating humping by Uruguay.  

Old School Fixtures Grid

Wasps is another of those must win games.  With the new local bragging rights at stake, and on World Cup Final day, Tigers will surely be hoping to test out the new 26,000 capacity for this one with many staying on to watch the inevitable Samoa v New Zealand final.

The first week after the World Cup is a tricky away trip to Exeter before we break into Europe.

With the LV scrapped there are no "down" weeks for us next season, every week sees a Premiership or Champions Cup match.  After the first batch of European games we return to face Bath at home, Bath will face the same challenge but Worcester and Newcastle who book end the second set of Euro fixures have no such concern.

Worcester will know they have 3 weeks to recuperate after our game whilst Newcastle have 2 games to rest and rotate to peak for their trip to Welford Road, though they do face a trip to sunny Siberia at some point in the season.  Really both should still be wins.  

Moving into 2016 we face possibly a defining run of fixtures in January: Saracens (A), Northampton (H), 2 European fixtures then Gloucester at Kingsholm.  Gloucester have the same advantages that Worcester and Newcastle have regarding rest, though Gloucester will at least be targeting the Challenge Cup for silverware.

5 wins in January and we are surely in dream land having dealt blows to rivals both at home and abroad, 5 defeats is not impossible and could see major changes in the club.

A truly grueling season drives on straight through the 6 Nations.  Whether the England team is picked by Sir Lolcaster or England's newest coach Jim "'ll Fix it" Mallender remains to be seen but the Youngs brothers are sure to be called for all 7 weeks whilst the Italians will be available for Harlequins (A) and Exeter (H).

I feel we've been particularly unlucky with the fixture draw during the 6 Nations.  Sale, Irish and Exeter at home are all hugely dangerous to face with depleted resources whilst Newcastle, Quins and Wasps away are all games we'd be looking to win with a full squad.

Coming off the back of the difficult January we could claw back a lot of points here with backs to the wall wins, or equally drop 3 or more games where we'd have hoped to win.

The 6 Nations rounds off with Sarries at home that frankly I see as a loss.  You never know but let's just say if I'm a Tigers coach looking to kill time in a casino I don't care what odds they offer I'm keeping my four lots of £200 in my pocket.

The season starts to relent a bit with Sale (A) and Gloucester (H) both of which should see wins with the full side available.

Really April rests on Europe.  If we have a quarter final we could see three massive games in as many weeks as we have European Quarter then Saints (A) before a potential Semi.  Or we have a 2 week build up followed by 2 weeks of recuperation.

Worcester (H) finishes the home programme before going to Bath in May.  What could possibly go wrong there?

The final three fixtures could be relaxing and a chance to finish off a rival's title hopes, alternatively it could be where we make or break a play off charge.

I recognise there's a lot of fence sitting in this article but sue me.  I've no idea whether next year we'll see more of the Semi Final Tigers or more of the Ricoh Tigers.  So I've no idea if we'll be finishing a dismal 6th, another creditable 3rd or bursting into a home Semi Final.

Across the league Tigers have been unlucky to see 6 homes games in the 10 affected by international calls and two of their opponents after European adventures not face such stiff test themselves.  In such a tight and unpredictable league those factors may just be the deciders.

Date comp Oppo Clash
18/10/2015 P Irish (A) RWC QF
24/10/2015 P Harlequins (H) RWC SF
31/10/2015 P Wasps (H) RWC F
07/11/2015 P Exeter (A)
14/11/2015 EC Group Stage
21/11/2015 EC Group Stage
28/11/2015 P Bath (H)
05/12/2015 P Worcester (A)
12/12/2015 EC Group Stage
19/12/2015 EC Group Stage
26/12/2015 P Newcastle (H)
02/01/2016 P Saracens (A)
09/01/2016 P Northampton (H)
16/01/2016 EC Group Stage
23/01/2016 EC Group Stage
30/01/2016 P Gloucester (A)
06/02/2016 P Sale (H) 6N
14/02/2016 P Newcastle (A) 6N
20/02/2016 P Harlequins (A)
27/02/2016 P Irish (H) 6N
05/03/2016 P Exeter (H)
12/03/2016 P Wasps (A) 6N
19/03/2016 P Saracens (H) 6N
26/03/2016 P Sale (A)
02/04/2016 P Gloucester (H)
09/04/2016 EC Quarters
16/04/2016 P Northampton (A)
23/04/2016 EC Semi
30/04/2016 P Worcester (H)
07/05/2016 P Bath (A)
14/05/2016 EC Final
21/05/2016 P Semi
28/05/2016 P Final