THFC’s Head of Supporter Services, Jonathan Waite (JW), was also on hand to respond to any broader, customer service questions.
The meeting was chaired by Trust co-chair Martin Cloake (MC) with fellow co-chair Kat Law (KL) explaining the Trust position on several issues during the discussions.
It was a lively event and we’ve tried to include as much detail as possible in this report.
The evening opened up with IM giving background on himself and his role at Spurs. A former Paxton Road Season Ticket holder, Ian joined Spurs from the FA in 2006. Ten years on, IM now manages a team of 15 staff from their office on the site of the old Corner Pin at the top of Park Lane. Ian is also responsible for the stadium tours operation.
IM shared his observations on the changes he’s overseen throughout his decade at Spurs, the biggest being the shift to online sales from 15% in 2006 to 90% today.
Having identified the more popular ticketing themes this season, IM expanded on decisions made by the Club and put some meat on some bones, enabling the Q&A part of the evening to flow as productively as possible.
1. Champions League at Wembley
The Club had been pleasantly surprised at the level of take up for the Champions League games at Wembley. In excess of 52,000 three game packages had been sold and both Group stage games so far had broken attendance records.
IM was clear that filling Wembley and making the matches accessible to as many fans as possible was the priority and certainly not a revenue generating exercise. Operationally, including the pre-match experience, IM considered Wembley to have been a success and a valuable learning experience for THFC staff.
There was an acknowledgement that Ticketmaster had not performed adequately, especially at peak levels and assurances were given that this was being reviewed. IM did flag that Ticketmaster had dispatched 200,000 tickets within 10 days of the draw being made with very few reported errors or complaints.
There has been some criticism of the phasing of seat sales. IM explained this was because the high demand could not have been predicted before sales started. More blocks were released for sale as the extent of demand became clear. THFC and Wembley Stadium didn’t want to open up the entire stadium and have people dotted around. In addition, some of the seats available for individual matches were not available for all 3 matches due to varying away allocations, partner requirements, TV positions and other events using the stadium around our games e.g. Billy Joel and NFL.
IM then addressed the reasoning for moving Champions League games to Wembley, stating categorically that those games could not have been played at White Hart Lane this season. The loss of 4,000 seats was part of the picture, but there were also issues with broadcasting and parking facilities, and the non-negotiable requirements of the broadcasting companies, UEFA partners and opposition clubs. Every possible option was explored before the decision was made to use Wembley as the home venue for the group stage matches.
IM then repeated the request for fans to arrive early for the CSKA Moscow game. Wembley officials had been shocked at how late fans were arriving at the stadium for both Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen, and had feared the entry systems would crash! IM & JW reiterated the request for fans to enter the stadium as early as possible.
In summary, THFC has learned valuable lessons from Wembley in terms of fan behaviour and will use this information to shape the thinking for the season away and the new stadium.
2. White Hart Lane in 16/17 – ballot system
With the move to a ballot for home League tickets this season, IM explained the reasons why he had made the decision to alter the way in which members tickets were sold. With 4,000 seats removed from a stadium that was already too small, ticketing arrangements for this season had to change. Neither his staff, nor fans, could be expected to put up with ‘19 internet meltdowns’. Balloting has not been universally popular and IM appreciated it didn’t suit everyone but it remained, in his opinion, the best option for this season.
The Hull City league match would be the first home game to reach general sale this season. The reasons for this being Hull’s decision to take a reduced away allocation (only 1,800 tickets) and the fact it’s a Wednesday night in mid-December. Every other league game has been over-subscribed by 2,000 – 2,500 members.
IM added that the removal of the 4,000 seats from the North East corner of White Hart Lane had been announced as soon as possible after the decision was taken. This had been a big a call for the Tottenham Board.
IM expressed gratitude for the understanding shown by the fans directly affected and explained how THFC had made every effort to move supporters in groups to suitable areas. IM accepted there had been issues with the relocation of some Season Ticket holders from the NE corner, particularly into the South Lower. The Club realise that moving supporters from the North Lower to the South Lower isn’t ideal as it is a very different match day experience but it is impossible to arrange a like for like change when one does not exist. The Club have been assisting those who have been contacting them with medical or age concerns requesting further assistance.
IM confirmed a new core will be sunk into the hole at the NE corner very shortly, also.
3. Year away from Tottenham – Season Ticket amnesty?
IM confirmed that the current thinking of the Club’s board was not to offer a Season Ticket amnesty at Wembley for next season. Much time and money had gone into keeping Spurs in London, as campaigned for by the Supporters’ Trust. Milton Keynes would have been an entirely different scenario.
The ST amnesty issue was later opened to the floor for comments and questions. KL explained THST’s current position and the reasons for this. The Trust back offering the choice of an amnesty. During campaigning for Wembley, an amnesty had been discussed at either possible venue. The goal posts had changed after Wembley was secured. Fans who expressed a preference for Wembley did so in the belief an amnesty would be offered. Moving home venue was a fundamental change to the Season Ticket contract. In the Trust’s latest survey, the majority of Season Ticket holders thought there should be the choice of an amnesty despite the majority not looking to take up the option.
In terms of the definition of an amnesty, KL outlined what it means from the Trust’s point of view. It means pressing ‘pause’ on your membership and effectively becoming a non-member for that season. So, tickets could only be purchased via general sale, there would be virtually no access to away tickets via official routes and no loyalty points would be gained for that season. Opting to take an amnesty had implications for fans that should be carefully considered.
Of the Season Ticket holders present, there was a difference in opinion over offering an amnesty with some outlining the problems travelling to NW London multiple times a season would cause them and others agreeing with IM that Wembley was a London venue and a Season Ticket meant you went to watch Spurs wherever they played.
There were assurances that, should the Club’s current position on a blanket amnesty not move, THFC would listen to individuals with specific concerns about why getting to Wembley would be difficult/impossible and decisions would be made on a case by case basis.
THST will continue to consult Trust members in order to represent the majority position on this subject and will continue their dialogue with THFC.
4. Season Away at Wembley
IM indicated that pricing for the full season at Wembley had not yet been agreed. It is not yet known what number of seats would be available across the season, which in turn delays any decision on the number of new Season Tickets that could be offered, too.
5. New stadium
IM observed it was going up very fast with the last levels of concrete almost completed. Those at the West Ham game this weekend would notice the progress since the last home match at White Hart Lane.
IM explained that the virtual reality suite (SPVRS) for the sale of 8,000 ‘premium’ (hospitality/corporate) seats is open and going well. Part of the Premium offering was ‘access’ to away tickets. At present, executive ST holders are entitled to 9% of the away tickets pot. This is likely to increase to 12-13% once the new stadium is opened.
IM stressed that ‘Premium’ was not a new offering. It was the blanket term for all hospitality and corporate members. At present, there was no loyalty points scheme in place for box holders etc. and they were entitled to 9% of all away allocations. The principle was not new.
What was new was the potential increase in percentage from 9% to 12-13% once the new stadium opened, representing a pro rata increment to the current arrangement. And that was news to the Trust on the night, too.
KL reacted on behalf of THST by requesting further discussion with the ticketing and hospitality teams around this. She felt that it should be possible to sell premium packages in a state of the art stadium without having to use the sweetener of access to an already in demand pool of away tickets. They were selling a home experience, after all. It was also pointed out that while the percentage increase was pro-rata, the fact that away allocations would remain the same meant there would be fewer tickets available for non-Premium members.
Members suggested introducing a loyalty points scheme for premium seat holders to bring those in line with General Admission members.
There will be much more discussion around this to come with THST’s initial position being against any increase in the percentage of away tickets reserved for Premium members.
IM wanted to reassure those present that general admission fans had not been forgotten in the new stadium and hoped to have more news in the spring. There would be designated ‘home’ and ‘family’ areas. Lessons had been learned from new venues around the world, and some closer to home.
As regards allocating Season Tickets in the new ground, current thinking was that existing Season Ticket holders and those at the top of the waiting list would be asked where they’d like to sit and who they’d like to sit with. Wembley showed some useful patterns in this respect.
Pricing and concession areas were under review.
IM confirmed the approximate figures for Season Tickets in the new stadium. There are currently c 21,000 ST holders, excluding the ‘Premium’ members. Rough figures indicated they were looking at increasing that to 40,000 in the new stadium, excluding the 8,000 ‘Premium’ seats.
Open session – Q&A with members
There then followed an opportunity for Trust members to question IM on specific areas of ticketing.
A question was raised on the possible resale platform for Wembley after the current StubHub contract expires in May. IM confirmed that all options are being reviewed, including an in-house exchange.
IM re-emphasised that secondary ticketing (i.e. StubHub) only opens when a game has sold out. 20% of Season Ticket holders have sold tickets on StubHub in the last two seasons, with an average of 1500 tickets per game sold on the platform. IM felt the StubHub partnership represented a good commercial deal for THFC, while recognising that the whole dynamic of secondary ticketing will change at Wembley and in the new stadium.
MC reminded everyone that Season Ticket holders can choose to sell tickets at a ‘break-even’ price – ticket cost plus admin charges.
7. Category A match concessions
The issue of restricted concessionary areas at White Hart Lane was raised. The ballot was seeing those on concessionary memberships offered full price tickets outside of concessionary areas, which some felt was unfair. The Club had extended concessionary areas into the South stand along with the North for Category B and C games but would not be extending outside of the North stand for Category A games.
IM explained the two main reasons behind this decision. The first was that broadening the concessionary area would lead to a pricing disparity between match day concessionaires and Season Ticket holders, the latter of whom would have paid a full adult price for the same seats at the start of the season, even if they could have qualified for a concessionary rate in the North stand. The second was the potential loss of revenue.
THST’s position on this was that concessionary members should be charged a concessionary rate regardless of stand for this exceptional season at White Hart Lane. Pricing disparity was already a reality with the extension of concessionary areas into the South stand for B and C category games. It wasn’t possible to validate the financial loss this would cause without access to data around the volume of concessionary members applying for each match, which wasn’t forthcoming.
THST continues to push for extended concessionary areas at Wembley for the season away and in the new stadium.
8. Safe Standing
Recent movement around Safe Standing was remarked on by Trust members, with the subject included on the Premier League Shareholders Meeting Agenda for the first time this week. Those present on the night agreed that a Safe Standing area in the new ground would be a positive move. This was about choice: the choice to stand and the choice to sit.
While a change in primary legislation was thought to have been required to permit standing at Premier League games, there is a growing question as to whether rail seating should be regarded as sitting or standing. If it is agreed to be equivalent to sitting, then legislative change might not be needed.
THST felt it important to clarify a few facts about Safe Standing so everyone understood what they were calling for. It was likely the ratio of a standing space to a seat would be 1:1, so it was likely there would be no reduction in price for tickets in a standing area. By opening a dedicated standing area, it was also likely local authorities and Clubs would look to clamp down on standing elsewhere around stadiums.
JW confirmed that, should Safe Standing get the green light, 7,200 places in the lower section of the 17,000 single tier end could be converted for this purpose. The rake in the new stadium was too steep for this to apply to the entire end. Several present questioned whether this would be a large enough area and why the rake had been designed at such an angle. The Club have been to see specific standing areas at Celtic, Dortmund, PSV and FC Koln to assess the operational requirements.
JW felt any progression towards permitting Safe Standing would be lengthy, safety driven and safety focused.
9. Europa League at Wembley?
Should Spurs fail to qualify for the knock out stages of the Champions League, would any potential Europa League matches be played at Wembley or White Hart Lane? IM commented that, as Spurs are still in the Champions League, no decisions have been reached regarding playing in the Europa League.
UEFA permit relocation after the group stages of either competition. However, that home venue then needs to stay right the way through to the semi-final stage.
10. Allocation of away tickets and the price cap
KL shared some questions around the allocation of away tickets from One Hotspur Members who felt the price cap had made accessing away tickets an impossibility for them. Several had requested that away allocations be changed to either a ballot or be divided into percentages for ST holder and percentages for members to give more fans a chance to attend away matches.
IM said that, so far as was possible, Season Ticket holders would continue to get away ticket priority. Any ballot or split allocation would be difficult to manage operationally and would be unfair on Season Ticket holders who have always had priority for away game allocations. It was a benefit to those fans who parted with c £1000 each May for a Season Ticket. Any change might please some members but would displease just as many Season Ticket holders.
IM clarified that the loyalty point scheme for Season Ticket holders and One Hotspur members was not comparable, with members collecting points for every home game attended whereas Season Ticket holders were only allotted home league points once, upon renewing each summer.
MC explained that the Trust was often criticised for supposedly only caring about Season Ticket holders. He explained that the Trust undertook a lot of work on behalf of One Hotspur members and that members of the THST Board were Bronze members, but this was the system we had and the Trust believed it was the fairest right now.
The joint Club and Trust decision to suspend Platinum Memberships was also raised from the floor. Ian explained the reasoning. Following the price cap there was a flurry of people enquiring about away season tickets. In chat rooms and forums, people were talking about buying away season tickets and making their money back over the season by selling the ticket on for most away games but guaranteeing tickets for the bigger away games, which is not really in the spirit of things.
Ian wrapped up this section by explaining how he had to deal with a very emotive subject in a clinical manner in developing a system that was fairer to the majority of supporters.
11. Manual adjustments on online accounts
One member said that the “manual adjustment” of loyalty points made it impossible to check game-by-game points allocations on One Hotspur accounts online. IM said this shouldn’t be the case and will check and come back to the Supporters’ Trust.
12. Community activity and the new stadium
Would there be increased support for and inclusion of the local community with the opening of the new stadium? IM and JW ran through what is already being done. THFC works with the five adjacent boroughs and with local community centres at present. The work of the Foundation is well documented and widely considered to be outstanding. (MC recommended “And The Sun Shines Now” by Adrian Tempany for those wanting to learn more about the Foundation and its contribution to and positive impact on the Haringey community).
IM pointed out that planning approval conditions for the new stadium (Section 106) require THFC to involve local residents in the new development. Tickets would be made available for local residents under the terms of the S106.
Another member present pointed out that the profile of fans attending matches does match that of local residents. IM/JW advised that THFC tracks the demographics of fans; and that there are 200 languages spoken and 75 nationalities living within a ten mile radius of the ground.
The balance is to embrace the local community and also support loyal ticket-buying fans, whether or not they live locally.
13. Under-21 games
One member present praised the Club for the way these games were organised and hosted. It was great to see so many youngsters enthusiastically supporting the team at these matches.
14. Late changes to KO timings
A member raised the recent shift in date of the Burnley fixture next month and how much of a problem late changes to games are for fans. A trend of late moves in fixtures between Burnley and Spurs was also remarked on!
KL confirmed that, for this specific game, THFC had agreed to compensate fans who were in possession of a valid match ticket and had booked non-refundable travel or accommodation before the date change was announced. This was received with a round of applause.
15. NFL in the new stadium
Would Tottenham Hotspur members and / or Season Ticket holders be given priority booking for any NFL games at the new stadium? IM said this was being explored but the NFL teams already had their own ST holders to accommodate and consider. It may be possible to run something along the lines of O2’s Priority Moments scheme but this is yet to be bottomed out.
16. The Tottenham Experience and Museum
JW explained that Spurs have appointed Mather and Co to design the Experience and Museum at the new stadium. Mather are vastly experienced in this field, having worked on the museums at Porto and the AELTC (Wimbledon) to name 2 recent projects. They are now ready to speak with fans in an attempt to capture supporter experiences of White Hart Lane to feed into their final designs. Volunteers were encouraged to speak with JW at the close of the session should they wish to be involved in this consultation and this proved to be a popular request.
Thoughts moved onto the last match of the season, with IM confirming if anything happened that displaced Manchester United as the final game, the last match would be a category A game. The Club had always planned for the last match to be a category A game regardless of opposition.
Close of meeting
MC thanked everyone for attending and especially Ian and Jonathan for speaking so honestly and candidly.