As Coventry City FC are about to be doomed to spend the 2017/18 season in the 4th tier of English Football, yesterday the club announced Season Ticket pricing for the next campaign. The prices are generally frozen at current levels, except that the abolition of the Standard Plus category will result in some fans paying higher prices, should they wish to renew.
With the magnificent exception of the Checkatrade Trophy final, 2016/17 has been the most miserable season in living memory. While Mark Robins has achieved some better results and performances over the last month, the Sky Blues have fallen to their lowest league position in almost 60 years.
Fans had a right to expect that proper consideration would be shown by club management for the failure to deliver a decent product on the pitch; especially when this term’s Season Tickets, with inflated prices, were promoted on the promise of investment for success.
Season Ticket holders have been voicing their intentions for many months, a significant majority stating that they do not intend to renew while Sisu remain in charge of Coventry City. This has been a spontaneous response from supporters to the woes of our club, both on and off the field. In addition to apocryphal evidence of this intention on phone-ins and forums, statistical evidence has been provided by the recent Sky Blue Trust survey and a Twitter poll conducted by Steve Carpenter of the Coventry Observer. While not directly comparable, due to the difference in timing and phrasing of the question, both of those samplings indicated that the vast majority of fans will not purchase a Season Ticket for next season.
Let me be clear: despite the misleading insinuations by Les Reid in his recent Opinion rant for the Coventry Observer, neither I nor the Jimmy Hill Way Campaign have called for a Season Ticket Boycott. When the question was posed at the Sky Blue Trust Open meeting in January, I replied that we hardly needed to call a boycott as it was likely to happen anyway, due to the vast dissatisfaction expressed by supporters as had previously been evidenced by show of hands on the night. I genuinely believe that it should be a matter for individual choice; if fans think that a Season Ticket for 2016/17 represents value for money and if they are happy to continue to attend home games under Sisu’s stewardship, good luck to them. Equally, any of us who have had enough of the dreadful mismanagement of the club, of being constantly let down by the owners and directors, who feel that we are being overcharged for under-performance, we are absolutely entitled to withdraw our custom. That is not BONKERS, as described by Mr Reid, it is the hard facts of economic reality.
Tim Fisher, currently the sole director and Chairman of CCFC, is obviously in need of some basic lessons in business strategy. Any vaguely competent Company Director would recognise that if:
- The product that you have been supplying has not been fit for purpose;
- The specification for the future (in League Two) will be of a lower quality;
- Supporter (“Customer”) dissatisfaction has been widely and loudly expressed;
- Attendance (“Demand”) has fallen alarmingly;
- The infrastructure of your business is in tatters;
- Your cash projections indicate that the Company is in need of additional funds;
then it would be highly advisable to reduce prices, offer discounts or loyalty rewards, whatever it takes for customers to be persuaded that they will get better value for money and your business retains the maximum possible revenue, while attempting to put right those failings.
Against that background, merely to freeze prices at best and to penalise some fans by increasing charges, now that is BONKERS. Worse than that, it is an insult to the intelligence and loyalty of thousands of fans, whether they are Season Ticket holders or not. If there is any single action likely to promote a Season Ticket Boycott, this is it.
I have previously challenged Tim Fisher’s record and competence to be a Director of Coventry City Football Club. With this latest piece of mis-judgement, I now start to wonder seriously whether it is incompetence or willful stupidity. Just at the point when wavering supporters may have been taking a more positive view on Season Ticket renewal, due to the recent uplift in fortunes under Mark Robins, the announcement on pricing is a self-inflicted wound. Why you would embark on action that is likely to distress a struggling business still further, is beyond my comprehension.
It would be tragic if Mr Fisher and Ms Seppala were allowed, once again, to preside over the catastrophic financial failure of Coventry City Football Club. Yet their record of poor decision making, the conflict of interest between Sisu investors and CCFC in which the club comes a distant second, the downward spiral of the club both on and off the field; all present deep concerns for the long-term survival of the Sky Blues. It is inconceivable to me that Sisu’s disastrous tenure can be tolerated by the EFL, even more alarming that some City fans are prepared to accept such failure and mediocrity, for so long.
Supporters have taken to social media and forums in large numbers to express their outrage at this announcement on Season Ticket prices. So, don’t blame me, the Jimmy Hill Way, the Sky Blue Trust or any other supporter group or individual fan: if there is a Season Ticket Boycott, the people responsible are Tim Fisher and Joy Seppala.
The Jimmy Hill Way Campaign