Bradford City bank on loyalty of hardcore supporters as 2021/22 season tickets go on sale

By Jason McKeown

After a year playing behind closed doors, Bradford City are hoping to welcome supporters back into Valley Parade over 2021/22, with the release of season ticket prices a first step back towards normality.

The 2021/22 season ticket price of £198 for adults represents a rise of 32% on the £150 amount that has remained in place since 2019/20. With the likes of Scunthorpe United, Tranmere Rovers and Crawley Town charging more than £300 for a season ticket next season, it still represents great value for money. But the uptake will be more closely followed than ever, as City bank on having enough supporters willing to pay the higher rate.

The last few years have not been great for season ticket numbers at Valley Parade. In 2017/18 – the first season after the agonising League One play off final defeat to Millwall at Wembley – the club enjoyed a record uptake of 18,248, with adults paying £149. Over the campaign, City officially averaged 19,787 – the highest since the club were relegated from the First Division in 1922.

Alas, 2017/18 was also the year that things began to unravel for the Bantams. The club has subsequently been on a spiral down the Football League ladder, and that’s obviously hurt attendances. With Covid also impacting greatly on the football landscape, in 2020/21 City sold 9,039 season tickets – less than half what they’d achieved three years earlier. City did increase adult season ticket prices to £169 for the 2018/19 relegation season, before keeping them at £150 for the past two seasons.

With the Bantams having not played in front of a crowd since February 2020, bringing with it many financial challenges, a rise in season ticket prices was expected and indeed is welcomed by many supporters. The club has just completed another underwhelming season, and a consensus has grown amongst a section of the fanbase that the era of affordable season tickets needs to end, so City can boost revenue and be more successful on the pitch.

Nevertheless, the real test now begins in terms of finding out just how many supporters are willing to pay extra for their season ticket. Especially as the financial effects of the pandemic continued to be sharply felt by many.

Bradford as a city has seen a 90% rise in unemployment since Covid changed our lives. The number of people in Bradford claiming unemployment benefits is the highest since records began in 1992. 11.2% of young adults in Bradford are unemployed, compared to a 7% national average.

It is younger people in particular who might struggle with the rising cost of Bradford City season tickets. The club has, to its credit, conducted a survey of supporters prior to the final decision on season ticket prices. 5,975 responded, with 50% indicating they would be happy to pay up to 50% more for a season ticket. City can argue, with justification, that they have risen prices in line with the majority consensus.

But there are still reasons to be wary.

Chiefly is the age band of supporters who completed the survey – 73% of respondents were aged 41 or over. Research shows that people aged 40 or over have a significantly higher amount of wealth. It figures, as it is typically between 40 and 65 your career climbs to a higher level and your earnings reach their peak, before you move into retirement and have a pension to live on.

In other words, the majority of supporters who answered the City survey – voting for a price rise – are statistically those most likely to be able to afford it.

Just 25% of respondents to the survey were aged under 25. They had the opportunity, like everyone else, to share their views, but it remains an interesting point that the supporter drivers behind the push to increase prices are those of an older age. It’s all going to be in the detail of who does and who doesn’t buy a season ticket, but if you’re under 25 and you’ve either lost your job or can’t get work because of this pandemic – or you’re in a job that pays poorly – you are more likely to struggle to afford a season ticket price rise.

I say this as someone who has been there. In 2004, when I was 23 years old, I was earning £693 a month and paying monthly rent of £395. I couldn’t afford a season ticket, or even to go and watch City more than twice a season. I know what it feels like to not be able to afford to go and see my football club. Of having to find something else to do on a Saturday afternoon, because a trip to Valley Parade was out of my reach.

I’m lucky that my career has moved upwards since then, and the price hike for 2021/22 is one I can afford without concerns. But then again, I’m turning 40 later this year, and so I’m at a very different stage of life. I’ll never forget how it felt to be young and poor. To have no choice but to follow City from afar, even though I was only around the corner from the ground.

The club has, to its great credit, introduced an extra tier on season ticket prices, with 17-23 year-olds only having to pay £174 compared to £198. It’s still a price rise, but one which acknowledges younger people might not be able to afford the full adult price. Bradford City should be applauded for this move.

One in four people who live in Bradford are under 17 – the third highest proportion of any city in the country – and so the price increase of season tickets for 12-16 year-olds (from £100 to £126) is also interesting. This is an age range that Bradford’s demographics would suggest could have a key part in growing the club’s fanbase over the years to come.

The other aspect that has often made affordable season tickets such a worthwhile idea at City, of all clubs, is the legacy of a large stadium that was built for Premier League football. Valley Parade is the 37th biggest stadium in England – larger, in capacity, than the likes of Burnley, Watford, Bournemouth, Preston, Huddersfield, Swansea and Portsmouth. But they operate well below all these clubs.

Having larger crowds to fill your ground, even if it is partly because of cheaper prices, has a financial benefit on the likes of merchandise and refreshment sales. It also makes the club more attractive to sponsors. What might be gained through more season ticket revenue could be lost in other areas.   

Rising prices is never going to be a universally popular idea. And it is a tough one when as a club you’re on the downturn and the economic environment will present challenges for the sport and entertainment industry. And it all points to a move to the most loyal City supporters influencing prices and needing to do the heavy lifting in terms of buying, in order for the Bantams to have a good uptake and decent playing budget for next season. Again, the survey data shows that 61% of respondents have been season ticket holders for at least 10 years.

All of which is not to accuse City of selling out on their principles of affordable season tickets. It is still a great price, especially compared to others. But it is also a move towards being less inclusive. A focus on driving a better product for those who can afford it and who are engaged sufficiently in the club to always turn up.

The popular opinion that has been aired of late is that City supporters expect success on the cheap, and so this price hike could be seen as the first step to address this. And though I don’t agree that expectations have been unrealistically high for the price we pay – success, after all, occurred between 2012-2017 when season tickets were hugely affordable – it really will be interesting to see what impact this rise does to City’s on the field performance.

Let’s say for arguments sake that 7,000 of the 9,000 supporters who had a season ticket for 2020/21 were adults paying £150 a go. That collectively provided the club with revenue of £1,050,000. At £198 a go, City can allow adult season ticket numbers to fall to 5,500 and make the same amount of money. If they can persuade the full 7,000 in this illustrative example to renew, they’d make £1,386,000. An extra £336,000.

Is that amount going to be the difference between success and failure? Perhaps (it can probably afford the next manager two extra players). But it all really comes down to the true influence of City’s fortunes on the field – how they use their resources.

Let’s face it, whilst City have not been the biggest spenders in League Two these past two seasons, they’ve been up there. Is the reason that Morecambe have out-performed City this season because they make more money in season ticket sales? Clearly not. It’s because they’ve made smarter decisions and used their (lower) playing budget better.  

There seems to be a belief that City will be more successful if we pay more money to watch it. And hopefully that’s true. But we all watched the Bantams get relegated from League One two years ago with a £4 million budget. Money does absolutely not guarantee success, and the failings at Bradford City since 2018 are absolutely not because we’ve each been paying £150 for a season ticket.

Hopefully the uptake is good, and with well thought out options like monthly payment plans the club is doing much to help people who can’t afford £198/£174 in one go. And if this is the way forward for City to be successful, it will be hard to complain. The ambitious target must surely be to get every one of the 9,039 of us who bought a season ticket to renew, and it could happen given our greater level of loyalty that has been shown by enduring some bleak years.

But after a pandemic still not over, and after a difficult few years for City supporters, it doesn’t sit entirely comfortably that we are hiking up the price at this particular moment. If we are to leave supporters behind, I hope it’s through their own choosing rather than because their financial circumstances left them priced out.


The video produced by the club to promote the launch of the 2021/22 season tickets is outstanding. If you haven’t watched it, please do click below and feel the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

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34 replies

  1. I haven’t got a clue how long season tickets have been ” on the cheap” but if they had put them up a fiver every season since, we wouldn’t even be talking about it. CTID.

    • Could I add to my previous comments that I shall be renewing my ticket for next season despite not being able to go to V.P. for the last 3 seasons. However, last season I didn’t miss a game , home and away on ifollow. Is it possible to sort something out on similar lines for people in my position.

  2. I have a very difficult decision to make. I don’t think the price increase is unreasonable. In fact I agree with it.
    City are probably just about worth watching. And might improve.
    The problem is covid. Do I want to be a a crowd in a big city when I can stay at home?
    But Saturdays in winter won’t be right if we don’t go to valley parade. This season has proved it.
    So on balance I think we’ll buy tickets.
    Hope others do the same.

    • The price was relatively cheap and still will be. Increase the prices and hope to improve the product. I’m afraid this is the business aspect of football and questions of loyalty do not come into it. Beware the backlash, however, if the product is no better – or is worse.

  3. Seems a little negative on your part to be honest. The pay monthly scheme for £14.50 – £16.50 a month for adults or young person makes it affordable if the £198 / £174 is too much to pay in one go. That is less than a takeaway pizza and a few beers.

    The club has to move on from the days of Mr ‘IKF’ & Julian Rhodes. The ongoing refurb of Valley Parade and a ‘competitive budget’ has to come from somewhere.

    The club has kept it affordable, in my option it should have been £200-£250 per adult ticket.

    Take Us Home!

  4. Personally, due to covid I wouldn’t be able to purchase my season ticket outright this time, so the direct debit scheme is a Godsend for me.

  5. I hope we do not see a drop off in the atmosphere at VP if we move to an older demographic (albeit that the vibe has decreased post Parky in any event). The budget pricing did make the game affordable to just about everyone which was admirable but the price is still good value and a decent compromise.

  6. There is also the ‘Elephant in the room’ where there scenario of COVID surging despite vaccinations leads to tightening or lockdowns again and bands on mass gatherings. I don’t discount anything these days. Will people take the risk and but be allowed to watch in person? May put people off buying

  7. Why isn’t it seat dependent? Keep it at 150 or even drop it to 50 for the crappy seats/areas, moving to 200 and up to 500 or even a grand for the seats above the dugouts.

    Let everybody attend but charge more for the better viewing

  8. I don’t think that the uptake of season ticket numbers will be dependent upon price alone. The appointment of an inspirational manager, coupled with the signing of players who are not ‘also rans’ or journeymen, is more likely to generate ticket sales. The other factor will be how much people have missed the match day experience – meeting mates at the pub for a pre match pint (or two) followed by a stroll down to Valley Parade. Personally, I can’t wait to get back.

  9. It’s true that unemployment is high in Bradford. However its not exactly non existent in Scunthorpe, Morecambe, Rochdale, Oldham etc. With a much larger population the rise is sensible, proportionate over the time scale and necessary in the medium term.
    Like thousands of others I will renew in the hope that next season will finally be the one where the managers and squad do the business.

  10. Love the video, love the revised price, in the words of Arnie, I’ll be back.

  11. I always find it to be an interesting argument when people say that they are happy to pay more, but also expected everyone else to do so as well. Affordable pricing is one of the few areas where we as a club can stand proud as both an innovator and a leader in providing football for the masses.

    It is perhaps easier said than done, but I would have much preferred that the club release a greater variation in prices than to cut off our fanbase of the future. The club has ample room in many of the supporters bars, there has always been the option to pay £120-150 more per ticket and access these facilities. Its interesting that the Lawn/Rhodes era initiatives like plaques on your seat or other options to pay more always had few take ups. Equally, during the £149 season there was the option to donate a season ticket to charities and orphanages in Bradford. Less than 150 people took this option.

    I can’t help but feel that increasing prices, alongside the already poor product on display will just lead to even fewer bums on seats and average attendances of 7,000-8,000 like in the Todd period. It was embarrassing to see Valley Parade so empty like it was back then. It would be even more embarrassing to see that again.

  12. Are those who would pay monthly committed to pay throughout the season? Not sure how that will work but if we ain’t performing well would this revenue suddenly decline and direct debits stopped?

    I would have liked to have seen something that Richmond did as part of the rise. He gave away a shop voucher I can’t remember how much it was) and this was a clever idea. Fans knock this off the price increase in their heads and also once in the club shop are liable to spend on top of it. Too late to be considered now i guess but perhaps in the future

    • I’ve liaised with the club because I don’t think its clear if the monthly payment option is a pay as you go model, or a payment plan for the full relevant season ticket, that you are obligated to pay in full. I am told its definitely the latter.

      I’ve lobbied them to restore the flexi option for the part time attendee, that encourages more than a handful of “pay on the gate” attendances.

    • It appears something similar to your suggestion has been introduced by the Club Dann, all-be-it separated from the cost of the season ticket price.

  13. Very simply, if we end affordable “cheap” season tickets we will lose a large amount of our suppory a be will most likely drop to around the 9,000ish we historically had in lower divisions, which would be awful in our 26k capacity ground. Also I’m proud that the club are making football affordable to the public when e are seeing an increasing disconnect between working class communities and football clubs in the modern game.

  14. I did the survey & think I voted for the £150-200 option. But your comment on social inclusiveness resonates with me. The club should be nurturing its younger fanbase for the future- and not just those who go with older generations. My angst is the scrapping of the flexicard option, which will probably lead to my intermittent 16 year old- for whom I have bought a flexi card prior seasons- falling by the way side as a fan. I’ll pay the extra price for me, and my youngest, who is now in the teenage (£126) bracket, but is keen & will come. But I can’t justify an extra £126 for my 16 year old son who may not go at all, and match day tickets are likely to be £25 a throw?

    I agree about the lack of correlation between price with performance. The whole club need to up their game- including the owner & CEO in sticking by a manger as per your last article!

    • one of the reasons we have the fan base we do now is due to Richmonds quid a kid not just our lower ticket prices. We made kids into life long fans. In the 90s we had some crowds of 5000 approx i seem to remember…quid a kid and then obviously success changed this

    • Exactly Andy,

      Whilst I feel the increase is reasonable for adults the youngsters will find it a challenge to come.

      In the early eighties, as a teenager, I did a Sunday paper round for £2.00 a week. At the time that was enough to get to VP (15p each way on bus), a ticket for the game (£1.50) and a packet midget gems from the kiosk in the Kop.

      A full afternoon at the football for £2.00.

      I hate to guess at how much that paper round would have to pay to provide a similar day out for a 13 / 14 year old today.

      That’s not to critise RS or City – more a comment on football in general.

  15. I don’t get all the hand wringing about unemployment and income levels that are bandied around about the city. It’s been on the bones of its arse for decades and yet in that time the club has climbed and fallen through the leagues. And attendances have reflected the success and failure of the club – not the city
    Thousands of fans don’t live in Bradford but in the surrounding areas where the socio-economic dynamics are very different.
    If people can’t afford to go to a game, they can’t afford it. It’s that simple.
    Prices have been held at £150 for a few seasons now but that £150 isn”t worth what it was 5 years ago thanks to inflation. Prices had to go up.

    • Chris, I agree with you to a large extent.
      I’ll add more and expand further when the time difference allows.

    • Bang on the money. We hear this mantra of self sustainability yet some complain when Sparks puts the price up. It’s less than 9 quid a game FFS and payable by interest free instalments. Matchday ticket prices could have been lowered but apart from that Sparks has got it spot on. We need to make Valley Parade a place where people are happy to spend more, not just be a place where people go cos the season tickets are being given away.

  16. After the latest pitiful season, covid, redundancies etc, I’m so surprised prices are being raised at all, let alone by 33%. A large percentage of supporters (to put a Sparks spin on this), said they want to pay less than £150.

    At this stage we don’t even know for sure if we’ll be buying a BCFC season ticket or an iFollow TV pass.

    IF prices had to go up, £10 – £20 would have been far more sensible IMHO.

    It’ll be very interesting to see how sales go.

  17. Another great read, thank you Jason.
    I completed the survey and I was surprised by how many other people did. Credit to the club for asking us for our views. The saying: you can’t please everybody all of the time springs to mind. However, I think that the football club should be applauded for keeping football affordable for many people. The price of the 12 to 16 year old ticket works out at less than £5.50 per game. Also, there’s the monthly payment option. I will be renewing my season ticket.
    P.S. the video is good. However, why is the main person in it depicted as travelling from Saltaire to Bradford Interchange? Did they fancy a change of train at Shipley station?!?

    • …and why haven’t 20.3%* (i.e. those of a Pakistani ethnic origin) of the local population been represented in the video? Not one to be seen sporting City colours anywhere. That 20% represents a potentially huge amount of revenue at a time when the club really does need ever penny and is trying to convince fans to buy season tickets at a higher price. As lessons go in how to alienate the community living most local to the ground this is just about as good as it gets. Whoever is responsible for such an embarrassing and potentially costly oversight should be severely reprimanded.
      *Source: Bradford Council website.

      • Hi John
        Totally disagree.
        If you want to watch City you will. Esp. if it’s on your doorstep and you don’t have to drive or get a train or even fly(!) to get to VP.
        It’s an insult to say what you have as you seem to have forgotten all the initiatives James Mason did to get the local community involved.
        Where is that local community now?
        How many season tickets and iplayer passes were bought by BD8 last season or next season?
        If you want to narrow it down by race or religion, (which I think itself is racist or ‘religionist’) where does it stop?
        Why aren’t the Israeli, Irish or Ukraine community represented in the video or other people from countries like Poland or India, say who have high demographics in our City
        The only people who mention race or country of origin as a barrier tend to be people who can see no further than that and therefore by definition are what they say they’re against. There is nothing wrong with the video.
        Up the City.
        Just my 2 rupee worth.
        Cheers. : )

    • Yes – I noticed that!

      Getting on a Leeds train – not good. I’m sure there’s a wag out there who will have our man staying on the train and emerging wearing white!

      Still, it was a good vid and an example of how the club is improving its commercial / advertising efforts.

  18. Hi ‘Bantam Abroad’.

    Thanks for your comments re. my post.

    There is absolutely nothing in my statement that is even remotely suggesting that the Club has acted in a racist manner and I have insulted no one. Additionally, I freely admit to not being able to answer your questions, other than to say that it is possible that people from Irish, Ukrainian and Polish backgrounds are represented in the video as they all have white faces, therefore making it impossible to determine one way or the other.

    All I have done is to critique the video by asking the simple question “could this video have been done in a way that will increase still further the amount of season tickets sold?”. In my opinion, it could have. However, the only true way of discovering whether or not a film that depicts City fans as exclusively white may possibly discourage those from a Pakistani ethnic background from buying season tickets is to seek their opinion.

    John (from a family with very strong Irish roots).

    • I think you have raised a very relevant oversight John. Particularly when -over the last last year or so- we have had high levels of media exposure as to how, specifically, the ‘footballing world’ was going to react to issues such as the ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘Taking the Knee’, ‘online racist abuse’ and the recent ‘social media boycott’. Oh, and the ‘My City, My Shirt’ initiative that is part of the Fans for Diversity campaign that is being undertaken within the the Football Supporters Association (FSA). .

      The FSA should be one of the first ‘go to’ points for any business contracted to work on behalf of a football club that is attempting to produce a mass communication video. To fail to consult the supporters’ main representative body -I am making an assumption here purely based on the content of the video- is a mistake that should not be repeated.

      • But at City we no longer have effective fans representation.
        The Supporters Trust and Supporters Board exist in name only for a small group.of people..We need which can work with the club and be representative of ALL supporters.

      • Hi Mark. So, I am not clear what your response is indicating. Are you saying the producers of the video DID approach the FSA and/or the Bradford City Supporters Trust to assist and give their opinion on how they should attract large numbers of people to buy season tickets?

  19. The season ticket campaign video is fantastic and credit to Ryan Sparks, yes it was a Leeds train, but this was showing setting off from the famous iconic Saltaire, Titus Land & landing back in Bradford Interchange obviously via Leeds to get there as the other option was Foster Square and would not have been on route to pass the memorial outside the Town Hall.

    Get With The Program.

    It certainly worked for me as I bought my season ticket again immediately on the monthly payment and that is a great decision from the Club making it easier all round from payday, let’s look at the bigger picture here, if we do well on field and climb into the Championship within the next 5 years, we will require more revenue to stay there, so season tickets will increase to approximately double, so with the monthly payments already in place, this will be a simple monthly increase and not having to find a large amount of money in one go and especially with you have a teenager and a couple of younger children.

    No Brainer, Well Done Bradford City


  20. No I am saying simply that we dont have effective supporter representation WHO have the knowledge and experience to know what FSA is and how they can help.

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