But this morning was different. The picture accompanied a story about the cost of taking kids to football, most notably to pay for them to be mascots. The tone? How outrageous it is that some top flight clubs should charge up to £600 (West Ham) for children to be mascots. It’s a bit hard on the scum up the A23 in using their photo to be honest, their mascot packages can cost as little £150 - amongst the cheaper of those who charge kids in the top flight and certainly below the level of the Albion’s cheapest package. Some of the ‘bigger’ top flight teams don’t charge for mascots at all.
This is not new news in Albion circles. In fact, at some point during our 55 odd issues (around 550,000 words) we complained bitterly about how Albion charge mascots. But is it such a con?
Albion do offer two mascots each home match the chance to hold a player’s hand for free. They are chosen at random from the club’s database of Seagull Club youfs (and unfortunately that doesn’t include 30 year old me). One lucky kid also gets picked at random to represent the club at away matches for free too, this is chosen from whoever has booked an away ticket and has joined the Seagull Club for free. And Seagull Club membership guarantees a wealth of luxuries, including a free replica shirt on your seventh birthday.
But then we get into the pricing. Any other mascots for home matches ‘are available priced from £250, and £350 for the captain’s package’. £350 for a chance to get near Gordon Greer’s package doesn’t sound too bad. Seriously though, the commercialisation of being a club mascot is a new thing but it doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing.
Sure, I was lucky enough to be a free mascot at Hartlepool away in 1993. It was a magical moment for me - warming up with John Byrne will forever be etched on my memory. And there were disappointments, I was meant to be given an away strip (that famous chewit wrapper inspired wonder) but the club had run out of them in my size by that point of the season. It was however a wonderful experience. Especially when I won the toss - my little self-indulgent contribution to the cause. It was all we won that day, and pretty much all that season.
It is these rose-tinted nostalgic football moments of yesteryear that means we collectively despair at change, and especially in the monetisation of things like mascots. But clubs must be profit driven to keep up with ridiculously expensive wage levels (£70k a week for Darren Bent anyone). In the words of the excellent new commercial head bloke, Paul Beirne, in his interview with @NotWorthThat, posted yesterday, ‘why is “maximizing revenue streams” a dirty phrase? Of COURSE we need to do that.’
It is also worth noting that some of the richest clubs - Arsenal, the Manchesters - don’t charge any fee at all. They go on the very valid argument that mascots are a key marketing opportunity. A chance to turn impressionable potential young Albionites into fully fledged supporters. The ones who will turn into big pound signs for the rest of their lives. It’s not being nice to young kids to offer free mascot places. It’s developing cash machines for any club for life. It’s corporate trickery the likes of McDonald’s would be proud of. But, you know what? If some ex-Chelsea supporting, Wadhurst living oil magnate now wants to take his pampered son to Falmer and thinks that a £350 mascot package might do the trick, why not take the money? I think I’d rather we do that than put kids match ticket prices up.