Ticket sales at ratiopharm Ulm have been a sure-fire success for years. Whenever the Bundesliga basketball players had a home game, the statistics showed: 6,200 spectators, sold out. The arena in Neu-Ulm was always full for an incredible 162 games – then came the corona crisis. The consequences: first the 2020 season break, then games without spectators, then with a limited number. And today?
Corona still had high inflation. It is mainly these two reasons that the Ulm managing director Thomas Stoll cites to explain why the average attendance this season is just over 4,600. This corresponds to a decrease of more than a quarter compared to the pre-Corona period.
“The panic drum was banged for three years,” says Stoll on the Corona policy. ““A lot of people avoid crowds. This is especially the case with our older regular clientele.” And those who have to save money because of rising prices can also do so at sporting events. That hurts the people of Ulm “financially”.
In addition to basketball, where the average attendance after the first eight match days was 3754, according to the basketball Bundesliga, eight percent below the same point in the 2019/2020 season, there are also declines in the other major indoor sports. In the Handball Bundesliga, the number fell from around 4,800 in the last pre-Corona season 2018/2019 to currently 4,400 over the entire season.
If you take the overall average of the 13 Kubs in the German Ice Hockey League (DEL), who were already part of the DEL before Corona, the following picture emerges: At the end of November 2019, there were 6,000 spectators watching the home games of these clubs. At the same time in the current season only 5,500, explains league manager Gernot Tripcke. But he sees “the problem” more in inflation, not in the corona virus. And: The sale of season tickets is still good in the DEL, but the “passengers”, i.e. spontaneous spectators, would stay away – probably because of the costs.
The money is “just not available anymore,” says managing director Matthias Binder from the DEL-Klub Adler Mannheim. However, this does not apply to all population groups. Because society is “drifting more and more apart,” says Binder. “Our VIP tickets are gone quickly, but cheaper tickets aren’t.” As in Ulm, the drop in spectators for the Adler and their neighbors, the handball Bundesliga club Rhein-Neckar Löwen, is much more significant than the average for the respective leagues.
Löwen managing director Jennifer Kettemann notes that “instead of five times per season, families may only come twice”. But she also admits that the German champions of 2016 and 2017 have lacked sporting success in recent years. Corona also lets one or the other fan stay at home.
Another problem: tickets are often bought at very short notice these days. “A day or two before the event. That was never the case before,” says Binder. Because some lower-income followers were waiting to see if they needed the money for something else. Or because they prefer to watch the game live on MagentaTV at home on the sofa. The number of subscriptions to the streaming service has risen sharply. Binder speaks of a “weaning process”.
As a remedy, the clubs are thinking about new concepts: such as subscription models where you buy a certain number of tickets but only decide at short notice which game you are going to. Or a “small season ticket” (binder) for a phase of ten games, for example. In addition, one hopes for the winter, in which indoor sports will come into focus again alongside football. In ice hockey and basketball, the play-offs in the spring should also raise the average.