Dave Seddon's PNE Press View
A crunch of the numbers show that Preston fans enjoy being on their travels.
The Lilywhites’ visits to Blackburn, Fulham and Wigan were watched by a combined 13,591 from the away end.
Those are the last three Saturday away matches, add to the equation the 436 who went to Derby on a Tuesday night earlier this month and the total tips over the 14,000 mark.
To break it all down, 6,005 went to Blackburn, Gentry Day at Fulham saw a backing of 2,821, while 4,765 ventured to Wigan.
However, it seems that home is not where the heart is in terms of PNE’s support at Deepdale.
Despite playing their best football in nearly a decade, North End are not drawing the numbers through the turnstiles.
The last five home games, four of them won and one drawn, have seen crowds ranging between 10,130 and 10,848.
Against Reading two weeks ago, there were 10,274 home fans in the 10,787 gate.
When you consider 6,005 went to Blackburn a week later, the difference between home and away was only 4,269.
There have been higher figures going further back, with crowds of more than 20,000 for the matches against Arsenal, Leeds and Newcastle, the numbers swelled by a full Kop.
But these last two or three months, with Preston getting to within sight of the top six and a possible crack at the play-offs, there seems little symmetry between what is happening on and off the pitch.
Fans are talking about it, shaking their heads at the empty rows of seats. The cost is where the finger of many is being pointed, while another argument put forward is a better ‘matchday experience’ is what is needed.
On that last point, I’m not convinced that fan zones and the like will considerably drag the numbers up.
As for cost, there is little doubt that factor is keeping people away.
That is not just a problem for North End, it is shared by many other clubs.
Outside the Premier League, cash taken at the ticket office is a huge part of a club’s revenue stream.
It is different in the top flight, with money from the television deal dwarfing whatever comes in through the turnstiles.
In the Championship, League One and League Two, ticket sales help pay wages and transfer fees.
Raising the right amount of money and getting people through the turnstiles is the juggling act which many clubs have to do.
Judging by the evidence of the last few months, it is an area which North End need to look at.
What we have seen on the pitch of late deserves to be watched by bigger crowds.
There have been calls to follow cost models put in place at other clubs.
What works at one club might not work elsewhere, so perhaps a direct copy is not what is needed.
But the current system is not getting the numbers in and it doesn’t do any harm to come at things from a different angle.
In terms of boosting the season ticket numbers, an early bird sale is well used in football and has had some success at Deepdale in years gone by.
Younger supporters are well catered for at PNE in terms of the free Mini-Whites season tickets for the Under-8s. However, the jump to a junior season ticket once they turn eight is quite a big one.
Maybe there could be some middle ground there, a lower cost for primary school age before hitting the full junior price at 11?
For those not tempted by a season ticket, how do you pitch the matchday prices?
This season, it is £27 down the sides and £24 behind the goal in the Town End.
North End fans paid £27 behind the goal at Blackburn last week and £25 at Wigan and Fulham.
Next month at Leeds, a seat in the away section is £37 and that goes up to £42 if you pay on the day, eye-watering figures it must be said.
On the flip side of the coin, a seat at Huddersfield on Good Friday is £20.
So in terms of matchday pricing, North End seem to be pretty much on a par with others.
However, where it does become expensive is when there are back-to-back home games, a pattern of fixtures which happens quite often in the Football League.
Having to pay out £54 or £48 in the space of four days can be difficult.
An occasional offer to cover two games might be the answer, or the Football League could look at how they structure the fixtures.
I’ve written before that a meeting between the club and a cross-section of fans on tickets might be of benefit.
You could have season ticket holders, those who pick and choose games, some who are lapsed but could be tempted back.
It is good to talk, share ideas and get some common ground. Ultimately, club and fans want the same thing, it is how you get there where views differ.