After partnering with NewC, Wycombe Wanderers FC has achieved several digital milestones. The latest is offering fans to join the first automated subscription scheme in the UK.
As opposed to the direct debit solutions that many clubs offer, the Netflix-like, automated subscription scheme is basically a lifetime season ticket. That entails a number of benefits for both the club and the fans.
In the following paragraphs, the Club Chairman of Wycombe Wanderers, Mr. Rob Couhig, explains why the club chose the subscription solution provided by NewC, and what it means for the club and the fans.
In April 2021, Wycombe Wanderers introduced the country’s first automated subscription scheme for Season Ticket purchases. What were the reasons behind this?
“Firstly, at Wycombe we always like to be first! We were always keen to become the first Club in the UK to release such a scheme, showing again how we at Wycombe Wanderers are looking to introduce innovation to our match and non-matchday customer experience.
There were a number of reasons for the timing of the introduction of our subscription scheme, but the chief reason was to assist our supporters in the financial wake of COVID pandemic. A lot of our supporters had lost jobs, been furloughed, or were struggling financially and we were looking to make it easier and more convenient for the fans to be able to get to Adams Park. We had looked at some of the other financing packages that are on the market, and we just didn’t like them.
Additionally, a very large amount of our supporters had also recently generously donated the value of their 2020/21 season ticket to the Club and to then ask them to find the full value again for the Club seemed a stretch too far.
We had always been keen to bring such a scheme in place, however Covid really did expedite this introduction.
The ability also for new fans to join the revolution here at Adams Park on an affordable monthly basis has led to a sizeable increase in new season ticket holders, joining throughout the whole season and not just at the start as in the tradition sales cycle”.
So, Mr. Chairman, how does it work?
“Listen, I could take all the credit for this, but we have an excellent ticketing team behind the scenes, led by Ben Griffiths, who have driven this throughout the season.
But in simplistic terms, a supporter signs up for a minimum of a 12-month period and pays one twelfth of their season ticket cost monthly via their chosen payment card.
After the initial period the fans subscription continues to be taken monthly until the fan decides to serve notice of wishing to terminate. It’s easy. There is no need to renew if the subscription crosses two seasons. It is the same model as an Amazon, Netflix, or gym membership but with an initial 12-month period”.
And how successful has it been?
“I think it has surprised everybody. The fans love it, I don’t think they were expecting such a fair system that helped them out financially.
We are extremely happy with the results in the first season. At present 35% of our season tickets are on subscription and we saw a significant increase in that percentage over December and January when we would normally be introducing a “half season” ticket. We plan to try to convert existing traditional season ticket holders across to this method in marketing campaigns for next season, whilst also targeting potential new supporters with the subscription scheme delivering an affordable monthly payment option.
Our thought at the launch of the scheme, was that we would see a large peak in the younger demographic of our fanbase but a diminishing impact into adults and seniors. We were wrong. Whilst our elder Juniors, Young and Mid Adults have adopted this scheme as expected, we have seen very high percentages with families and with our senior supporters who clearly find monthly budgeting more to their liking”.
If other Clubs were looking into introducing such a scheme to their own supporters, what would be your advice?
“Wycombe Wanderers were in a fortunate financial position whereby player investment, loan repayments or stadium investment were not dependent upon an early season cash injection from Season Ticket Sales. If this is part of other Clubs’ operational routines, then look at your finances and if you rely on that season ticket income then maybe it isn’t for you.
Receiving monthly ticketing revenue suits our business model. What it has done for Wycombe is begin the conversion of our incomes into sustainable monthly income, meaning there is always funds coming in to offset costs that are always coming in.
Secondly, communicate the proposal to your fans clearly and in plenty of time before going on sale. The Board at Wycombe chose not to charge an interest premium for subscription, we felt it defeated the point of its introduction.
So, my advice would be, make the costs transparent to the fan, be fair and your rewards will come in increased subscriptions and longer-term relationships”.
From a staffing point of view, is the scheme labour intensive?
“Once again, Ben and his team deal with the day-to-day operation of this. Ben tells me that the initial set up took some time, writing the scripts for text and email reminders for when payments fail but once these were completed prior to the season, they have not been touched since then.
I understand that late paying fans are emailed by the ticketing team after an extended period of non-payment, but this has not proved to be an onerous duty each week.
The system is flexible enough to assist fans when payments are difficult, to change payment dates when jobs change etc. and even give payment holidays in times of difficulty. There is work that needs to be done but as much of the input is self-service by the supporters through our ticketing system, it is significantly less than the standard Direct Debit models previously used by this Club and in place at many other Clubs.
My favourite part of the system actually comes when the season finishes. In most Clubs, at the end of the season, the season ticket numbers return to zero and the Club begins the whole process of renewing fans tickets again. Here in April/May 2022 we should have close to 35% of our season ticket holders signed up and ready for next season. This reduces the workload of the ticket office staff and will mean they can dedicate more time and service to other supporters, ensuring all fans get the best products and services that they require”.
You touched on non-paying fans. Has non-payment been a problem this season?
Absolutely not. I don’t know if it is because the Wycombe fans are so loyal or not, but this has not been a problem for us. Yes, we have had fans who have written in with changes in circumstances or reasons why they need to cancel their subscriptions, but this is a standard practice for ticketing staff and Clubs. We treat our fans with respect, and we have received it back from them all season”.
So, finally Mr Chairman, what is the future for Subscription here at Adams Park?
“Well, we are going all out with it!
Within 6 months we are hoping to make just about everything we sell available through subscription. We plan to extend the remit of Subscription here next season. As discussed earlier, we will actively look to convert existing traditional season ticket holders into subscribers.
We will introduce the subscription model to our seasonal hospitality supporters in the Honours Lounge and Woodlands Lounge, whilst also offering the scheme to our Box Holders in a bid to retain them here at Adams Park for the 2022/23 season and long into the future after that.
Local companies will be given the opportunity to purchase static advertising boards on annual basis paying monthly, whilst supporters who have backed the Club by purchasing Player Shirt and Training Wear Sponsorships will be offered the opportunity to do so as a monthly product.
We are looking to offer Wanderers TV over subscription, whilst also integrating with the Retail system to be able to offer products from the shop over subscription, or even saving for Xmas with some form of subscription savings plan.
In short, this has been well received by our supporters, a success internally and it demonstrates our pioneering spirit and dedication to customer service. We couldn’t be happier”.
For more information
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Photo: Wycombe Wanderers