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Aberdeen to cut Pittodrie capacity in fan experience effort

Scottish Premiership football club Aberdeen has announced it will scale back operational capacity at Pittodrie by around 6,500 as part of efforts to ramp up the fan experience at its stadium.

Aberdeen today (Wednesday) revealed its ‘challenger club’ strategy, key to which is a more exciting and entertaining match day experience and a move to become a membership-based club.

The reduction in stadium capacity incorporates last week’s announcement that the ‘Red Shed’, an area of unallocated seating trialled earlier this season for Scottish Cup fixtures against Dumbarton and Kilmarnock, would become a permanent fixture for 2020-21.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack today announced that, in addition to the permanent Red Shed, the upper Richard Donald stand will close to help improve the atmosphere. As a result of this, and capacity of the Merkland Stand reducing due to the Red Shed, next season’s operational capacity at Pittodrie will be 15,500. This includes 1,800 seats for away supporters.

The upper RDS stand, which will only be opened in exceptional circumstances, will be handed over to fans to decorate with banners and flags. Cormack said: “Our approach to fan engagement began with the trial of the Red Shed, dramatically improving the home atmosphere.

“With a concerted effort from fans, Pittodrie will once again become our fortress. As well as this reconfiguration, we will trial other pre-match entertainments such as Fan Zones with live music, and activities for children and families in and around the stadium.”

Aberdeen plans to reimagine its club membership to provide one simple, easy to use log in through a unique ID number that offers access to “clear and compelling” benefits, encompassing season tickets and all categories of membership scheme AberDNA, as well as Red TV.

Cormack said: “We’re embarking on a journey towards a more successful and sustainable club that delivers real value for our fans. We want to re-ignite the passion, belief and pride across the whole club. This is about nurturing the next generation of fans, inspiring and getting back the lost generation of younger fans and retaining our existing fans through exciting football and a better match-day experience.

“Our fans are the heart of our club. Through season tickets and AberDNA they invest in the club. We want them to feel even more affinity to the club by making everyone a member. We kick-started this approach earlier in the week by unveiling our free U12s membership scheme – AberDNA Junior.”

Today’s announcement has coincided with the launch of Aberdeen’s 2020-21 season ticket campaign, with Cormack emphasising the importance of season ticket and AberDNA revenues. He said: “Football success is our number one priority. We are the fifth best supported team in Scotland in terms of attendances and season tickets with the third largest football budget.

“Season tickets deliver around £2m (€2.29m/$2.59m) a year in income, with walk-ups and away fans contributing £1m, and AberDNA about £1m. In total, that’s almost half the football budget.

“We are challenging ourselves to increase season tickets from 10,000 to 11,000 for 2020-21 and drive AberDNA membership to 8,000. My promise is that this income is 100% directed towards the success of the football team.”

In November, Cormack admitted that staying at Pittodrie remained an option for the club as it continues to grapple with funding its proposed new stadium. Aberdeen earlier unveiled significant changes to the club’s structure following the announcement of a strategic partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise Atlanta United.

Earlier in November, AFL Architects was appointed to carry out a design and operational review of the new stadium. The club’s new 20,000-seat stadium is expected to cost £45m, with the wide-ranging complex to also incorporate a training centre, community hub and youth development academy.

Image: Aberdeen FC