JULIAN RHODES has revealed how Bradford City’s record-breaking season ticket sales are forming a key part of the club’s summer recruitment drive.
The Bantams have sold a little over 18,000 after slashing adult prices to £149 – or the equivalent of £6.50 per game.
It represents an almost 50 per cent rise on last season’s tally and, using the 2014-15 figures as a guide, means City are on course to sell more season tickets than all but a small number of clubs in the Football League.
Only Derby County, Brighton & Hove Albion and promoted Norwich City, for instance, sold more last term than the amount Bradford shifted before Sunday’s deadline for the cut-price offer elapsed.
“Each year since 2007 we have tried to do something different in an attempt to keep it fresh,” joint chairman Rhodes told The Yorkshire Post. “For 2015-16, we were close to sticking with what we had done over the last couple of years but then, at the last minute, we decided to go with £149.
“The sales target initially was 15,000. Some thought we were being ambitious and we did have some people outside the club trying to tell us that we didn’t have that many people who supported Bradford City.
“But I always felt it to be a realistic target. Then, though, after sales went so well during those opening couple of weeks, we revised the target upwards to 17,500 so to go through even that is incredible.
“The fans have backed us to the hilt and we really appreciate that. A lot of credit has to go to Phil (Parkinson, manager) for making us a team people want to watch.”
Bradford’s 18,021 sales by the end of Sunday night is comfortably higher than the average gate in 2014-15 for not only League One (4,570) but also the Championship (12,236).
Using last term as a guide, the record-breaking figures would also see City – who along with Sheffield United, Portsmouth and MK Dons were the only clubs from outside the Championship to make the top 20 – soar from 19th in the overall League table of sales.
In the process, the Bantams would have leapfrogged both Steel City clubs as Yorkshire’s top performer – Wednesday having finished seventh in last term’s standings, one place above United.
For Bradford, the record-breaking sales – plus the club’s tendency to include all season ticket holders in the declared crowd regardless of whether present or not – mean Valley Parade is likely to host its largest average attendance since the League officially started keeping records in 1925.
The existing record is the 18,551 who watched the promotion winning campaign of 1928-29 in Division Three (North). Previously, City had reported an average of 22,585 in 1920-21.
In the club’s two Premier League campaigns, an average of 18,030 watched Paul Jewell’s men stay up in 1999-2000 while the following term brought 18,511 on average through the turnstiles of an expanded Valley Parade.
Rhodes, a director in those two top-flight campaigns, said: “Anyone who came to our games last season will know what a special atmosphere that our fans were able to generate.
“No one could believe they were at a League One game and it is something we have been saying to prospective signings. The lure of playing in front of that crowd is something most footballers want.
“Admittedly, mentioning the crowds we will get has worked against us in a couple of instances. A couple (of targets) have given the impression that the pressure would be too much.
“But that has still worked for us, in that we wouldn’t want anyone here whose first response to running out in front of such a big crowd isn’t to think, ‘Give me more of this’. We don’t want shrinking violets at Bradford City.”
City – who have signed Tony McMahon, Steven Davies and Josh Morris this summer – are targeting an improvement on last season’s seventh place finish.
If this goal is to be achieved, it will have to be done on a similar budget to last term with the record-breaking ticket sales only bringing a marginal lift to the club’s revenue streams due to season tickets being slashed by £50 per adult.
“Our aim was to protect our income but increase attendances and that is what we have done,” said Rhodes. “In terms of revenue, only half a dozen clubs in League One will have net ticket office revenue of £2m or more.
“We just managed it in 2013-14 but were slightly under £2m in revenue from our home league games last season. Now, we should beat the £2m mark with season tickets have brought in around £1.65m net so far. Add in the match-day revenue from the 2,000 flexicards we have sold plus the away fans and those who come along when they can and things are looking good.
“The big target of the cut-price offer this time was filling Valley Parade. We had been told by some ‘experts’ that reducing prices wouldn’t lead to an increase in attendances. I’m sorry, but that is nonsense, as we have proved over the years.
“I go back to 2007 and the first year we reduced prices and that was when Bradford City was effectively reborn as a club. We went from 4,500 season ticket holders in 2006-07 to 12,200, which made a big difference.
“Results didn’t go our way for a few years after that and we struggled at the wrong end of League Two, but the crowds stuck with us. ”