BURNLEY chief executive Lee Hoos has defended the controversial decision to hike season ticket prices following the club’s promotion to the Premier League.
The Clarets froze prices ahead of the early bird deadline on March 31 but have increased them by up to 50 per cent after promotion, with adult season tickets now costing between £499 and £685.
That has angered many supporters, who insist they simply cannot afford the increased prices.
But Burnley had already sold around 12,500 season tickets at early bird prices and between 350 and 400 more were sold yesterday after tickets were put back on sale at the higher price.
The new increased prices include a £100 ‘retainer’, which will be redeemed if fans renew their season ticket for the 2015/16 campaign.
That part of the deal has been particularly controversial, but Hoos insists it was necessary to avoid any repeat of the decline in attendances when the club were relegated after their last season in the Premier League, in 2009/10.
The Clarets had 15,085 season ticket holders in the top flight but that figured dropped dramatically a year later.
“We had 5,030 fans who bought season tickets in 2009/10 when we were in the Premier League who we haven’t seen since,” said Hoos, who joined the club in 2011.
“That was a surprising figure to me. I thought, ‘Wow’. That’s a lot of people.
“So the idea this time was we should try to do a two-year season ticket deal to try to make sure we’re holding on to people.
“We looked at ways of implementing that but it became really complicated to introduce because of changes of category, if someone is going from under 18 to under 22 etc.
“The idea that came back was what about if we looked round at what other teams are charging in the Premier League. We’ll charge that price but then if people renew we’ll knock £100 off the ticket for the next year.
“I thought that wasn’t a bad idea.
“I’m not saying they will go up, but let’s just say next year the early bird prices go up £20, to £349.
“The renewal price would actually be £249. We’d knock £100 to say thank you for committing to us again.
“The way to look at this is as a two-year deal, which is how it was initially envisaged.
“Don’t just commit to us for one year and then we may never see you again.
“Commit to us for two years and we’ll make sure you’re rewarded.”
When Burnley were last promoted in 2009, then chairman Barry Kilby offered a ‘Premier League pledge’ - giving fans free season tickets in the Premier League as a reward for purchasing tickets in the previous season.
The Clarets will receive a windfall of up to £120m for being promoted to the Premier League this time, but Hoos insists that season ticket revenue remains vital to the club.
“It’s still a substantial portion of revenue,” he said.
“We had a chairman’s pledge last time - that effectively was a player.
“This year if we get the revenue streams right that’s an extra two players and in terms of legacy, the investment into the stadium and particularly the training ground, we really need to leave a lasting legacy.
“The early bird are still getting pretty good value on their tickets.
“We’ve been selling season tickets since December, trying to encourage people, doing 12-month finance deals to make it easy to pay.
“We don’t have that many tickets left to sell, we have less than 3,000 with the uptake we’ve already had.
“Hopefully this time we can get some of those 5,030 people who only showed up for one year to say, ‘Actually I quite enjoyed it, I’m going to stick around for the second year’.
“We’re trying to distinguish between Burnley fans and Premier League fans. If you’re a Burnley fan you’re going to get the benefit.
“If you’re just a Premier League fan you’re paying Premier League prices.
“We’re just putting season tickets on sale for average Premier League prices, but unlike other teams we’re saying stick with us and we’ll knock £100 off the following year.”
Hoos allayed fears of existing season ticket holders who worried that the £100 retainer could become a permanent part of future deals.
“That’s not something we’re looking at,” he said. “We’re just looking at doing that this year to encourage people for next year.”