Here are a few interesting numbers. 1896- the year which saw the formation of Crawley Town FC. 1- the number of seasons so far we’ve played League football. 25- the price of the most expensive ticket to watch the FA Cup 3rd Round game v Bristol City. Also the price charged v Derby County in the same round last season. 3109- the average home League crowd so far this season (not including the match with Burton Albion). 2151- the number of new seats in the proposed East Stand. 4996- the current capacity of the Broadfield Stadium.
Now for another number- 55. The age I felt when I got up this morning. The year when Anthony Eden became Prime Minster after Churchill resigned. The number of times that Michael Stipe sings the word “yeah” in “Man on the Moon” (some students may say 56, but I say they can’t count). And the percentage of turnover that clubs in League 2 can spend on wages.
So, why all of these numbers? Since the announcement of the ticket prices for the pending FA Cup Third Round tie with Bristol City, there has been lots of debate about whether the club has got these right. Are they too expensive? The jury appears to be out. Certainly they are more than we’d normally pay for a home League game, but then the opposition is of a higher calibre, and if we win we might well get a lucrative tie in the fourth round. We all remember what a “lucrative tie” looks like. Think back to last season’s Third Round tie? Sergio’s winner? We paid £25 to watch that, and for me the memory alone is priceless, but we are in a recession. It is Christmas, after all. This is, without doubt, an expensive football match. But does it need to be?
Our crowds are on the up- and no wonder, our team is performing exceptionally well. We’re top of the league. We’re in the Third Round of the FA Cup for only the third time in our history. We’re still basking in the glory of the most successful season we’ve ever had. But we have a ground that- currently- holds under 5000 people. It’s about to be expanded, planning permission pending and at not a little expense, but it’s small and so far this season it hasn’t yet been full. It may well be for Bristol City.
And there lies the rub. We all love the success we’ve had- but success costs money. Look at the investment over the past few months. The Centre of Excellence. Additional backroom staff. A new stand to come. Furthermore, we have a team full of players that would walk into any other side in our league. Tyrone Barnett. Matt Tubbs. Sergio Torres. Kyle McFadzean. I’ll stop there before I name the entire squad- but whilst these players aren’t going to be twelve pence behind Wayne Rooney in the wages stakes, they’ll all be earning good money. Where does that money come from? Well it comes from a variety of places; sponsorship, other commercial ventures, merchandise- but chiefly, it comes from bums on seats and feet on terraces. It comes from cash spent in Redz bar on pre and post match beer, from burgers and chips, from programmes. A little comes from organisations like the Alliance. It comes from events like the Sportsman’s Dinner recently hosted by Peter Shilton and next week’s Comedy Night.
We’ve every reason to be happy with progress on and off the field. But if we want to stay happy we need to think about how we make that progress continue. We need to be bringing our friends and family to watch our mighty Reds. We need to be doing what we can to support ventures such as the comedy night. We need to be positively encouraging away supporters to come and drink with us in Redz before the game – and I’ve seen people doing quite the opposite, which I’ll never understand. We need to be taking- for want of a better word- ownership. Football clubs don’t cease to exist on days other than a matchday. We can influence the future of the club by our actions. Or inaction.
So, back to that number. 55. What does that really mean to us? 55% of turnover is how much? Well 55% of our turnover two seasons ago wouldn’t pay for what we’ve got now. Will 55% of what we’re likely to make this season make us successful next year? Well there are other factors to consider as well as money, but how much we make is certainly of chief importance! If we want better; if we want to push on to League One and have sustainable success, we can’t just rely on drawing Manchester United in the cup every year. We need to get more money into our club. Ewan and the commercial team are doing a great job, but there are only so many of them, and so many hours in the day. This is our football club. We need to take some of the responsibility. Football clubs aren’t like other forms of entertainment. I enjoy going to Cineworld, but I don’t think about investing in its future. CTFC is engrained on my heart, so I’ll make an exception. And I’m hardly unique.
£25 for the Bristol City game? It’s a lot of money. But it’s also true that we’ll end up with what we can afford. I loved our days in non league. I have fond memories which I wouldn’t give up. Do I want to go back there? Absolutely not. We’ve come a long way in a short time, and it’s been wonderful. But if we want to continue moving forward we need to remember the cost of success- and sometimes, we need to pay it.That might mean a pint or two less before or after this match, but the investment will certainly be longer lasting and more rewarding!