Understandably, the focus of fans and the Club has been on securing and selling seats to watch our team and we did not want to distract from that process. But now, after the largest new allocation of season tickets in the Club’s history, we need to take stock of the situation and clarify our position.
Over the last few years, as general discussion over the season away and the new stadium gathered pace, we’ve expressed the view that the split of season tickets to non-season tickets in the new stadium should be around 60/40. That balances the need to meet demand for season tickets with the need to keep more casual options of support open. The Club did not indicate any disagreement with this general principle.
We are surprised, therefore, to see that 40,000 season tickets have now been sold. The Club told us it would be making 18,465 new season tickets available. We are trying to work out how adding that number to the 19,500 existing ST holders totals 40,000. Once the Premium ticket total of 8,000 and the maximum Premier League away allocation of 3,000 is added, that takes us to a total of 51,000 tickets. Add in the 5,000 season tickets needed to meet s106 requirements and that leaves just 5,500 for members and individual match sales. When larger away allocations of 10% and 15% for cup games are factored in, members are essentially locked out. Our preferred ratio of 60/40, including the s106 tickets, would have left c 13,500 tickets available for members and casual sale.
We have asked the Club, as a matter of urgency, to define the proposition it is now offering Bronze and Lilywhite members. We are struggling to see one. We also see the move away from the 60/40 ratio as a missed opportunity to attract future generations of support.
The way the new season tickets were sold also raises questions. The fact that the offer of 18,465 new season tickets had to be extended down to above number 55,000 on the waiting list tells its own story. We expressed our opinion that pricing for Wembley was too high, and price was undoubtedly a major factor in the low take up. The Club will argue that a take up rate of roughly 1 in 3 is in line with previous take-up rates, but previous seasons cannot be compared with the unique circumstances of this one.
We have been asking the Club for years to research why Bronze members are on the waiting list. We know from regular contact with fans that people are Bronze members for a variety of reasons, not just because they want a season ticket. The Club appeared to retain the belief that the waiting list consisted of 80,000+ people eager to take a season ticket at the first opportunity. Clearly, this was not the case.
We also knew that, while Wembley was the preferred venue of those considered for our year away from Tottenham, some fans would not be as keen to take a season ticket there as at a ground in Tottenham. That’s why we argued for an ‘amnesty’, or sabbatical, both for existing season ticket holders and those on the waiting list who turned down this year’s offer.
We proposed that the Club offered the 18,465 new season tickets to the top 18,465 Bronze members on the waiting list, and sold as many as it could up to that number. All other ticket sales would then be in the form of one-season passes or casual sales, with those Bronze members who turned down the offer retaining the right to be offered a season ticket in list order in the new stadium.
This would have offered a cleaner sales process that maintained the integrity of the Bronze membership list. The Club decided against taking up any of our suggestions and opted instead for a sales process that involved season tickets at 18 separate price points being sold in tranches across seven windows.
In the latter stages of the sales process, tickets were offered in tranches of 15,000, completely undermining the integrity of the waiting list, with a member at number 40,000 on the list potentially able to buy ahead of someone at 25,000.
Members who were offered season tickets in Phase 3 windows 1-4 were told it wasn’t possible to keep their offer open on the off chance season tickets would be offered to friends and family further down the list when, in reality, that was exactly what happened.
Narrow sales windows meant that some fans will have missed their offer, due to being on holiday or any number of other reasons, only to find they now cannot get a season ticket despite paying every year to stay on the waiting list.
Most seriously of all, the Club’s failure to set out the full picture from the beginning means that fans who made the decision not to take up the offer of a season ticket have potentially locked themselves out for the forseeable future.
We also find it unacceptable that fans have been asked to buy season tickets without knowing match day pricing or how the new ticket exchange system will work. We have repeatedly asked for that information to be given, and the Club has not done so.
While none of what has happened can now be changed, we thought it was important for fans to understand what we have argued for. Our attention now turns to attempting to get the Club to resolve some of the issues supporters now face, and we have raised a number of points in a request for an urgent meeting.
These points are:
- Resolving how 18,465 new season ticket holders on the same number of loyalty points will be dealt with in the event of THFC reaching a cup semi-final or final. We are proposing that each one should be given a priority weighting based on their waiting list position when they accepted their offer and the number of members’ loyalty points they had at that time. This would then come into play in the event of deadlock. This system should be articulated by the Club clearly and transparently.
- Clarifying the trigger for the opening of the ticket exchange. We are recommending the exchange should open whenever an area or level sells out, not when the entire stadium sells out. Details over how the fee system works also need clarifying.
- Releasing match day pricing for Wembley.
- Clarifying the maximum sales cap for Wembley one season passes.
- Clarifying the maximum sales cap for Wembley multi game packs.
- Clarifying the minimum number of tickets that will be available on a match by match basis at Wembley.
- Clarifying how many tickets will be available on a match by match basis in the new stadium.
- Clearly defining the offer to season ticket holders and, particularly in these significantly changed circumstances, Bronze and Lilywhite members.
- Introducing a dedicated customer service channel and providing the ticketing and customer service teams with the resources they need.
All of these are key issues directly affecting fans and as such should be the subject of the kind of genuine discussions between the Club board and fan representatives called for in the government’s recommendations on structured dialogue, recommendations backed by the Premier League. THFC has been seen as providing a good example of how to engage with its supporters, and it is regrettable that the standard seems to have slipped during this most vital period. We hope the Club takes this opportunity to resume the constructive discussion THST has always attempted to pursue.
As always, we’ll report back on discussions and decisions as soon as we can.
13 July 2017