Upcoming events - Julie Welch book launch, Meet the Spurs journalists and THST’s Spurs Quiz Night
Family ticket pricing for FA Cup match v Burnley
Fan Advisory Board
Financial Fair Play and the independent regulator
Updated Sanctions and Banning Policy
VAR and refereeing
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust Annual General Meeting will be taking place at CMS Cannon Place at 7pm on Monday 19 February 2024. We encourage all members to take part.
The formal Convening Notice was sent via email to all Full and Life Members on 29 December 2023. Full details can be found on our AGM web page which will be continually updated. Ahead of each AGM, one third of the Trust Board resign with those Board members permitted to seek re-election by the membership, if desired. This year Anthoulla Achilleos, Steve Cavalier, Koonal Shah and Simon Sullivan have resigned their posts. Steve Cavalier will be seeking re-election to the Board. Full and Life Members are invited to consider nominating themselves for election to the Board. Prospective candidates are encouraged to contact the Trust Officers for a preliminary discussion in advance of preparing their nomination.
We try to ensure we focus our efforts on areas that are of particular importance to our members. We identify these through our annual survey which gives us a huge amount of data and helps us to set our goals and priorities. This data is carefully analysed and relevant sections are shared with our colleagues at Spurs Reach, Spurs Ability and Proud Lilywhites to enable them to benefit too, from the information we receive from Spurs fans.
We also have a busy email inbox (info@THSTOfficial.com) and we are always pleased to hear from our members. We take on a large amount of individual casework, often acting as a conduit between supporters and the Club, and drawing on, when appropriately, the expertise of wider football organisations such as the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) and Football Supporters Europe (FSE).
We know how much live, in person member events are appreciated and we have three such events in the near future:
Julie Welch book launch
Julie Welch, author of The Biography of Tottenham Hotspur, will be talking about the brilliant new addition to her remarkable body of Spurs literature at a free event at 7pm at The Antwerp Arms on Monday 22 January.
Launching her labour of love Double Acts: A Modern History of Tottenham in 10 and a half Strike Partnerships, Julie will be in conversation with The Spurs Show co-host Theo Delaney. The event will be recorded for a future podcast by The Spurs Show.
There will be a chance to ask Julie questions about the book and everything else Tottenham related. Her other writing credits on Spurs include the feature film Those Glory, Glory Days and the poignant and perceptive The Ghost of White Hart Lane co-authored with THST board member Rob White. Copies of Double Acts will be available to buy which Julie will sign and dedicate as required.
Meet the Spurs Journalists
This sold out event will take place on Wednesday 24 January at The Royal Star in City Road. We are delighted that four highly respected Spurs Journalists, Michael Bridge, Charlie Eccleshare, Alasdair Gold and Dan Kilpatrick, will be joining us for a Question and Answer session, and a chance for us to talk about their perceptions of how Spurs operate. We will no doubt talk about the success and challenges of the season to date, the need for matches to be affordable to all, the impact of match scheduling for broadcasting, the transfer windows, and the inside track on Ange Postecoglou, the players and the owners.
There will be questions from the floor but we would also welcome your questions in advance so that we can ensure that we cover a broad range. Please email these to us at Info@THSTOfficial.com with Spurs Journo Questions as the Heading.
As this event sold out within minutes we know there will be many who would have liked to join us but were unable to. If you have a ticket but are no longer able to attend, please cancel your ticket on Eventbrite or email us at info@THSTOfficial.com to advise us, and we can then allocate them to someone on our waiting list. Similarly, if you had wanted to attend but were unable to, please email us with your name and membership details so that we can keep you on a waiting list. We are very much looking forward to seeing you at what is bound to be an entertaining and educational event. We will be holding a raffle to raise funds for PCUK and Prostate Cancer UK in memory of our former Board Members Kevin Fitzgerald and Pete Haine.
THST’s Spurs Quiz Night
We are delighted to announce that the Annual THST Quiz Night will be held on Wednesday 17 April at The Antwerp Arms. Pop it in your diaries for now and we’ll give you more information next month. It’s always a really great night and we are looking forward to seeing lots of friends, old and new.
As part of the consultation on ticketing strategy, the Club met with the Fan Advisory Board and representatives of the Trust, with a broad remit to discuss everything to do with ticketing. The discussion included pricing and renewal timetable, on-sale dates, away tickets, ticket exchange, disability access, concessions and pricing including season tickets, individual matches and cup games. We reiterated our position that there should be a ticket price freeze and also restated our view that concessions should relate to the person, not the seat. We put forward a number of suggestions on the issues discussed. The Club did not make specific proposals at the meeting. At the subsequent Fan Advisory Board in December, the Club updated that it is working on a new Ticketing Charter and that further work is required before it can be proposed in draft form and discussed at a further meeting. The Charter is designated to cover policies and processes. The Trust will consider the draft Charter and respond. The Club also confirmed that it will consult THST on pricing as in previous years. We maintain our position that there should be a ticket price freeze and that affordability of tickets is fundamental.
Family ticket pricing for FA Cup match v Burnley
THST Board Members with responsibility for ticketing, Henry Ellis and Tristan Foot, and the THST representatives on the Club’s Fan Advisory Board, Rachel Martin and Steve Cavalier, have lobbied consistently for our home cup ties to be games where ticketing is affordable and a family package offered, to encourage the next generation of supporters to attend games.
We raised this issue on numerous occasions, including at the recent ticketing review and at FAB meetings, also highlighting the erosion of concessionary prices for older supporters. We lobbied successfully for the introduction of the Young Adult concession rate, which was warmly received by supporters. However, over the last few years we have seen small but consistent reductions in the ability to gain concessionary rates - for particular matches, in particular areas and through various purchasing mechanisms, such as Ticket Exchange.
We have always seen the FA Cup (and in theory any other Cup) as the perfect moment to welcome children to the stadium and we lobbied hard for there to be an affordable family package for this match. The Club were receptive to this and to a degree we were pleased with the prices offered. However, because of the huge number of matches in London that weekend, our game was moved to the Friday night. This meant that only very local residents were able to bring their children to this game - such a missed opportunity. In fairness to the Club, this is not something they have control over but we urge them to argue for these issues when in talks with the FA and safety groups, and we continue to lobby them, as well as more widely through the Football Supporters’ Association.
As it is, we were all pleased to see us field a strong side, and begin what we hope is a glorious cup run, with plenty of home ties. This scheduling has a similar impact on those with disabilities who cannot risk being stranded on public transport late at night. VAR delays, particularly for evening games with late kick offs (8.15pm for Amazon Prime) exacerbate the situation, meaning we get home later and later. Without fans, football is nothing, so we will continue to argue for affordable pricing and supporter friendly fixture scheduling.
Fan Advisory Board
The Fan Advisory Board met on 12 December 2023 and the minutes of the meeting are published on the Club website.
The FAB is consulted on a range of off-pitch matters. The aim of the FAB representatives, including the two representatives from THST, is to ensure that the interests of supporters are fully taken into account in Club decision-making. The FAB terms of reference also include attendance by the FAB Co-Chair at four Club Board meetings per annum.
The published minutes set out the list of items reported on and discussed. Ticketing is mentioned elsewhere in this newsletter as is Financial Fair Play and the independent regulator.
A particular further point to highlight is the discussion on Broadcasting and Kick Off Times. We emphasised the disruption caused to match-going fans by the scheduling of matches at times which make it difficult for supporters to attend games or to get home afterwards. We also stressed the disruption caused by rescheduling of games at short notice.
This is an issue on which Premier League fan groups are united and work with the Football Supporters’ Association. More pressure needs to be brought to bear on broadcasters. The disruption affects clubs as well as fans, as illustrated by the scheduling of the Burnley FA Cup fixture, and this is an area where common cause can be made between fans and clubs.
The Club underlined at the FAB meeting, broadcasters have a strong interest in stadia being full. This is true. However, the more that broadcasters schedule games with no regard for match-going fans, the more that broadcasters put this at risk. With this in mind, it is reassuring that the Club has not heard of additional broadcasting slots being proposed, but significant improvements are needed to both scheduling and notification of fixtures by broadcasters.
Financial Fair Play and the independent regulator
Financial Fair Play and the independent regulator remain high on the agenda. On 21 December, the European Court of Justice issued its judgment on the actions taken by UEFA and FIFA in response to the threatened European Super League. Here’s our response.
The Court found that actions of UEFA and FIFA were unlawful under European Union completion law because there was no framework providing for substantive criteria for their powers or ensuring that they were transparent, objective, non-discriminatory and proportionate. For that reason, FIFA and UEFA were abusing a dominant position.
The Court went on to say explicitly that this does not mean that a competition such as the Super League project should necessarily be approved.
Following the judgment, THFC issued a statement that said “we should like to confirm that our position has not changed. We remain committed to the values of European football, and we will continue to work with fellow clubs through the European Clubs’ Association and participate in UEFA competitions”. Other clubs which had been involved in the collapsed ESL attempt in 2021 issued similar statements.
It was action by fans which was at the forefront of defeating the ESL in 2021 and it was particularly welcome to see the statement from Ange Postecoglou stressing the importance of the role of fans and their voice being heard. You can see our response to Ange’s comments here.
As a result of that fan action, the UK government is proposing legislation on football governance and regulation and the Premier League has adopted new rules. The European Court judgment does not prevent or undermine these measures.
The Government’s legislative programme promises a Football Governance Bill to establish an independent regulator “preventing clubs from joining breakaway or unlicensed leagues”. Following the judgment the government stated “we will shortly be bringing forward legislation that makes this a reality, and will stop clubs from joining any similar breakaway competitions in the future”. Although the timing of this may be affected by a General Election, the Labour opposition is also committed to the independent regulator and stopping the ESL.
The Premier League stated that it continues to reject the concept of a European Super League and referred to its Premier League Owners’ Charter which commits “we will not engage in the creation of new competition formats outside the Premier League’s rules”. The PL rules prohibit participation in discussions to form breakaway leagues and impose an automatic 30 point penalty.
These commitments and measures are necessary and welcome. The European Court judgment and the subsequent statement by the company behind the ESL show that these safeguards remain essential. However, it is evident that breakaway leagues and other threats to established competitions are an ongoing danger, with the attendant threat to sporting integrity. As our manager emphasised, the role of fans is fundamental and the voice of fans must be heard.
Updated Sanctions and Banning Policy
During the last quarter of 2023, the Club contacted the Trust concerning an update to its Sanctions and Banning Policy (SBP), which sets out the sanctions that fans can expect to receive for a ‘behavioural or ticketing offence’. Such offences include spectators entering the field of play, use of discriminatory language and resale of tickets outside of the currently permitted platforms. The policy has been in place for some years and was originally agreed with the Trust’s involvement.
The Club determined that the expansion of activities at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and other venues required an update to the policy and presented proposed amendments to the Trust (and the FSA). While many of these required minimal interaction, there were two specific areas that resulted in detailed discussions between the Club and the Trust.
Most notable from a fan perspective was the proposal to change the sanction from one based on a specific number of matches (typically 4 or 10) to one based on length of time (2 or 5 months). While the reasoning behind this change was understood (a match based sanction is not very relevant to a non-football fan attending a concert), the Trust objected that a time-based sanction risked different punishments arising for the same offence due to the lumpiness of the fixture schedule. For instance, in August and September of this season, the men’s team had just three home matches, but six in November and December. The Club recognised the Trust’s position and a compromise position was reached whereby the policy refers to 4/10 matches or 2/5 months, whichever is longer, but with a general carve-out to allow flexibility to ensure any punishment was not disproportionate.
The second area was around a new definition of ‘Malicious Communications’. In truth, the previous policy was somewhat vague on online and other forms of abuse and was in need of updating. The new definition however requires that someone has to intend to cause distress or could reasonably foresee that that would be the outcome. There will inevitably be some subjectivity in that and our concern was that the policy could be used to suppress legitimate criticism of team performance or management decisions. The Club have reassured us that that is not the intent and we shall monitor the implementation accordingly.
In an ideal world, the SBP would never have to be invoked but fans should contact the Trust if they feel it is being misapplied or in a way that runs contrary to the spirit in which it was agreed. The full policy can be found here: Sanctions and Banning Policy | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
VAR and refereeing
Regular readers will remember that THST Chair Martin Buhagiar attended a meeting with referees at Stockley Park at the launch of VAR in 2019. You can read his report here. At the time there was a positive attitude and the report was widely used to better understand the scope and remit of VAR. PGMOL sought to reassure us all about the potential effect it could have on the flow of the game: “Trials have been held for the last two years and there is a real belief that VAR in the Premier League will not slow down the tempo or intensity of matches.” However, as we all know, the reality has turned out to be rather different and a growing number of supporters, particularly match-going fans, feel that the model does not work in its current form. Indeed, we know that Ange Postecoglou is not a fan of VAR.
As well as the general inconsistency of decision making, the perception by some fans that some teams get more positive outcomes than others, the sometimes over long delays, the poor communication within stadia, the impact of over long delays on players and supporters etc etc, there is a sense that the game is no better officiated than it was before the technology was introduced.
We, therefore, welcome the introduction of a new working group between the FSA and PGMOL. More detail can be found here and we look forward to continuing to contribute to this conversation.
January 6, 2024