St Mirren chairman delivers verdict on Celtic away ticket decision; SPFL clubs may be watching

By Lewis Laird

September 22, 2022

St Mirren chairman John Needham was left encouraged at the attendance during St Mirren’s 2-0 win over Celtic on Sunday.

At the beginning of the season, the Paisley side took the decision to provide fans with a survey discussing Celtic’s away allocation at the SMISA Stadium.

Supporters came to the decision that the Hoops away following should be cut, providing travelling fans with one stand behind the goal instead of the usual two.

Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Previously around 3,300 tickets would be provided, but with Celtic now taking up only the North Stand, that left the Parkhead faithful with around 1,600.

Sunday afternoon provided Buddies chiefs with the first opportunity to see their new plan in action as the Bhoys faced off against Stephen Robinson’s side.

Of course, St Mirren came out on top in what was an extremely frustrating afternoon for Postecoglou and his players, who suffered a rare off-day.

St Mirren chairman John Needham has today reflected on the club’s decision to cut the away allocation, and although the attendance was just slightly down from the last clash between the two sides, by 265, he was left encouraged by the results.

There was no suggestion from Needham that these plans would be changing either, with the positives from Sunday leading him to suggest that they were here for the long haul.

He said [Renfrewshire Live Sport]: “Results like that give everyone at the club a huge lift. I personally felt that it felt much more like a home game for us on Sunday. I heard lots of others around me at the ground say that too.

Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

“None of our supporters had to move from the Tony Fitzpatrick stand. The noise certainly wasn’t as loud from the away support as it has been previously.

“In the past, if we’d gone ahead against Celtic or Rangers, their fans would have roused their team and cheered them on from both ends. They didn’t have that advantage this time around. I like to think it helped our team, only having one stand of away supporters to face.

“It’s also about rewarding our own fans for their loyalty. We always welcome away fans, they help create the overall atmosphere. But the balance has to be right, and at our home ground, it has to be as positive in our favour as possible.

“Home advantage counts for a lot in sport, everyone knows that. There certainly were more home fans there than last time we played Celtic.

“We’re still working out the final financial impact, but the attendance comparisons were very encouraging. With the cost of tickets going up slightly as well this year, financially, we’re hoping to break even.

“But this is just the start. Things don’t change overnight, and we’re hoping the better atmosphere and, ultimately, better results will see our fans return in even greater numbers. Overall, it felt like we didn’t give away our home advantage. Now it’s about trying to build from here.”

Photo by Jshpix/MB Media/Getty Images

St Mirren’s move may entice further SPFL clubs to review Celtic away allocation.

In recent years, the Celtic support’s away allocation at several grounds across the country has been a big talking point.

Venues such as Tynecastle have cut the number of travelling Hoops fans, whilst the likes of Dundee United and St Johnstone have held trials of their own regarding the amount of away fans they let into their home ground.

With St Mirren chairman John Needham clearly happy with the success of the number of away fans now being let into the SMISA stadium, then it could become something that is looked at by even more clubs in the Scottish Premiership.

Of course, that is their own decision to be made and a completely fair one. If those clubs feel like it would hand them an advantage, then they are more than entitled to make that call, as we have seen from the Buddies experiment at the weekend.

I just hope it doesn’t get to the point where some clubs are making the decision out of spite rather than for genuine reasons. However, we haven’t had any indication of that just yet.

When it comes to the home advantage, it may seem like that played a part in Sunday’s defeat. However, I’m not sure it had as big to play as Needham suggests, and we will have to wait and see in future matches between the sides whether that is the case or not.

In other news, Ange Postecoglou reveals Celtic winter training camp plans.