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'A message to those thinking the ticket price is too high in rugby'

By Ian Cameron
Just 4,064 attended the Northampton game at the AJ Bell on the Round 1 - PA

Sale Sharks owner Simon Orange has taken to Twitter to quiz fans on ticket pricing – proposing a drop in ticket costs in certain parts of the AJ Bell Stadium and other venues to encourage more people to come to matches.

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As the new Gallagher Premiership season gets underway, attendances have been particularly sluggish at some grounds, with critics pointing towards ticket prices as a possible area of the game that needs to change.

It’s clearly a problem that Orange is eager to remedy. The official attendance at the 12,000-capacity AJ Bell was just 4,064 for the Sharks’ Round 1 game with Northampton Saints, albeit a fixture that came just two days after the death of the Queen.

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It’s not a problem that is unique to rugby – with post-pandemic attendances at events in many industries well down on pre-pandemic numbers. It’s a phenomenon that has been seen the world over, with some individuals – especially older ones – still reluctant to attend events where they know there will be crowds.

Professional rugby clubs – whose supporter demographics tend to skew older – rely heavily on match-day attendances for revenue and it’s starting to sting.

Although Sale had a bye weekend in Round 3, Orange put it to the floor that the sport needs more supporters if financial crises like the ones being experienced by Wasps and Worcester Warriors are to be avoided. “We need more supporters at games if rugby is going to grow and rugby needs to grow to avoid clubs getting into trouble. Too many empty seats today!”

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Orange – who took over Sale Sharks back in 2016 – then Tweeted on Sunday: “A message to those thinking the ticket price is too high in rugby. I can only talk on behalf of Sale but we’re looking at reducing some prices to help people to afford to come. What would your view be of £10 tickets in the north stand and £5 for kids? Would we fill the stand?”

Former England prop David Flatman replied: “The notion of cheaper tickets for increased numbers feel obvious, but is there any proof that it leads to growth, as opposed to the same faces coming but just paying less?”

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Sale Sharks are currently trying to buy the AJ Bell Stadium, although some sources suggest there would have to be a split with the title sponsor in order to do so. Orange admitted that process is moving slowly at the minute.

“It’s difficult to know exactly what to do,” said Orange about the worryingly low attendance. “I’m just getting feedback for now and then I’ll meet with our marketing and sales team. We need more supporters at Sale so we’ll do what we can. Negotiations to buy the stadium are ongoing but slow.”

Sale Sharks are a team that have spent heavily on players in recent years and one who will be feeling the pandemic pinch. If they are to avoid a similar fate to Wasps and Worcester Warriors, bums on seats will be key.

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