Manchester City have asked fans if they would be willing to pay up to £580 for a safe-standing season ticket at an expanded Etihad Stadium.
The question is contained in an online survey that was sent to supporters on Wednesday to gauge opinion on whether City should proceed with plans to redevelop the North Stand, a move that would increase overall capacity from 55,000 to about 63,000.
Stadiums in England’s top two divisions have had to be all-seater since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 but that policy is expected to be revised next year, with the government currently gathering evidence on the matter.
The survey, which is part of “City’s ongoing review of the matchday experience”, says the club “is open to the option of safe-standing, in the right circumstances…should the government make legislative changes in the future”.
It then asks fans to choose their preferred option from eight scenarios, each with three different season-ticket choices. These options are all based on the assumption that the North Stand is expanded and the prices include VAT but are for research purposes only.
There are five options given for safe-standing season tickets ranging from £580 in levels one or two of the South Stand, where City’s most vocal supporters and away fans are currently housed, to £280 for a safe-standing section at the top of the expanded North Stand.
The other options for safe-standing sections are at the front of the North Stand’s second tier or pitchside in the South Stand.
Elsewhere in the stadium, City are considering offering two classes of premium seats in the East and West Stands that would give access to two new bar areas: a “light and airy” bar called ’93:20′, the time on the clock when Sergio Aguero scored his title-winning goal in 2012, and a slightly posher one called ‘Joe’s’, after former City manager Joe Mercer.
The top price for these “premium padded” seats is £1,700 but there could be seats available in the North Stand for as little as £280 a season.
The Etihad, which was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, is still owned by Manchester City Council but the Premier League champions have been improving it ever since they moved in for the 2003/04 season.
It will fall back to being the fifth largest stadium in the Premier League when Spurs finally finish their new ground next year and Liverpool also have plans to expand their 54,000-seat Anfield home again. Increasing the Etihad’s capacity to nearly 63,000, though, would mean only Old Trafford and West Ham’s Olympic Stadium are larger.
Some United fans, however, will raise eyebrows at the thought of the Etihad being expanded, as it was revealed last year that thousands of City season-ticket holders do not actually attend every game, as is the case at other Premier League clubs.
According to data from Manchester police, the real average attendance last year was more like 46,000.
With that in mind, the City survey also includes several questions related to more flexible season-ticket options, including a membership scheme for 18 to 25-year-olds that would provide discounts on matchday tickets, an “unallocated seat” season card and a “Top 5” ticket for home games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and United.