BROMLEY FC: THE POLITICS OF CONCESSIONS
Ticket prices are frequently a bugbear of football fans, especially for supporters in the National League. It can seem ludicrous to many that certain clubs will charge north of £15 — let alone more than £20 — for admission to a fifth-tier football match.
Prices are of course a symptom of the trickle-down effect of the Premier League, where all that seems to trickle down is the increased wage and running costs rather than any of the obscene wealth. In a pretty much entirely full-time, professional National League, ticket prices are bound to reflect this.
This becomes a trickier and thornier situation when we also consider concession pricing. Not only do all clubs have their own ticket pricing policies, but clubs also operate a patchwork of discounts and concession prices, with notable variance.
Football clubs are not charities, and we all appreciate that, depending on budgets and expectations, not every club can afford to be generous in its concession pricing. Some clubs barely offer concessions at all, despite high ticket prices, Boreham Wood being a prominent example as the small club looks to maximise its revenue streams.
Others do things their own way. Solihull Moors has a very sensible and logical range of concession and discount offers, some of which probably make the club more money than it loses on ticket sales. Free tickets for young kids, for example, is a huge bonus when parents have to come along too, and programmes and burgers and chips and bottles of pop and official hats and scarves are bought. Plus, it lays the building blocks for our next generation, too; football clubs are communities that thrive on bringing in and including fresh faces of all ages and backgrounds. The Moors are currently doing that excellently through their Youth & Junior and Community Football initiatives.
It's perplexing then, to see a club of broadly similar stature in Bromley FC, with — at face value — quite a generous concession policy, getting things so wrong.
Clubs drift into very dangerous waters when they try to dictate who is more 'deserving' of a concession than others based on factors like occupation. It's a popular idea amongst some football supporters for serving armed forces and emergency service personnel to be granted a concession. While nobody would argue that these people do difficult jobs very well to keep our society in running order, where does one then draw the line as to which occupations deserve special treatment? Bromley's list of concessions include NHS workers, but not teachers, social workers, refuse workers, truck drivers...
How and why have Bromley made that call to favour some sectors over others? It seems to me a well-meaning but ultimately lazy gesture in community engagement — a publicity stunt — to give concessions to people with certain jobs. After all, few disagree that fire crews and police and armed forces are important to keeping us safe — I certainly agree with relatives who have done all of the above — so it looks good to offer a concession. But, when you think about it, it doesn't actually make any sense. All those people get paid, some of them quite well (others definitely not well at all). OAPs are charged the same despite not earning at all. How does that work?
Then factor in that Bromley puts an age limit on its student discount, too. Over-21s are not eligible. Fair enough, you may say. It's aimed at uni students or people doing apprenticeships after leaving college. But hang on a second — many uni degrees last four years. That's going to take those students up to the age of 22; 23 or 24 if they've had to wait and work to earn the money to be able to go in the first place. What's so different about them that year or two later? They're still losing money hand-over-fist in order to get an education in the current climate.
What about the fact that people training in medicine, or teaching, or engineering, or many other fields besides, have to study far beyond three years in order to qualify? Bromley FC puts itself in the Kafkaesque position of offering a £5 discount to a doctor or surgeon, but forcing a fourth-year medical student to pay full price. That's nonsense. It defeats the purpose of concessions being there to offer a discount to keep fans on board who are a bit more skint than others — either because they're old or they're young, or as an incentive for x, y, or z.
This is not to mention the fact that Bromley are offering £5 off to a surgeon, but in essence telling the 32-year-old mum retraining as a nurse (an occupation we're in desperate need of numbers for, which isn't handsomely paid and requires money for training) that she's not a 'real' student because she's too old — regardless of the sacrifices she's having to make and the responsibilities she's having to juggle to get to a position where she can make a difference to people's lives.
It's all a mess. Who are Bromley FC to tell us which public service jobs are the most deserving of our respect and charity, or what constitutes a 'real student'? It takes real bottle to go back into education as a mature student. It's a real insult that Bromley FC is fine with telling those people they aren't worthy. It's a badly thought-out policy that amounts to flat out ageism, not to mention a sort of class snobbery that assumes that everyone has the opportunity to go to university aged 18-21 and that's that. Well, that ain't the real world, precious. Bromley may be a leafy suburb, but I'm sure there are plenty of people around South London who aren't so lucky.
It would be much simpler and friendlier of Bromley to do away with their student concession altogether if they want a package aimed squarely at straight-out-of-college uni students, and instead go with an 18-24 concession. Plenty of clubs do that, and it captures a range of people just starting out in adult life, not earning so much yet (or maybe not having had the opportunities yet), who need a bit of support and love their football. It makes a lot more sense than what Bromley currently do.
I once participated in a great discussion on the old Non-League Football Forum about concessions, whether they should exist, who should get them, etc. Some interesting ideas were thrown around, including even concessions for the unemployed, given the economy was in the toilet at the time of the discussion. Pretty much none of the systems suggested by all those people with years of non-league football experience resembled the mess that Bromley have come up with. Come on, BFC. Sort it out.
Thanks for reading if you got this far.