Hartlepool United season ticket sales analysed - why have they been so strong?
On Friday, Hartlepool United announced that they had passed their 3,000 season ticket sale target ahead of the 2019-20 National League season.
In doing so, Pools became the first fifth tier side to officially announce (though not necessarily the first to reach) the milestone. The figures are made more impressive by the fact that there are still clubs in League Two and even League One chasing that total.
Last season Pools didn’t hit the 3,000 mark until several weeks into the 2018-19 league campaign – this season they’ve achieved the feat several weeks before the start of the season on August 3.
United finished in a lower position in the table in 2018-19 than they did the season prior, prices have remained frozen and the playing budget has been reduced – so why have sales been so strong?
A powerful marketing campaign involving Jeff Stelling got things off to a strong start. The retaining the core of last season’s squad including Nicke Kabamba, Michael Raynes and Luke Molyneux was always going to help as well especially when coupled in with exciting signings such as Ben Killip, Gime Toure and Gus Mafuta.
As manager Craig Hignett puts it: “We’re a different club this season, there’s a positivity and feel good factor around the place that has been lacking in recent years.”
With optimism comes expectation – according to the bookmakers Pools aren’t thought to be serious contenders for promotion at 16/1 and 25/1 to win the National League outright – yet all the early season talk from players and staff has been about challenging at the top.
A strong finish at the Super 6 Stadium last time out has boosted sales going into the new season. Hignett had his team playing with passion and excitement which really got the fans behind them.
“We didn’t really want the season to finish last year because the fans were right behind us,” said last season’s top scorer Liam Noble.
“The atmosphere was amazing and beating Salford on the final day was great for us and the fans and it was sad in a way because we felt as though we were just getting started.
“We need to continue that going into the new season, keep it going and keep picking the games off and see what happens. Hopefully with the squad we’ve got, we should be up there, that’s the aim.”
And Hignett reinforced his player’s sentiment of targeting promotion.
“We’re a league club really,” a fair assessment from the manager of a club who plied their trade in the Football League for the best part of a century.
But the reality is Hartlepool go into this season on the back of 15th and 16th place finishes in the National League.
“You look at where we finished in the table last season and you can say it’s a poor season,” Hignett added.
“But I think the fans were enjoying the type of football the lads were playing but they could also see the effort they were putting in and as long as they give that week in, week out the fans will stick right behind them.
“I’d love nothing better than to get this football club back in the league, it will be massive for everyone connected with the area and I want to do it for the chairman with everything he’s done for this club as well.”
The relationship between the club and its fans is a symbiotic one. Though strong ticket sales by no means guarantee success on the pitch, it goes a long way to increasing the budget, justifying spending and developing a sustainable long-term model.
This is something Hartlepool chairman Raj Singh understands well, as he stated in his message on the club website: “I know that it excites (fans) when the club makes a new signing to build for promotion but, on the flip side of that, we get the same buzz within the club when we hear news that 3,000 season tickets had been sold.
“I think it tells us that we’re doing something right and that supporters are buying in to our vision and what we’re trying to achieve here.
“Every penny of the money coming in from season ticket sales will be invested directly in to the playing staff – that remains my promise.
“I want people to know when they come to the club and hand over their money that they are contributing directly to the playing budget. With that mind, having hit 3,000 on Friday night let’s now see if we can get as close as possible to the magic number of 3,500.
“I know Craig has spent all of his budget for the coming season but has already said that he is still looking to strengthen and has already hinted a couple of times that he may be coming back to me to ask for more money.
“Although I am not promising him anything, it certainly makes decisions easier if we have sold more season tickets than expected, we profit from the sale of a player or we enjoy a good cup run that had not been included in our forecasts for the coming season.
“Let’s carry on that momentum because it really does encourage me when I see things like that happening at the football club.”