SCOTTISH RUGBY is facing a backlash from supporters and member clubs over their handling of ticket sales for any Six Nations matches which go ahead this season with crowds permitted.
Prices for the 2021 Championship were unveiled yesterday [Tuesday] showing a significant increase from previous years, with potential buyers also having to sign up for the new ‘Nevis’ membership scheme at a cost of £34 in order to enter a ballot to have the chance to make a purchase.
It is far from guaranteed that any sort of crowds will be possible during the Six Nations, and if they are it is likely that social distancing requirements will limit the number permitted to around a quarter of the 67,000-seater stadium.
Scotland have three home games in the upcoming Six Nations, with tickets for each match now split into two bands. The cheaper ‘Category 2’ band (around one-third of the stadium) will cost £55 for the Italy match, and £70 for the Ireland and Wales matches, plus Nevis membership. The more expensive ‘Category 1’ band (two-thirds of the stadium) will cost £90 for the Italy game, and £105 for Ireland and Wales, plus Nevis membership. There is no concession for under-18s.
That means that a single adult looking to take two children to either of the Ireland or Wales games will be looking at an outlay of £245 or £350.
When tickets initially went on sale for 2020-21, the cheapest option was the ‘Bronze’ season-pass scheme, which cost £237 for the six scheduled matches at Murrayfield, working out at £39.50 per game. The Under-18s package cost £142, which equated to just under £24 per match.
While it is widely acknowledged and accepted that Scottish Rugby will have to make some hard-nosed decisions when facing down a significant financial squeeze due to the Covid pandemic, there is unhappiness that this move will disproportionately impact younger and less well-off rugby supporters.
It has also left a bitter taste in some fans’ mouth that they were encouraged to buy ‘Nevis’ subscriptions before learning of the price hike.
When my season pass in West 8 was renewed in February it was classed as Bronze & cost £237.
Working out as £39.50 per game.
Whereas now it’s category 1 & on top of the £34 fee just to enter the ballot. Individual match tickets are now £90 – £105
— Graham Love (@glove931) November 10, 2020
The ‘Nevis’ scheme in itself has been controversial amongst clubs who feel that it is encroaching onto their own rights – as enshrined in the SRU bye-laws – to collect commission for selling tickets directly to their membership at a time when they are also facing significant financial challenges.
SRU President Ian Barr and Vice-President Colin Rigby met via zoom with Scottish Rugby’s Chief Operating Officer, Dominic McKay, two weeks ago to seek clarity on this issue, and it has since been confirmed that 10 percent of stadium capacity will be made available to clubs. This has been identified as the percentage of tickets taken up by clubs during regular times.
That means that if the Six Nations does go ahead in February and March, and a limited crowd of say 10,000 is permitted, then the clubs will get access to 1,000 tickets in total, which averages out at less than four tickets to each full and associate member club. The ‘Nevis’ membership scheme offers four tickets to any individual who is successful in the ballot.
Offering access to international tickets is a key marketing tool for many clubs in attracting and retaining members, and the commission on sales can be a valuable revenue generator. The right to sell tickets is also seen by many as a recognition of the importance of the grassroots in nurturing and sustaining the game in Scotland.
The Murrayfield debentures programme has also been suspended for season 2020-21.
A spokesperson said that Scottish Rugby is aware of some blowback on social media to the new pricing strategy but insisted that direct feedback to Murrayfield has been overwhelmingly positive with over 10,000 ‘Nevis’ memberships already sold and fans entering the ballots for the Six Nations matches in significant numbers already.
He stressed that the membership scheme was launched to serve several purposes: including as an organisational tool to co-ordinate crowds through a ballot at such time as they are allowed, and as a revenue generator for people to show their support of, and engage with, Scottish Rugby at a time of significant financial upheaval.
“Scottish Rugby has a proud tradition of affordable pricing which contributed to a record 15 sell-outs of BT Murrayfield in recent seasons,” he added. “We have every intention of returning to our full range of ticket options for fans in the coming seasons once crowds can return in greater numbers.”