In his most recent press comments in the Liverpool Echo, Everton Chief Executive Robert Elstone had the following comments to make regarding the possible capacity of the new stadium on Bramley Moore:
“We have reasons to be confident on capacity. As evidenced this season, Everton remains as ambitious as ever and will continue to challenge for a place in the Champions League
And also, right now we have 10,000 prospective season ticket holders waiting for the release of around 3,000 seats, so we’re confident that we can fill a considerably bigger stadium”
Of course, that begs the question how big is “a considerably bigger stadium”?
One of the easiest ways of judging future capacity requirements is by breaking down existing classifications of supporters to see where we fit with our Premier League peers.
Thus I’ve broken down other clubs capacities and attendances by the following: season ticket holders, executive seating, away fans, and numbers of “walk ups” which include non-regular supporters, visitors, and match day tourists (like it or not but there is a market there and as long as it doesn’t destroy the atmosphere it shouldn’t be ignored)
Before looking at how achievable the assumptions may be, I’m going to examine how realistic is it to fill a 60,000 seat stadium by using the following breakdown:
|season ticket holders||
|“walk up” supporters||
Using a number of sources (the actual sourcing of the information was much harder than anticipated) I’ve drawn up a chart which breaks down as follows. The “walk up figure required” is the number required to create a capacity attendance.
|Team||Capacity||season tickets||executive seating||away seating||walk up required|
On the face of it all these figures look very achievable.
Season ticket sales would need to match current sales plus current waiting list. We have proved with competitive pricing and innovative concessionary classes for young and old we can massively increase demand for season tickets.
In addition, the experience of all clubs moving into new stadia is that season ticket sales, and their waiting lists increase when a new stadium is built. Arsenal for example, grew their season ticket sales from 20,000 in their final year at Highbury (capacity 38,500) to 45,000 on moving to the Emirates. Similarly, Manchester City doubled season ticket sales, and the greatest success was actually achieved by West Ham, going from 25,000 to over 50,000.
Whilst I consider the figure of 5,000 executive seats to be lower than I would aim at personally, I hear that this is in the range the club expects to sell, so I’m using that figure. In terms of our peer group it is at the low end of the scale which obviously can impact match day revenues.
Away fan figures are governed by the Premier League rules, so are capped at 3,000.
Finally we have what I call walk up spectators. Now clearly in this day and age they are not supporters who just walk up on the day of the match. Nevertheless for a multitude of reasons, they are supporters who through cost, family and work commitments or fans increasingly living away from Liverpool who cannot make every match and thereby book tickets on a match by match basis.
Different clubs adopt different models. Liverpool for example rely heavily on this class of supporter through a deliberate strategy of restricting season ticket sales and having huge sales of “tourist/visitor” spectators – currently around 18,000 per match fit this category.
Based on my assumptions, we’d need to attract 10,000 such supporters to each game. That on the face of it might seem a challenge. However we have regularly attracted between 5 and 8,000 such supporters to Goodison Park since the turn of this century and our regular 34-38,000 average attendances. It is only in very recent years with the competitive discounting of season tickets that the numbers of walk ups have declined – not because of demand, but lack of seating. It should also be remembered that the vast majority of these tickets sold at Goodison Park have some of the worst, restricted viewing in the Premier League.
Thus to me, I don’t believe we will have an issue with selling 60,000 seats for all our home games. I’ve not even taken into consideration the likelihood of improved performances, and the real prospect of being a top 4 contender, a Champions League club, and yes, a genuine contender in years to come for the Premier League title.
The club talks of ambition – well let’s not fall at the first hurdle. I’m sure their analysis of demand will meet my own amateur analysis, that a 60,000 stadium can be filled every game.
Putting it in simple terms, we can sell 8,000 fewer season tickets than West Ham, 3,000 fewer executive seats than Spurs, and have 8,000 fewer “walk up” supporters than Liverpool and still fill a 60,000 seat stadium every home game.
In the words of Mr Elstone “we’re confident that we can fill a considerably bigger stadium”.
“Considerably bigger” needs to be 60,000 otherwise we are selling ourselves short.