The following article was originally written by Jason McKeown for the excellent How Do magazine, but there was a fear it read a bit too much like an advert for the club and so I don’t think it was used. If you’ve yet to buy your 2012/13 season ticket (deadline for discount offer is 31 May) here’s hoping this article might help to persuade you.
Perhaps it was the time you made the mistake of buying a new shirt from Topman for a big night out, only to find your mate is wearing exactly the same product. Or maybe it was realising that what seemed to be unique bars in your University town were in fact part of a chain popping up all over the country. Whenever it first dawned upon you, there’s little denying that we reluctantly belong to an identikit culture of giant supermarkets and entertainment complexes – where increasingly the only differences between places are its name and the regional accent.
Sport, although not to everyone’s taste, provides towns and cities with a level of character and true exclusivity that is increasingly missing from other parts of our lives. And although professional sport in Bradford has, on the surface, been on the decline over the past few years – witness Rugby League’s Bradford Bulls fall from World Champions to near bankruptcy recently, while football’s Bradford City have over the past decade slumped from the Premier League to the bottom of the Football League – it retains a deep significance and popularity in people’s lives.
Take Good Friday, last month. At 3pm some 10,000 Bradfordians flocked to Valley Parade to watch Bradford City’s crucial League Two match vs Southend United. A few hours later there was another public gathering, twice the size – Bradford Bulls’ quest to avoid going out of business had attracted 20,000 people to watch their derby against Leeds Rhinos. No where else in Bradford that day – a Bank Holiday, where most of us were off work – was there any other type of event that brought together so many.
The Bulls’ bumper attendance may have been due to extraordinary circumstances. But both of Bradford’s professional sports teams have maintained 10,000+ crowds in recent years, despite uninspiring performances on their respective fields. For the Bantams, this is largely due to an innovative and commendable season ticket initiative which makes watching the team a very affordable activity. In a city racked by poverty in places, and for which the main reason the Joseph Rowntree Foundation states Bradford hasn’t been hit harder by the UK economic slump is because “it had yet to recover from previous downturns”, the football club – part of our local identity – is affordable to all.
Indeed it’s when comparing City’s prices to those that fans of its League Two opponents pay, where the value is truly illustrated. For the season just gone, City fans paid as little as £150 for an adult ticket – only Accrington Stanley (£285) wasn’t more than double that price, and Swindon topped the list with £399 season tickets. Critics argue that making prices so cheap has lead to a substandard product on the field. Indeed in the five years of running such deals, the club has failed to come close to its stated objective of promotion to a higher level (something which Swindon and their £399 season tickets achieved). It does mean the entertainment is not always as high as it could be, and season ticket renewals have tailed off year-on-year; but there should still be collective pride felt in knowing that Bradford City Football Club is an inclusive activity for its community.
The Bulls have followed City’s lead in making season tickets more affordable over the past two seasons. And even if it means both outfits continue to be less successful than, say, their West Yorkshire counterparts in Leeds and Huddersfield, it still provides a more worthy answer to the question of what the point of such organisations are, and their value to local people. Glory comes and goes, and both City and the Bulls will experience their days in the sun again for sure. But while the rest of the country has, over the last 20 years, elevated live sport to a luxury past time that only the affluent can afford, Bradford has two sporting clubs that are for the people and affordable to the people. If only more places would identikit that.
For the next season, City have gone even further in making sure it’s cheap to attend games – providing you’re prepared to make an initial commitment before 31 May. A £199 season ticket for those who want to go every other week (23 home games in total, means it works out at £8.65 per match). Plus a halfway offer of purchasing a Flexicard for £50, which enables you to attend matches at only £10 a go, instead of the usual (still expensive) £20. Plan to go to more than 5 City games next season but less than 15, and the Flexicard is a solid investment.