19,334 was the average midweek attendance for league games before Leeds United took a risk on a reduced ticket pricing initiative last night. The result was 25,532 fans through the turnstiles, 6.198 above the midweek average. An increase of over 30%.
Considering the league situation heading into last nights game, a very small away turnout and the poor quality of opposition Leeds United were facing, it’s highly likely that Elland Road would have been well below the seasonal average had it not been for GFH’s initiative.
While it’s impossible to know what might have been, I think it’s highly likely Leeds United would have been playing in front of a 17,500 attendance without the lower prices, a figure similar to the attendances of midweek games v Leicester City and Charlton Athletic earlier this season.
When you consider that Leeds United have over 12,000 season ticket holders (money long since spent by our previous owner), that would have meant only 5,000 paying fans through the turnstiles last night. Instead, GFH’s ticket pricing offer saw 13,000 paying fans descend on Elland Road.
It’s hard to know for sure whether gate receipts levelled out with more fans paying reduced prices, but if we posit a £30 average price paid by the 5,000 who would have turned up, Leeds United needed gate receipts of £150,000 to break even. £150,000/13,000 is around £11.50 per ticket, so it largely depends on the ratio of kids to adults as to whether the gate receipts held firm.
But even if Leeds United recorded a loss on the gate, it can’t have been much and it’s hard to imagine they didn’t recoup the money elsewhere. 8,000 additional fans purchasing refreshments, programmes and merchandise all adds up, while the long-term benefits of getting kids through the gates for the first time are huge, the importance of winning new fans can’t be overstated.
In an age where you’re more likely to see Chelsea and Manchester United shirts on youngsters in Leeds city centre, it was imperative that our new owners started to lure back a generation of fans lost under the previous ownership. £5 last night may seem insignificant to a club with Leeds United’s expenses, but that £5 will turn into thousands as the child nags Dad into taking him to more matches, buying him replica kits and kitting his room out in random merchandise.
Most of those 10 year old kids who paid £5 last night will be supporting Leeds United for the rest of their lives and funding this club for decades to come. The importance of youth doesn’t begin and end with the Academies, it’s just as important in the stands.
Last night wasn’t just a success in the stands of course, it was also a success on the pitch and it’s not difficult to draw a line between the two. The so often lethargic looking Leeds United side, who are often at their most unbearable in midweek fixtures, seemed to feed off the feel-good factor being generated by a lively and boisterous Elland Road crowd. It felt like everyone was pulling in the same direction, working together to inspire one another as the players put in a performance to match the efforts of the crowd.
Credit for all of this must go to GFH. They’ve received a lot of unfair criticism since taking over at Elland Road, mostly as a result of the heightened cynicism Ken Bates’ ownership left behind. It’s understandable that patience is low after so many years outside the top-flight, but it’s going to take a little longer than 8 weeks to undo 8 years of damage. This was a small step in the right direction, a step I hope to see built upon next season by a more reasonable pricing structure that encourages the next generation of fans to come along to Elland Road, whilst also rewarding those of us who have been there through thick and thin (and thinner).
Fans will have a second chance to watch ‘Leeds for less’ when the Whites host Peterborough United on March 12th. Prices start from £15 for adults and £5 for kids, full details can be found here.