The decision was taken to excluded cup ties from the start of season 2000/01 as an alternative to increasing ticket prices, although the effect of dropping two of the 21 games previously included in the season ticket equated to an effective price rise of approximately 10%.
As Nick explains, for all home cup ties the club is obliged to account to the away club and either the FA (FA Cup) or the Football League (Carling Cup) for 45% and 10% respectively of the total gate revenue, after deduction of certain costs. In those seasons when the first two cup ties were included in the season ticket, it was necessary to calculate the amount of season ticket income attributable to the cup tie by dividing total season ticket revenue by 21 games (19 league and 2 cup).
As a result the club found itself making significant payments to lower division clubs for ties played in the early rounds of each cup - payments which were overstated for two reasons. Firstly, season ticket prices were calculated, in those days, as an average of 6 category A and 15 category B games with category A prices 15-20% higher than category B prices. The apportionment of season ticket income for cup purposes took no account of this price difference. Secondly, many season ticket holders opted not to attend cup ties in the early rounds, even if included in the season ticket. Again the apportionment of season ticket income for cup purposes assumed that all season ticket holders did attend.
The upshot of this was that in 1998/99 and 1999/2000, for example, the club paid over between £175,000 and £230,000 to away clubs and the FA/Football League for ties where the paying attendances generated only between £80,000 and £180,000. Furthermore, although the club had between 15,200 and 15,700 season ticket holders in those seasons, only 11,800 to 13,100 season ticket holders actually attended those ties, even though admission was at no extra cost.
The fact that the club seemed to lose those ties with monotonous regularity only added insult to injury!
Following the change the club is now able to offer reduced match ticket prices for home ties in the early rounds of the cups (£10-25 as against Championship prices of £24-35 for this season's Carling Cup ties) and offer further discounts to season ticket holders booking in advance (a further £5 discount for this season's Carling Cup ties). No more than 5,500 out of approximately 15,500 season ticket holders took advantage of the discounted ticket prices for the two Carling Cup ties this season. It is felt that the new arrangement offers greater flexibility for both the club and our supporters as well as making the payment to the visiting club and the FA/Football League more commensurate with the income actually generated for each cup tie.