Broadcast access for the 2020/21 Premier League season
Phased return of fans for 2020/21 season
One Hotspur membership renewals
Premier League structured dialogue meeting – 19 August
FSA Sustain the Game initiative
THST Annual Survey
Haringey Irish Centre
Spurs match programmes
Football to Amsterdam 2021
As we send this newsletter out we are engaged in one of the most extraordinary campaigns we’ve ever undertaken. Along with other fan groups across the country, we are having to fight for the ability of regular match-going fans to be able to watch and support their team, while the clubs – in the form of the Premier League – appear determined to prevent that. You read that right, clubs are actively working to stop supporters from supporting their team.
As it stands, 160 games won’t be televised in the UK from the 380 in total. While stadia are either closed to fans or operating at limited capacity, we don’t think that’s acceptable and are calling on the Premier League, Clubs and Broadcasters to reach a solution that enables match going fans prevented from watching their team inside stadia because of a public health emergency to be able to watch on TV or via a stream.
If this doesn’t change, UK-based supporters of English Premier League teams will be unable to watch their team in every game. Fans in every other country in the world, apart from North Korea and Saudi Arabia, will be able to watch every game. Fans of English Football League sides can watch every game their team plays. And fans of Scottish Premier League teams can too. But UK-based fans of English Premier League teams will be shut out of stadiums and denied TV coverage.
THST has been at the forefront of building a national campaign which other fan groups and the Football Supporters Association are backing. Our co-chair Kat Law, who co-ordinates FSA work on broadcasting, was quoted extensively in the press, and the links below give more detail on this story.
We also raised the issue at the formal structured dialogue meeting between the FSA Premier League fans network and senior officials from the Premier League over a week ago. We are still waiting for agreed minutes to be issued, but information we subsequently received from our broadcast contacts revealed that, astonishingly, the broadcasters had not even been approached by the Premier League.
We understand the financial issues the entire game is facing because of the shutdown and the continued uncertainty about when stadiums can re-open at full capacity. But it cannot be right that the game preserves the value of its broadcast contracts by denying its core audience access to its product. It would represent an enormous betrayal of supporters. We’ve asked why the Premier League is worried about losing money when making individual games available would open up a new revenue stream with a new audience. The Premier League has not been able to provide a satisfactory answer.
We’ve also spoken to our political contacts and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Football’s MPs have raised the issue with the Premier League.
We’ve asked THFC for its view, but the Club has so far declined to give us an answer.
As we finished this newsletter, news was breaking that the Saturday 3pm TV blackout was going to be lifted temporarily. The only reason we can see for doing this is to enable live coverage of games to be offered to all fans. This is the only solution that makes practical and commercial sense, and the only solution that is the right thing to do. We hope everyone will see sense, but it is incredible that we have had to mobilise a national campaign and involve politicians to enable fans to see their team.
2. Phased return of fans for 2020/21 season
We’ve been in regular contact with the Club about plans for the 2020/21 season. These are complicated, unprecedented times and we’ve sought to understand and inform ourselves as well as push for the solutions we feel fans need. A number of club officials have spent time helping us do this, and genuinely listening to the views we put forward; something that really underlines the value of building a working relationship.
We thought it would help to set out the position we’ve taken on some of the issues, and to update supporters with what information we can. As we write, it seems clear that fans will not be allowed into stadiums for the first games to be played in September, other than at perhaps test events. The talk at the moment is for some fans to return to limited capacity venues from early October, but the final decision will be down to government and public health bodies. In line with other supporters’ organisations, we have said public health comes first, and that view underpins our approach.
- Access to home games
No system is going to keep everyone happy, but our experience and discussion on our members’ forum has led us to the view that an open ballot of Season Ticket holders would be the fairest way to select who gets to games once fans can go back. We recognise not all fans are Season Ticket holders, but we can’t see a fair way of prioritising anyone over those fans who have committed the time and money to a season ticket.
We’ve argued for proportionality so that the same percentage of Premium ticket holders as general admission ticket holders are allowed in – so no priority for Premiums. We’d like to see a flat pricing structure, so that all seats are the same price while capacity is reduced. When fans may not be able to sit in their normal seat because of social distancing, it would not be right for them to be forced into buying more expensive seats. And we want to see a match-by-match application process, not a package system, and the expansion of concessionary pricing to all areas of the ground for the duration of ballots.
We’ve also put the view that any ballot should be an open ballot, not weighted by ticketing points, to ensure equal opportunity for newer Season Ticket holders as for longer-term Season Ticket holders, and that group applications should be accepted. And we’ve discussed ways of trying to ensure the same people don’t keep being successful in ballots at the expense of others.
We asked that Ticket Exchange and Ticket Share be suspended while capacity is reduced and suggested that any tickets unable to be used late in the day should be returned to the Club for an online ‘flash’ sale open to unsuccessful Season Ticket holders.
We’ve also been in touch with Haringey Council’s Safety Advisory Group to ensure we have input into plans for fans getting to and from the stadium safely.
- Renewals and deferrals
The calls people were getting prompted some speculation that the Club was desperate to get people to renew because few people had opted to do so. But if a large number hadn’t renewed, calling all of them would have severely stretched resources. The relatively low number not renewing meant the Club could contact them to research their reasons and carry out good customer care. We suspect that if the Club hadn’t called non-renewers it would have been taken as indication they didn’t care, so this is a good example of where the Club can’t win whatever it does.
A number of Season Ticket holders applied to defer for medical reasons, and we are glad the Club has shown an understanding and compassionate approach when dealing with these applications. The vast majority have been accepted, with key workers allowed to defer too.
The Club has also been working through applications for seat relocations, prioritising those with medical needs first. This is a manual process which remains ongoing and ticket office staff are contacting fans who applied to relocate in the order in which those applications were placed.
- Photo ID
- Away fans
The current situation with reduced capacity in stadia obviously raises problems. We think the view that barring away fans will reduce travel is wrong, as many clubs have large numbers of Season Ticket holders who don’t live very close to their home ground. But admitting away fans when home fans are restricted also raises problems. With so few seats available, clubs aren’t keen to lose even more of those to segregation lines. It seems the Premier League would prefer not to admit away fans until the situation changes, although any final decision will be made by government. We’ll keep you posted on developments.
The positions above all follow on from the position on season tickets and access that we outlined at length in last month’s newsletter. Those interested in facts and explanations may care to read that, too.
3. One Hotspur membership renewals
The Club has taken the decision to prioritise the 50,000 Season Ticket holders over One Hotspur (OH) members in terms of accessing match tickets until we are back up to full capacity again.
There were calls for a proportion of tickets to be allocated to OH members for reduced capacity games. Even working to usual home ratios, putting 14-15% of tickets aside from a significantly reduced capacity for OH members would have resulted in so few tickets being available, considering Ticket Exchange and Share are also suspended, that selling a membership “with access to tickets” on that basis would, in our opinion, have been disingenuous.
Club analysis of how members use their membership shows that the majority do not use it to access tickets. However, for some OH members, access to match tickets is the primary reason for renewal. For this group, having no access to match tickets means the offer for next season is severely eroded. Because it’s a reduced offering, we recommended a reduced price. This was rejected by the Club Board: a decision we disagree with.
The option of offering OH members the chance to defer for a season has also been raised. Unlike Season Ticket holders, OH members effectively can drop out at any time, and take out another membership at any time, if ticketing points and Season Ticket waiting list position aren’t important to them. So it is possible to drop out for a season and then jump back in. If the Club offered a deferral option, it could realistically be losing over £5m in renewal fees at a time when finances across the game are under pressure. So offering a blanket exemption wasn’t an attractive prospect.
We have, for some time, urged the Club to better define its membership proposition and to better understand why fans take out memberships. For some, it is to access match tickets but, as the Club’s own analysis shows, for the vast majority it’s to “support” their Club and to feel a connection with it, from anywhere in the world. The Club has worked hard recently to boost the elements of the package that are not access to tickets by including partner discounts and other incentives, by prioritising access to Club experiences, and by offering discounts on Club merchandise.
We have also regularly asked the Club to consider the value of Ticketing Points for OH members now we have 50,000 Season Ticket holders ahead of members in the queue for tickets for away games and for cup finals. There isn’t an obvious answer but it is clearly something that needs addressing.
There is still much work to be done on the membership proposition. For those fans who use the scheme primarily to access tickets, the value of the package is currently greatly reduced. For those who use it for reasons other than access to tickets, the overall proposition is improving on previous years. The Club has listened to feedback on the member gift pack. The Adult pack has been replaced by a Club Shop voucher (with no minimum spend). We think that’s a positive step – taking on board the arguments about packaging, environmental sustainability and the desirability of the items in the pack while also providing a voucher to the value of the pack, enabling fans to purchase those items if they wish. Juniors under 16 will continue to receive a gift pack for this season. We’ll continue to work with the Club to develop a rounder membership offering in coming seasons.
Our immediate priority in this area is to secure access to broadcast streams as part of both ST and OH membership packages for any behind closed doors or reduced capacity games in the 2020/21 season. (See item 1).
4. Premier League structured dialogue meeting – 19 August
After a brief delay in the regular cycle of meetings due to the coronavirus crisis, representatives of the FSA’s Premier League network met senior executives from the Premier League as part of the process of structured dialogue on 19 August via video conference. Kat Law for THST was one of the six reps from Premier League clubs, alongside Fulham, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Chelsea and Leicester City. It was the first meeting for new Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.
Items discussed were the Newcastle United takeover bid, the return of fans, broadcast access for 2020/21, away fans, a code of conduct for fans during the COVID pandemic, ticketing, the FSA’s Sustain the Game initiative, safe standing, and VAR.
We are still waiting for the agreed minutes of the meeting. Conspiracy theorists get particularly exercised by the notion of agreed minutes, but it is standard practice in any mutual relationship for both sides to agree the accuracy of what is said in a set of minutes. It’s also a way of each side making sure the other doesn’t slant the minutes in their favour. We do agree, however, that long delays to agreeing minutes fuel suspicion. A point we have made to the Premier League.
We will link to the full minutes once they are published via our Twitter feed and on our website.
5. FSA Sustain the Game initiative
The FSA has launched one of its biggest campaigns in years, backed by THST and hundreds of other fan groups, aimed at improving governance and preserving the structure of our national game. The call has also been supported by players, pundits and politicians, and you can read a fuller outline of the campaign here.
THST recognises our Club is part of a bigger picture, and we take the view that a strong game benefits everyone in it. We’ve seen what’s happened at Bury, Wigan, Charlton and many more clubs, and that tells us that the governance of the game must be stronger. Stronger to ensure that those who get to own our clubs do so for the right reasons and conduct themselves in the right way. We also worry about the effect the growing gap between the richest at the top of the game and the rest does to competitive balance.
Please read the campaign objectives and do what you can to support the campaign. Lobbying your local MP is a good place to start. And do check our website and the FSA website for updates on the campaign’s progress. The coronavirus crisis has exposed some fault lines in the game, but also provides a chance to rebuild better. We need to do as much as we can to make sure we do.
6. THST Annual Survey
For the first time in years we will not be running our annual survey. It’s the biggest independent survey of Spurs fan opinion, but the circumstances in which we find ourselves means it’s not practical to run the survey as we usually do.
The global COVID-19 pandemic brought a premature halt to the season, there was a long gap until the restart, and the position of fans in stadiums in the future is still uncertain. It would be impossible to benchmark any feedback on ticketing, performance, atmosphere etc because current circumstances are so different from what went before. And there are a host of new issues that everyone is grappling with.
Add all this to the fact that many will have far more pressing priorities than filling in a supporters’ trust survey. So we’ve decided not to run the survey this year, and hopefully return next year.
That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to try and canvas fan opinion where we can. Our members’ forum will be one way we can do that. And we will almost certainly be running mini surveys and polls when necessary. The information we get not only helps us take positions, it also helps us to show the Club what fans are thinking and how they are reacting.
7. THST Forum
Another reminder that full members can join our member’s forum to discuss any of the issues in this newsletter, or anything else Spurs-fan related. In the past few weeks we’ve been able to gauge opinion on how we might get fans into reduced capacity stadiums, and on the One Hotspur membership package, and we’ve been able to continue fundraising for our charities by selling memorabilia thanks to the efforts of our Secretary Pete Haine.
With more people joining, we’re starting to see the forum become a vital part of our relationship with members, so make sure you are not missing out.
You need to apply to join through the link on our site, and set yourself up an account. We should emphasise that Trust membership alone doesn’t get you access to the forum, you need to apply via the link.
To join the THST Forum, you’ll need to be in FULL or LIFE membership of the Trust. To JOIN the Trust, please register here. To UPGRADE from free Associate Membership of the Trust to Full membership, please click here.
If you’re already a Full or Life member of the Trust, click here to register for our Forum.
8. Haringey Irish Centre
The Haringey Irish Centre has gone into liquidation. We were able to get very little information about what happened, and it seems there was no interest in keeping the Centre running. It was a popular venue with match-day fans for many years, and greatly valued by Haringey’s Irish community and many others. We understand the building now reverts to Haringey Council, and we have no further information about any future plans for the site.
9. Spurs match programmes
We regularly receive donations of programmes, which we’ve previously used as raffle and auction prizes at our Charity events such as our annual Quiz and summer BBQ. As those events are postponed for the foreseeable future, we’re giving Trust members a chance to purchase them.
They cover the period from 1957 to the present day and include all home and away league games for seasons 1974-5 to 1984-5, along with many cup games and friendlies from that era.
All proceeds will go directly to our two nominated charities: Prostate Cancer UK and Studio 306 Collective. Since lockdown began, we have already raised £250 from programme sales alone and would like to significantly increase that figure over the coming weeks.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the programmes, please email Trust Secretary Pete.Haine@THSTOfficial.com and Pete will reply with a full list of what’s available.
10. Football to Amsterdam 2021
During the coming month Prostate Cancer UK will be inviting new riders to sign up for F2A21. So, if you are a keen cyclist, or if the pandemic got you turning the pedals, or if you fancy getting fitter and losing that lockdown weight or you just fancy combining a challenge with a guaranteed great time, this is for you.
Whatever category you fit into, we’re sure you are on board with the goal of raising funds to help fight a disease that kills two men in the UK during the course of a Spurs match. What is more, the prevalence of the disease is increasing and the pandemic, with its cancellation of PCUK fundraising events, is leaving PCUK requiring an injection of funds.
Just click here to get more details, to express an interest or to donate. If you join our Cycle On You Spurs team, you will be adding to the 27 of us who deferred from the cancelled 2020 ride.
Broadcast Access for 2020/21:
1 September 2020
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