THE Newcastle Jets have been buoyed by the demand for season tickets as they strive to reconnect with fans, after two seasons decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite not knowing when the season will kick off, or when spectators will be allowed to attend games at McDonald Jones Stadium, Jets executive chairman Shane Mattiske said the interest from season-ticket holders had been encouraging.
"We're really pleased with the response to membership already," Mattiske told the Newcastle Herald.
"We're probably two months ahead of where we were last year, in terms of our numbers.
"We're still in the process of finalising our squad and our draw, and we're looking forward to launching our new jersey, so we're hoping that will bring some excitement to our fan base."
Back-to-back seasons interrupted by the pandemic have put a dent in Newcastle's home-ground attendances and season-ticket sales.
Two years ago, the Jets had grown their membership base to around 11,000, but last season their average home crowd dwindled to 4056 per game - the lowest in their history.
The decline was certainly not a unique dilemma for Newcastle. Across the board, all A-League clubs suffered financially because of crowd restrictions.
How long it takes to return to normality remains to be seen. At this stage, A-League officials have been unable to release a draw because it is unclear when and where they will be able to play games.
In the circumstances, fans could be forgiven for sitting back to see how the situation unfolds. But Mattiske said all the indications were that Jets fans were excited about how their revamped squad would perform under new coach Arthur Papas.
"We're already over three-and-a-half thousand members, and the season is still probably a couple of months from starting," he said.
So we're well on track to make a significant improvement on last year.
"We've moved to a membership model where kids get in free. So our family memberships are greater value than they've ever been.
"It's a great value offer for any family to become Jets members."
Mattiske said the coming season represents a "fresh start" for the Jets, after the termination of former owner Martin Lee's licence nine months ago.
"We've got a new coach in Arthur Papas who will bring a very different style of play, something that our fans have probably been looking for," he said. "There has been a big investment in the squad.
"It's a very different squad but we think it's a strong squad.
"We're very confident that it's going to be a great year for the Jets, and all the indications from our fans and members is that they'll be getting behind the team."
Jets veteran Jason Hoffman said performing in front of crowds meant "absolutely everything" to players.
"Playing in empty stadiums ... without the fans, a huge element of the game is missing," Hoffman said.
"The fans are what makes the game. At the end of the day, we are in the entertainment business and we want to provide a product that is entertaining."