It would be hard to argue against the general consensus that ever since Alan Hardy took over the reins at Meadow Lane the outlook has been very positive. With little hint of hyperbole the club was on its knees, lacking energy, drive or any form of leadership and most alarmingly we were staring non-league football full on in the face. After only 3 months of his tenure, Hardy has addressed a lot of those issues and more. However, as most football fans know the latest drama is never far away and if Notts County Football Club is one thing, it’s a club that drama finds easily.
It’s clear to see Hardy has made a massive impact on the club but most fans also knew that the wave of optimism and rapturous acceptance of all decisions made couldn’t stay at the same level forever. Suddenly, most have realised that Hardy will have tough and at times unpopular decisions to make. In the past week that first decision has reared it’s head; season tickets for next season and in particular season ticket renewals for next season.
The discussion, anticipation and expectation started when Mr Hardy emailed or wrote to all current season ticket holders. My old man got his in letter form; I doubt he knows what an email actually ‘does’. The correspondence starts with a thank you to the ‘lifeblood of the club’ and an admission that some ST holders have ‘voiced concern that their package is being devalued as a result of reduced pricing.’ Both statements would ring true with most of the readership; a good start Mr Hardy. Then, the real meat on the bones came;
“I would therefore like to assure you that 2016-2017 season ticket holders will benefit from an exclusive discount on season tickets for the 2017-18 campaign. I will confirm full details in due course.”
Hello… discount. Not only that; exclusive discount. Music to the ears of Notts fans. After waiting for the news, a week ago it came when Mr Hardy announced via Twitter that season ticket prices had been FROZEN for renewals until April 30th. Easy to say the announcement wasn’t met with the mass love in most decisions thus far, mostly justified, have been. After some classic Twitter ping pong, it was revealed the FROZEN renewal price would be last seasons early bird price and after April 30th season ticket prices will go up. From what price they will go up from I’m not sure; I don’t think that’s been made very clear but I assume they’ll be going up from the standard, post early bird price. Again, this didn’t go down very well with a decent percentage of the faithful.
For me, the biggest bone of contention has been with the assurance of discount and the use of the term discount itself; that’s the sticking point. Going back to my old man; he brought his current season ticket at the early bird price and will do the same this year; before the April 30th deadline. Now, when pitched against those who don’t take up this offer or who buy a non-renewal season ticket (possibly myself) he HAS and WILL have had a discount; definitely. However, based on his expenditure last year he has had absolutely NO discount due to the fact he’s paying the same amount; no two ways about it. This is why fans are annoyed/angry/upset because there will be plenty of fans who don’t get any form of discount based on their own personal spending pattern from last season. When you also twin this with their dedication to the club I don’t feel many those renewing season tickets will be truly rewarded. My old man and plenty of others will buy before the 30th deadline because they love this football club and always have and always will support them and NOT due to a fallacy of discount. Mr Hardy has defended his stance, which he has every right to do, but this does not hide the fact that some fans feel very misled by the wording of the assurance and subsequent context of the offer. I can see it both ways, but if I were renewing, I’d feel aggrieved by the whole thing.
Another bone of contention that could and probably will see a percentage of renewing fans not get a discount, but a price hike, is the April 30th deadline simply because there is no guarantee by this date we’ll still be a League Two club. After Saturday’s win and in turn moving 8 points clear of trouble it seems improbable we’ll get relegated but this is football after all and I think Hardy is asking fans to pay good money based on a lot of good will and tweets containing the hashtag ‘faith’. How will the lifeblood feel if they renew before the 30th April deadline then we get relegated? Conference football at League Two prices? No thanks.
The final bone of contention, not as widespread but worth a mention, reared its head the day after ‘discountgate’ when Mr Hardy revealed the club were looking at purchasing a big replay screen for Meadow Lane. Now I think they’re great things – seeing my name flash up on one at Bramall Lane on Cup Final days a few years ago was quality – but letting fans behind this particular curtain not 24 hours after the annoyance of the season ticket announcement? Again I don’t think that will go down as one of Mr Hardy’s best Twitter related decisions. Like I mention, I like replay screens, but personally, with the position we as a club find ourselves in, I’d rather invest that money in more pressing matters such as club infrastructure or more importantly the playing staff for next season. It’s an added extra that in the current climate I don’t think we need.
Like I’ve mentioned and have been happy to mention to plenty of people, I’m delighted with a lot of things Mr Hardy has done for the club and I guarantee he will make plenty of very positive and successful decisions in what I hope are many years to come at the helm. But I am worried that the ambiguity in the season ticket renewal ‘discount’ will annoy plenty of people he’s looked to appease and I also think the lack of public acknowledgment of the annoyance and fobbing it off as negativity will only compound this ‘backlash’.
Like my favourite skipper said recently said, just because your told it’s shiny doesn’t mean it is shiny.