But switch to the world of sport and you’ll find a vacuum of normality, if not sanity. Arsenal transfer predictions, the Autumn Nation Series opener - not a mention of the dollar exchange rate in sight.
Moreover, in every picture in the Premier League teams’ coverage, the stands seem absolutely rammed. Hard to believe, really. We’re embarking on the biggest cost of living crisis that many of us have seen in our lifetime… but give me front row seats and a burger, please.
This is not a flash in the pan. The sport industry chatter suggests the Premier League hit record attendance figures last season and is on course to break it again this season - I say this as a member of Chelsea who has spent a good amount of time this season sitting on my laptop in the virtual ticketing waiting room.
Chelsea might be a permanently hot ticket, but the taste for live sports stretches beyond the Premier League. The British love live events. According to research from my former business Two Circles, there were more sports ticket purchasers in 2019 than people who live in the UK.
Covid set things back a little, but the comeback is complete. Just think about the summer of sport we’ve just experienced – beyond annual staples like Wimbledon Tennis and a huge summer of cricket complete with new records at The Hundred, we’ve also had full stadia at the Women’s Football Euros and Birmingham Commonwealth Games to name but two.
Don’t think we’re done yet, either – this week there’s the Rugby League World Cup in London and the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships are playing in Liverpool to sell-out crowds. This ongoing demand is incredible, really, when you consider the year has been flooded with rescheduled music tours and festivals as well as financial meltdown.
But selling tickets has not been easy. Almost all event organisers this year have found that the British have turned into last-minute buyers for all but the very hottest of tickets.
Each of the Women’s Euros, Commonwealth Games and Rugby League World Cup have experienced fans buying very late. We’re not quite ‘try before you buy’ but we’re definitely ‘watch before you attend’. In each case for the events above, as with the launch of the Hundred last year, total purchases after the opening event were unprecedented after the British tuned in and thought, ‘that looks fun - I’m in.’
“As a nation we’ve gone from buying months ahead, to days [ahead]” says Mick Hogan, Commercial Director of Rugby League World Cup. It’s understandable really – I have a ‘cupboard of doom’ in my office with a bunch of tickets from cancelled sports events and gigs from the last two years, plus a couple that train strikes rendered completely impossible to attend. Inflation of course exacerbates this. Who knows what any of us will be able to afford next year?
In truth, though, tough financial times don’t have as big an impact on ticket sales as you might think. Sports attendance has typically held up well during past recessions. In 2009, for example, we saw evidence of a staycation effect with fewer people plumping for overseas travel and more spent on leisure domestically. Anecdotally, this appears to have happened this year too.
There are two things the most successful sports are doing well at right now.
Firstly, they’re thinking hard about the product that meets the times. Phil Stephan is a Group Director at Two Circles: “Generations Y and Z spend more on experiences than things. They’re looking for unrepeatable experiences that have the potential to be ‘I was there’ moments. They are the highest currency in the experience economy” he says. That doesn’t mean everyone has to create something of the scale and razzmatazz of the virtual ABBA extravaganza in the Olympic Park. Rugby League World Cup organisers have built a unique ‘lights, cameras, music and world class action’ experience next door in the Copper Box, with the Wheelchair tournament kicking off tomorrow.
Secondly, being flexible with price is key: “The data shows fans pay a premium for better seats in better spaces. This is often the most effective tool to scale revenues, while reducing prices for seats with lower demand can reduce entry prices, remove barriers for new audiences and increase both attendances and revenue.’’ We’re moving closer to the ticketing model in the United States – with something for absolutely everyone. 57 out of 61 games at the Rugby League World Cup had adult tickets for under £25 on sale a month before the tournament.
For sports and teams, the danger is less in reduced demand than assuming that your traditional, generic offer will cut it in a value-driven market. It’s hard for many of us sporting die-hards to get our heads around, but many people think a £80 ticket for a concert given by Abba holograms is better value than £18 to watch Southend United’s real life men’s football team in the National Conference.
In tough times, sport events are playing a bigger role than ever in keeping us smiling. The more chaotic life becomes, the more important Chelsea, the Rugby League World Cup, Southend United (and yes, even Abba) become to help us beat away the winter.
Matt Rogan has built award-winning businesses in sport, music and consulting. His second book, All to Play For: How Sport Can Reboot Our Future (Ebury Press), was nominated for a Sunday Times Sports Book Award.