There has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the offer of shares instead of a refund on the Imps’ season ticket, something worth drawing me out of my Sunday morning routine and to my keyboard.
I would have written this as soon as I saw the news, but had a wonderfully sociable evening at a friends house for the summer solstice, socially distanced of course. For the first time in three months, things felt normal, rather than the ‘new normal’. However, the response by Imps fans to the refund compromise has, in my opinion, underlined a ‘new normal’ around the club.
They said our fans were glory hunters. They said when Danny left, the fans would too. They said things would start to crumble. Well, they were wrong.
Of the 5,200 supporters who have responded to the club offer of either shares or a refund, 80% have opted to leave their money in the club. That is somewhere around 4,200 supporters, more than the average attendance of five of our rivals. Burton, Accrington, Rochdale, Fleetwood and Wimbledon all get fewer than 4,200 on average, which to me highlights exactly how precarious our position was – the potential for refund would have had a far harder impact than us on many of our rivals because we sold so many season tickets. Southend, Gillingham, Wycombe and Shrewsbury all average lower than our ST ticket holders alone; if they’re worried about the impact of refunds, imagine how we must feel.
Now, remember when we sold these tickets we were facing promotion to League One and another year of DC inspired success. Since then the management has changed, the players have changed and, dare I say it, the expectation level has become more realistic. Yet, with all that in mind, 4,200 people (and counting) have given up what will likely be around £80 without a thought. I would imagine some in that number had a very big decision to make. Don’t get me wrong, £80 is a lot of money to me, but for some, I imagine the choice has left them facing a slightly bleaker few months. I applaud everyone who feels they could make that sacrifice.
I’m not looking down on those who could not, not one bit. Everybody has a different circumstance and the club realised that. I know of people who have taken the money out but have plans for it to end up back in the club’s pocket one way or another.
Our fans have never ceased to amaze me. Whether that was raising money for Kevin Austin, saving the club in 2002, or those die-hards who endured the post-Tilson, pre-DC years which were tough, we have always had a strong fanbase. Numbers have gone up, numbers have gone down, but the passion our fans have for the club is excellent. Of course, other clubs have the same I’m sure, but we appear to be more in sync now than many. Our owners didn’t say they could afford to refund us and then go and buy a racehorse. They didn’t try to guilt supporters who couldn’t afford a refund and leave them with a tough choice. No, they were honest, understanding and compassionate and I firmly believe that approach has paid dividends.
I had a conversation with someone at the club around the time of the share offer coming out and we thought that a refund rate of around 30% would be a huge success. It appears that Lincoln City supporters have once again exceeded expectations, not in noise levels at home games, not in numbers travelling to away fixtures, but in generosity and understanding of the club’s plight.
Well done to you all, I know the club will be delighted with the current rate people are taking up the share offer and the impact of such will be felt next season, not least in Michael’s playing budget.