Written by Ian Hope
On Saturday I paid my fifth visit to Moor Lane home of Salford City as they entertained high flying Swindon Town in the EFL League Two. This was the first time I had been down to Salford this season and there had been some minor changes since my last visit back in April.
All four stands have now been segregated so you can no longer walk around the ground and choose where you want to watch the game. Up until this season you could move around and sit or stand wherever you wanted depending on which seats were reserved for season ticket holders. Talking of season tickets, due to the amount sold in the pre season, there were no seats left to book in the days prior to the Swindon game so I had to opt for standing behind the goal in the West Stand for a change.
Overall the fan experience at Moor Lane is very good. Having been brought up on watching my football in the mid 1980`s with standing on the terraces, paying on the gate there is something very nostalgic about being able to do this again.
Salford have inevitably come in for a lot of stick from opposition supporters with the financial backing of the owners. Envious supporters are always quick to call Salford supporters “plastic” but from my observations what the club are doing and building is to be commended.
Despite promotion to the football league, Salfords ticket pricing is still very cheap. With adult tickets only costing £10 and concessions £5, I can take my teenage son with me to watch league football for £15. Compare that to nearby Oldham Athletic (£23 in advance for the pair of us £29 on the day) or even Chorley Football Club (£20 for the two of us in a lower division) and you can see why so many people are taking advantage of watching their football at Moor Lane.
Inside the ground the food, drink and programmes are all reasonably priced. In fact the fanzone behind the West Stand is good with such a choice with real ales from Seven Brothers brewery, Indian food from Amans and a good choice of hot dogs from Grandad’s Sausages. Certainly a better choice than the usual Pie and a Pint at most grounds.
The hardcore fan base is continuing to grow. Now you see flags with “Denton Ammies” showing that support is coming from all around Greater Manchester and not just the M6, M7, M27, M28 & M30 postcodes from Swinton, Salford and Eccles.
What is also noticeable is the age range of the people attending Moor Lane. There is a good number of young fans, aged between 10-16 years which the club are hoping will be the future supporter. Then there is also a large amount of older supporter in attendance from 50 years onwards. I suspect a lot have been supporters of the likes of Manchester United and City but over time and for whatever reason no longer attend Old Trafford or Ethiad Stadium but prefer to get their football fix at Salford City.
Over time many people no longer go and watch United or City whether due to being priced out, falling out of love with premier league football, the santised atmospheres of premier league grounds or just through work or family commitments either way these people still enjoy paying on the day and watching local football. Salford City are definitely attracting this type of football fan.
Crowds do increase during the international break when the likes of United or City are not playing which shows there is an interest in the Ammies. I suspect many people have Salford as their “2nd team”. Although this makes it difficult to generate an atmosphere at Moor Lane as many people attending are going to watch the game and not interested in singing or making an atmosphere, but you can’t have it all your own way. The fact that many people are attending Salford City games is testament to the way the club is being marketed in an area saturated with football clubs.
Whilst the ownership at Salford is always going to attract people whether United supporters or not, it is down to the way the club is being run and how affordable it is at Moor Lane that so many people attend rather that go to more established clubs.
Moor Lane is situated in a perfect area with large towns such as Salford, Swinton, Eccles, Worsley, Bury and Bolton providing a large population to appeal to. Greater Manchester is already saturated with football clubs in many different leagues. Not just the likes of United, City, but Bolton Wanderers, the now extinct Bury, Rochdale, Oldham as well as non league clubs like FC United of Manchester, Curzon Ashton, Stalybridge Celtic the list goes on. Yet the crowds at Moor Lane are constantly on the rise.
Success on the pitch
Let us face it, if the team are not performing or successful not as many people will come through the gates. If you woke up on a saturday morning in Manchester and fancied watching football would you pay more and watch Oldham who are struggling at the bottom end of League Two? Would you pay more and watch Bolton who are rooted to the bottom of League One? Or would you pay less and watch a side doing well in a neat new stadium where you are close to the action with a great choice of food? These are some of the reasons why many football fans choose to attend Moor Lane to watch football.
Apart from the low key atmosphere there is an issue arising from the cheap season ticket sales. On Saturday there were many empty seats in the stands down the touchlines which were reserved for season ticket holders. As these seats are taken, there are not too many seats left on general sale online in the days before a game hence why there were only standing tickets left for the Swindon game. Now it is not uncommon at every football ground for season ticket holders to miss certain games through illness, work, etc.
At Salford, the early bird renewal ticket prices are as low as £125 for adults and £62.50 for concessions. After the early offer expires, an adult season ticket is £175 and concessions are £87.50 so you can see in a season with 23 home games it will not break the bank if you miss the odd game. The club are monitoring the situation with season ticket holders and how many games they actually attend to see how the club can prevent this becoming an issue. Although season ticket sales are important, the club do not want people buying those tickets just to attend say half the games. It is better to get people attending regularly.
So currently Salford City are attracting football fans from around the local area who want to watch affordable football. The club hope those supporters will continue to attend Moor Lane and become regulars like my father in law who has always been a United fan but now has a season ticket at Salford. He takes his grandson who it getting the chance to watch football regularly where it can be too expensive at Old Trafford or you have to join a waiting list. Salford are clearly an attractive proposition for match going football fans who enjoy the live football even if they may have a long standing love affair with another club. The Ammies hope these supporters continue to attend and maybe bring their younger relatives with them therefore establishing the next generation of supporter.