The announcement came later on yesterday, but by the time that the renewal date had passed for season tickets, Lincoln City had sold 5050.
I’m not sure the enormity of this number is fully appreciated, or what a marked change it represents in the football fans of Lincoln and their relationship with the local club. Last season the club sold 1300, a figure that was slightly up on the year before, and a figure that was seen as reasonable in comparison to previous years sales. As I’m from a sales background I thought I’d break it down this way: if we were talking about year on year increase, our season ticket sales have increased by 388%.
I am told that once the Junior Imps numbers have been factored into those sales, the base number for league attendances at Lincoln City next season will be 5500. That will be the number of bums on seats before an additional ticket has been sold in anger, before an away fan has squeezed into their part of the ground, and of course before those who do not have £300 lying around to throw at a season ticket. 5500, and counting.
Let me keep going with trying to illustrate the size of what we have achieved as a club and as a base of fans. Looking at last years average attendances, Cambridge were 8th in League Two with 4737, then in 7th came Grimsby with 5259. We have sold as many season tickets alone, as the average attendance of all but the top seven in League Two. If you throw the Junior Imps numbers into that, Carlisle were 6th with 5305, then Notts County with 5969. Those numbers are attendance averages over the season, including away fans, pay on the day fans, season ticket holders and whatever other incentives those clubs use day to day. Our figure of 5500 is nothing more than a starting point. It also does not include tickets sold through the Fan Players Scheme either, it doesn’t take into account those who still have to buy. Could we have 5200 by the time the season starts? Very possibly.
Coventry City are seen as a behemoth of a club this season, languishing in League Two when their rightful place is perhaps the Championship or higher. They’ve got issues of course, and whenever a club free-falls it sheds some of its fan base, but even they have ‘only’ sold 3200 as of Thursday. Contrast that to our fishy friends down the road, they caught the bus a little late and only went on sale this week, but the last numbers coming out of there were in the low hundreds, but their ‘magical’ figure, the aspirational figure which will be judged as a massive success is 3000.
It is easy to be a little blasé about the ticket sales, it’s easy to put an applauding emoji on social media or for us to lord it over some other clubs as a measure of success, but in truth bragging shouldn’t be our first thought. First and foremost we should be applauding ourselves, the football supporting public of Lincoln City. Despite some opposition fans criticising our fans for being ‘bandwaggoners’ when we sold 9000 for the Arsenal game, we’ve proven that Lincoln City Football Club has as much of a reputation in the city than it ever has.
Ever since the club appealed to fans in the 1920’s, there has been an ongoing battle between the populous of Lincoln and those sat around the table in the board room. Directors have begged for fans to return, in the 20′ when there was a depression on, in the 60’s as we plummeted towards oblivion, in the eighties as the GMVC loomed, and then throughout the last two decades as money levels rose in the game but sank drastically at the club. I recall Steff Wright appealing to double the fan base when we were attracting 3500 a week in League Two. So often the people have Lincoln have remained unmoved by such pleas, they com for a game or two, invariably we lose that game and they return to their armchairs, unimpressed with the quality of the product they’re being served up.
This season is different. This season they know the product is worth seeing, it was a TV more often than not last season. Those floating fans have seen us beat Burnley, Ipswich and Oldham. They’ve seen us resilient and exciting, pulling victory from the rabid jaws of defeat against Torquay and Gateshead. They’ve seen footballers trying to play football, pressing, harassing and working their socks off for the shirt. They’ve seen a board investing wisely, not over spending but not being frugal to a point where it affects performance. Most of all, most importantly of everything, they’ve seen a young manager and his assistant talking sense, bucking the trend of bemoaning referees and launching into a blame culture. They’ve seen two men who genuinely look as if they can lead us not just to the Football League, but beyond. Maybe League One, a level we’ve occupied once in thirty years? Maybe, just maybe, to the Championship, a level we haven’t been at since the early 1960’s?Belief is a key part of everything in life. If you believe in something, staunch and unwavering belief, then you can make it happen. Fans are seeing the belief in the players, the management and the staff and we know that it is time for us to believe as well. When Mansfield announce another signing, or when one of our so-called targets rocks up somewhere else, there is only slight indigence, only the odd discerning voice on social media. The nature of supporting a club means there will always be one or two, but in the main there is belief in the manager and staff to get it right. Billy Waters? Jordan Williams? Whatever. We’ve already made a really important signing this summer, we’ve signed 5,050 ’12th men’, 5050 noise making, rabble rousing, passionate and believing fans who showed last season that they are not only the best in the National League, but also the best at Portman Road and at Turf Moor.
So, congratulations to the club, I believe that 5050 is a record, I certainly know we’ve never sold that many in my lifetime. Twelve months ago I remarked to my friend Ben Grundy as we entered the ground for the North Ferriby match, that ‘3000’ would be an amazing figure to achieve as an average attendance all season. Now, here we are in real danger of regularly having 7000 fans inside Sincil Bank every single game. We’re not just back in the Football League, we’re not just back to where we were. This is going to be a very, very different campaign to those final few years in front of dwindling crowds pre-2011.
We’re Lincoln City, we’re back, and we’ve brought a hell of a lot of new faces along with us.