By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Derek Llambias believes St. James' Park selling out in less than six hours for next month's derby against Sunderland is further evidence that Newcastle's commitment to affordable football is working.
The Tyne-Wear derby is always the hottest ticket in town but the Club have unveiled a number of initiatives this season, including cut-price season ticket deals and a six-game deal which included a free ticket to the clash with the Black Cats.
Such schemes are all part of United's plan to ensure that the atmosphere inside the stadium remains electric even during these difficult financial times for the country and to allow a new generation of supporters to watch their team in action.
"To sell out in six hours just goes to show once again that there's a real passion for the Club in the city," Managing Director Llambias told nufc.co.uk.
"Obviously it's a derby and it's going to be an incredible atmosphere but to sell out in six hours is unbelievable. But that means the prices are right.
"We've got a 52,000-seater stadium that needs to be filled so we want to give the opportunity for new fans to come and experience the atmosphere and the matchday experience. To do that, you have to make it affordable."
The Club's accounts, which were released on Wednesday, showed that although the average attendance at St. James' Park has risen to 49,936 - an increase of 2,190 compared to last season - ticket revenue has fallen by seven per cent due to initiatives such as the ten and nine-year price freeze season tickets.
But Llambias - who oversaw overall profits for the Club of £1.4m - believes such schemes are important to the long-term future of the Club.
"The North-East, like the rest of Europe, is going through a bad time and we need to fill our stadium," he said. "So by giving an affordable football ticket, it's good for everybody.
"There's a real passion in the North-East for us as a cathedral of the city. To be able to come and experience a game of football, if you can afford to, is nice.
"Three top flight games for 50 quid is affordable and in the Europa League, we had 45,000 for the last game at £15 and £5 because it is affordable.
"We had 13,000 under-18s in so that's huge. They're new fans. The kids will come out for the day to experience. The Benfica game, we hope, will be a sell-out.
"Pricing's going to be the same and I think it's a good opportunity to come and see a game of football."
Click here to buy tickets for Newcastle's Europa League game against Benfica or the next Barclays Premier League home match against Fulham