The phone lines are closed, the numbers have been counted and verified and I can now reveal that the term no longer in use at Lincoln City FC is…….. ‘plastic’.
I think that’s the feeling amongst many fans after the closure of the first renewal window for season tickets saw record numbers commit to Michael Appleton’s journey. Over 4,000 tickets have been sold at frozen prices, far more than many imagined and a 15% increase on the same time last year. I believe the club was expecting to match last year’s figure, or at least that was the aspiration, but instead, fans have stood up to be counted. Chatting to a senior official at the club this weekend they made an off-the-cuff remark about figures and said ‘we’ll not get to 4,000, but sales have still been great’.
Well, now they’ve been bloody brilliant.
Season tickets are always an emotive subject. I recall when we had fewer than a thousand, any club initiative to get more supporters through the door usually led to complaints (and rightly so) about ST’s not exactly being attractive. This season, the pricing structure has got a few worked up, with the second pricing window not yet known to lead to the odd poster on social media claiming they feel held to ransom. Plus, those who were 59 and expecting concessions at 60 have been hit with the age now being moved to 65, another emotive subject. I acknowledge these concerns and am not going to shoot down other people’s opinions on something that doesn’t affect me. It is easy to be content when my own ticket has remained the same as last season and my budgeting allowed for early renewal, but for others, it is not so easy and I respect their right to their opinion.
That’s why this is a huge landmark day for the club. Being brutally honest, we’ve been called a lot since our rise from the National League. Plastic is a term thrown around and there was a deep feeling that sales would be down on last year, given the supposed lack of success and the issues some have with the renewal window, prices etc. This is the first year since 2016 there will be no silverware in the cabinet, yet fans have picked up early bird tickets in greater numbers than ever before.
Why? I can see a few reasons, but one is that the vocal minority calling MA and his squad are just that; a minority. It would seem a silent majority, 4,000 in this case and more likely to want to pay on the day because of circumstance, are more than enthused with the direction the club is going in and more than willing to commit financially to another season at Sincil Bank. Accusations of fans only being here for the good times, or following the manager not the team over the last few years, seem wide of the mark. Michael Appleton’s journey is one plenty of fans are invested in and I’m sure the performances of Tayo Edun and Anthony Scully, amongst others, have hinted at an exciting future direction.
There’s always expected losses in ST renewals too. Sadly, people pass away, move away or circumstances change. Retention is always likely to be around 85% at the very best, which makes this figure even more surprising. It’s a really good day for Lincoln City as a club, to know the fanbase is as committed as ever, but it is also great to be able to look fans of other teams in the face and say that although we’re losing games and going through transition, our superb fanbase are still committed to the cause.
Yeah, this is a happy-clappy article. So what? I thought we’d see ST sales top out at around 5,000 this season, a wonderful number when you consider there were only just 6,500 fans at the so-called Lincolnshire Derby this week, but I wonder now if 6,000 is achievable again. I’m not saying we’re a massive club, that would be ridiculous, but it does look as though the fans that have come back or arrived since 2016 are here to stay. It gives me a satisfying feeling that chants of ‘where were you when you were shit’, can almost be met with one word: ‘here’. I was here when we hung on to a 0-0 draw with Shrewsbury, when we lost 6-0 to Oxford, when we surrendered to Portsmouth 2-0 and you know what? I’ll be here if the same happens next season too. Me, and at least 4,000 like me, feel the same.
I don’t try to be a ‘superfan’ as someone suggested those who announced ST renewals were. I don’t think that just because I can stretch to a season ticket and have free Saturdays I’m any better than anyone who cannot. What I do feel is that for 4,000 people to be in a position to renew and to want to do so underlines the real strength this club has. It turns out that despite all the recent heroics, idols like Matt Rhead, the Danny Cowley effect, FA Cup runs, even the title wins were not what made this club great again.