Why are season ticket holders so important?
Quite simply money! Season ticket holders are guaranteed income that the club can budget on.
That however overlooks their symbolic importance too. They are your loyal supporters who keep coming back regardless of results. Having paid for their season ticket, most fans will keep going even if it's just to get their money's worth.
Season ticket holders need a good excuse to miss games. Non season ticket holders need an excuse to go to games. That's a big difference.
I moved away from Reading last year, and with my family already living at least two hours journey away from the Madejski Stadium, decided not to renew my season ticket. I still expected to go to 15-16 home games. In the end I managed 13, my family less.
At first missing games feels weird, but as the season goes on you get used to it. My life circumstances mean it will be hard for Reading FC to win me back as a season ticket holder, but I expect my own experience is not uncommon.
A lapsed season ticket holder will go to less games than they originally expected, unless the team is successful on the pitch, which means the club loses their custom and support.
Would lower prices mean bigger crowds?
The first answer that comes to mind is YES. However, there is some evidence that it is not the cost of tickets which is keeping Reading fans away.
Adults tickets were as low as £10 for the visit of Everton in the League Cup in September, yet fewer than 15,500 Reading fans attended. That was on a warm night when the team was in form.
In February, the club were pretty much giving away tickets for the game against Rotherham, and the attendance ended up being our lowest for 12 years.
Lower prices would encourage some fans, but maybe not enough to offset the reduction for the majority of fans who still would have attended at a higher price.
Is there a case for increasing the prices across the stadium?
Yes if the club is worried about passing the Financial Fair Play rules. However, after the last two seasons increasing prices would have been the reason a lot of fans needed to not renew their season tickets and, as mentioned above, it is important not to lose season ticket holders.
Why have the club lowered prices in the North Stand?
This was perhaps the most interesting news. Ever since the Madejski Stadium has opened there has only ever been two price categories: the Upper West and the rest of the stadium.
The move to lower the price in the North Stand now offers fans more choice. It may also encourage more fans to sit in the North which has looked increasingly empty this season.
Are the club trying to create a singing zone in the North Stand?
No. The club made no mention of a singing zone when it announced the season ticket prices. The idea has been raised by fans when discussing the work of the Reading Fans' Focus Group.
Personally I'd like to see the club follow Huddersfield's example and trial a singing zone in the South Stand during low key games when policing would not be an issue.
Has Reading's support plateaued?
At the time of writing, Reading's average attendance for this season has been 17,351. That is actually up on last season.
It will also be the fifth time since 2002 that the average attendance has been in the 17,000s. In that period the club's average attendance in the second tier has been 17,892 and has not been lower than 17,000 since 2003-04.
It would seem likely that another season like the last two may break that record but Reading's attendances have been very consistent for over a decade now. As a club we have found our level and our attendances reflect that.
They're not particularly remarkable, but have been enough this season to be more than Burnley, Cardiff and Hull who are all enjoying far better seasons. Reading's support is nowhere near as bad as often suggested.
Did the club get the pricing right?
Yes. Lowering prices would have been a nice move but would have been a gamble. Raising prices was out of the question unless the club wanted to risk alienating the very fans they can least afford to lose.
The small reduction in the North Stand is a welcome move. I'm skeptical about the "new option of a more comfortable matchday experience" in the Upper West. Unless they were to carpet and heat the concourses, and/or put padded seats in, then I'm not sure improved catering on its own is worth the extra £25.
However, overall I think the club has got it right.