Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Grounds for concern

In Sunday's programme Peter Varney celebrated the contribution of the Valley Express service to the attendance at the Villa game. The chief executive wrote: 'The service is a key part of our strategy to create sufficient demand to fill the planned increased capacity at The Valley, and these are all positive signs that everything is very much going to plan. We will not be complacent, however.'

I would be concerned rather than complacent. Of course, this is the time of the year when people declare that they are not going to renew their season ticket. One fan wrote to the Mercury saying that he would not enter the ground again because of the humane disposal of the foxes that were damaging the sprinkler system (after attempts to release them elsewhere had been thwarted). Others are saying they will not renew because of the smoking ban which the majority of non-smokers welcome and which legislation is going to require anyway.

However, I think that there are grounds for concern that go beyond the usual professional whingers and moaners. The attendance at Sunday's game was under 25,000.
That was boosted by our section of the Jimmy Seed being given over to schools, a good thing in itself, but hardly a sign of enthusiasm to buy tickets. Boro are, of course, hardly an exciting draw and bring relatively few away fans.

But then consider the match itself. In the first half we saw a display of aimless hoofing that would have disgraced a League 2 side. There is an argument that football is not about entertainment, but about suffering for the cause, but that can be pushed too far. Fans would probably prefer an exciting 3-4 defeat to a listless 0-0 draw, but the former is better for survival and the bank balance (given the amount of money tied up in an extra place in the table). Of course, as I have argued before, the structure of the Premiership encourages defensive, cautious football.

There are some warning signs that should lead the board to reflect on how well season ticket renewals will go next year. This is in spite of the competitive pricing at Charlton - which can, of course, attract those who wish to watch Premiership football rather than Charlton. They are hardly likely to be converted to Addicks by what The Times described as an 'astonishingly muted' home crowd.

Concerns about the new 0871 telephone system are growing and, much as I think that Matt Wright does an excellent job for the club, I wasn't convinced by the explanation in the programme. It seemed to be arguing that the system toppled over every time Merv tried to send out his pizza order. By all means get a new system but why can't it be a 0845 number and still offer options for information? I doubt whether the club is getting much of the 10p a minute charge. It all reminds one of Clubcall and paying for an interview between Mark Mansfield and the groundsman at Sparrows Lane: 'so you've seen a lot of grass growing, have you?'

A lot of hopes for the season and for the future of the club now ride on the home cup tie against Boro when they will put up a strengthened side. It's a fragile base to build on and the club needs to be aware that it is not just the usual suspects who are becoming disenchanted.

Finally, let me remind you that we will be the only Charlton blog covering tonight's key Midland Alliance game between Leamington and high flying Malvern Town, aka the Springsmen. We shall see some hoofing, but also some real spirit from the players and some amusing chants from the crowd.


Blogger New York Addick said...

Do the club assume that all season ticket holders attend every home game, and do they only count them as they enter the stadium? My suspicions (based partly on evidence of fans that sit around us) are that many season ticket holders do not attend the less glamorous games, particularly those not taking place on Saturday at 3pm. Hence the 24,000 crowd vs 'Boro may be overstated.

Moreover, as I've discussed on my blog, I think the club grossly underestimates how many season ticket holders only bother to pay up for a season ticket to guarantee entry to the 'glamour games.' If they expand the stadium, the club may observe the unintended consequence of reduced season ticket sales and lower attendances for the less glamorous games, thus neutralising any revenue benefit from the expansion.

3:04 AM  
Blogger Wyn Grant said...

Yes, you are right, the club counts season ticket holders whether they were there or not so the attendance was probably nearer 22,000

8:39 AM  

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