Board and ownership of THFC
Season Ticket Renewals 2020/21
One Hotspur membership propositions
Business and Community Liaison Group meeting – 8 July
Cycling to Spurs
PCUK London to Amsterdam bike ride
Haringey Irish Centre
Over the last month, there’s been a rise in criticism directed at the Club’s owners and Board, although as always the volume and intensity of criticism is closely connected to results on the pitch. Whenever criticism of the Club Board grows, so do questions about the role of THST and our relationship with the people who run our Club. It’s good that people ask about our role, less good when we receive criticism based on inaccuracy – deliberate or otherwise. So we wanted to set out our role and position.
Under the terms of our constitution, our remit lies mainly off-field. There are probably as many opinions about what’s happening on-field as there are Spurs supporters, and we’d justifiably be criticised if we began to issue demands about specific personnel or tactics. But we do have a remit to ensure the Club is being run in a way that gives it the best possible chance of success.
When the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino and the appointment of José Mourinho were announced in November, we asked the Club publicly to set out its thinking for the benefit of supporters. We said: “To take the decision it has, the Board must have a clear plan for what and who comes next. It needs to tell this Club’s supporters what that plan is. And the Board also needs to consider its own role in this. Is the manager solely accountable? How much has the Board’s line on wages and transfers contributed to player unrest and disaffection? How much did it contribute to the situation we now find ourselves in? And will it change to help support a new manager?”
When we last met formally with the Board of THFC in March, we opened up with a section called ‘ENIC at 20’ in which we asked the Board a number of questions about long-term strategy as the 20th anniversary of the current owners’ tenure approached. We posed the questions stated above and the answers the Club chose to give are set out in our report of the meeting, linked above. Daniel Levy’s message in the final home programme of the season appeared to be an attempt to respond to some of the issues supporters have continued to raise, but seemed to put setbacks almost exclusively down to bad luck. The decision to end the message with a sales pitch was unwise, and provides yet another example of the Club’s communications unnecessarily creating a negative impression. The Club Board’s reluctance to respond to any questions about ultimate owner Joe Lewis is also unhelpful.
The Club Board’s answers are not always ones we agree with. But we can’t make the Board provide different answers. All we can do is report back and give our opinion where appropriate.
It’s our responsibility as a membership organisation to ensure fans get the chance for their views to be put directly to the Club’s Board. We will always pursue the route of conversation as far as we can. It would be irresponsible of us not to, and members would rightly hold us to account.
Our representative role
It’s easy to pretend to be representative, less easy to take and be accountable for the decisions that enable representation to be a reality.
We never claim to speak for all Spurs fans, we are accountable solely to our members, but we try to reflect a wide spectrum of fan opinion. Social media, in particular, has made it easier for people to create a platform they claim is representative, but recent events have shown the pitfalls in equating, for example, a Twitter account with a movement.
That said, it would be wrong to completely dismiss sentiment expressed on social media and elsewhere. It’s clear there’s some discontent with the current direction of the Club’s Board. Some of that is down to performance on the pitch. Some of it is down to the way the Club sometimes conducts itself off it.
The Club’s Board needs to show it better understands the balance between the business and the football club, and it needs to do more to convince its fans it doesn’t see them as a necessary inconvenience. This is something that will be reflected in small, day-to-day actions as well as the big decisions, and we work hard as a Trust to try to secure that improvement. As do plenty of people within the Club.
We will continue to do our job of holding those who run the Club to account. We know there are a variety of opinions about the current Board and owner among fans, and among our own membership. Some, for example, say more money should have been spent. Others say money has been spent but not wisely. Part of our role is to make sure the Club hears and engages with what is being said by its supporters.
What we will never do is call for change without also calling for practical alternatives. We are a Supporters’ Trust, not a protest movement or a permanent opposition, and while the current regime remains in charge, it is our responsibility to continue conversations with it – even if those conversations are ones it would prefer not to have. If and when alternative ownership is a serious possibility, we will take a view on it. Until that time, we will continue to press for better from those whose responsibility it is to bring success to our Club.
2. Season ticket renewals 2020/21
The renewal process for 2020/21 Season Tickets was always going to be challenging in the current circumstances. For those interested, we’ve tried to summarise the discussions we’ve had with the Club here. It’s worth remembering that ticketing is a complex area and the complete picture, rather than simply the part that affects particular individuals, needs to be borne in mind.
We started on positive ground as the Club had listened to our request not to open the renewal window in March. So, unlike fans of some other clubs, our supporters had not made any payments towards a new season in which attendance was at best uncertain at this stage.
What we asked for
Renewals, deposits, access
- That any renewal window should close AFTER the conclusion of the current season.
- That the Club should take just a percentage of the total ticket price as a deposit while the chances of attending matches was unconfirmed.
- That installment finance options must be offered on deposits.
- That Season Ticket holders should have priority access to reduced capacity games.
- That Premium access be granted in proportion to General Admission access.
- That once the ground reopened at full capacity, ST holders who had renewed should be able to pay the pro rata sum for the remaining games minus the original deposit.
- That all ticket purchases made before reopening at full capacity should be classed as one-off matchday purchases and not part of the ST package.
- That once the renewal window had closed, the Club should move quickly to establish who was UNABLE to attend games and who was UNWILLING to attend games until a COVID-19 vaccine was available.
- That the awarding of ticketing points should be suspended for next season or the point at which a vaccine is available if sooner.
- That anyone who could not attend for the foreseeable future on any medical reasons should still be able to retain their seat for the 2020/21 season with a deposit.
- We didn’t think that, in the circumstances of reduced capacity games, it would be appropriate or practical to run either scheme until we’re back up to full capacity.
- The wider need for a reliable track and trace system means the need to identify who is in the ground is greater, but we would want any measures introduced to be based on public health imperatives, and to be exceptions rather than the new normal.
- To implement any successful track and trace system, it would be necessary to give ST holders the chance to change the name on their ticket without penalty. The Club should therefore offer an amnesty to encourage fans to step forward.
- We recognise the legal landscape around events venues may change in the near future, and that there is a developing conversation about the trade-off between customer convenience and privacy. However, we have extremely strong reservations about introducing photo ID, and particularly the use of facial recognition technology or the storing of such personal data.
- There is huge residual opposition to ID schemes, and Liberty’s case against facial recognition is measured, and worth being familiar with.
- We’d start from the principle of exceptional circumstances in exceptional times, and then proceed on the basis of what the least intrusive solution is.
Our stance was informed by our assessment of the situation, our reading of fan opinion, and discussions with other fan reps and the national fans’ organisation, the FSA. The FSA has drawn up a Charter, which we helped contribute to, that sets out some basic principles including the right for fan groups to be genuinely consulted, a fair phased return, and recognition that measures introduced to deal with this specific issue should not be considered more than temporary. These general principles also inform our position as we look at what happens next.
We’ve asked for a conversation before the Club finalises how it will allocate tickets for home games next season. Given there is no perfect solution for the problem presented by opening games at less than full capacity, we had to weigh up the least bad options. And at the moment, a ballot of all ST holders seems the fairest option.
Allocating based on ticketing points effectively shuts out a large number of ST holders. We would want to see those ST holders not successful in the first ballot to be prioritised in the next game, and so on.
Having experienced the pain of the members’ ballot during the last season at White Hart Lane, we think it’s important to recognise the lessons learned. And with those in mind, we are recommending introducing a flat price around the ground for all of the sub-capacity games, dependent on match category. We’d also recommend allowing concessions to be honoured throughout the stadium. It is far cleaner to run a ballot that way than trying to shoehorn into the existing pricing and concessions structure.
While we think it is fair for the issue of loyalty points outside of renewal to be frozen, we’re also aware that not carrying out the normal points reduction on the four-year cycle this summer effectively penalises newer ST holders who are still catching up longer-term ST holders in that four-year cycle. We are attempting to discuss a solution with the Club.
We’ve opened up a discussion thread on our full members-only forum to explain the detail a little more, and to gauge opinion. So far, opinion seems broadly in line with what we have suggested. Please take the opportunity, if you are a full member, to have your say.
What we think is fair
We’re pleased that the Club largely took our suggestions on board. Unlike some other clubs, they did not press ahead with taking renewal money when the status of next season was uncertain, and we think their package strikes the right balance between recognising the situation many fans are in, taking account of an unprecedented situation, and commercial necessity. Far less money is being asked for up front than usual, flexible payment options have been retained, and flexibility is being offered to supporters who will face real challenges making games before a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.
We are also encouraged by the initial response on suggestions for areas not yet decided but, as always, we’ll reserve judgement until the final decision is made.
In the immediate aftermath of the Club’s announcement, we were contacted by a number of reps from other fan organisations congratulating us on contributing to a deal they saw as fairer than those already on offer, and one that they would be using to secure fair treatment at their own clubs. At the same time, we received some criticism from some of our own fans for labelling the Club’s stance “reasonable”. We believe some of that criticism is based on a misinterpretation of the announcement, so we’ve tried to address some of those points below.
What we think could be clearer
Once again, a lack of clarity in parts of the Club’s communication has led to confusion and in some cases a negative reaction. The Club too often writes in formal, legal language that doesn’t speak in the tone of voice its audience recognises. And sometimes it just appears to have not thought things through. We try to have some input into this level of detail in comms but often we’re presented with some text in the middle of a working day that has to be commented on almost immediately. So while we were able to have some constructive general input well in advance of this set of decisions, our input into the execution and explanation of what was decided wasn’t what we’d hoped.
It was clear from social media and mail to our account that the main area of confusion for many fans was the reference to “a non-refundable deposit”. We can understand why this caused concern and, while there does seem to be tendency among some to always suspect the worst from the Club, we’ve told the Club it would do well to consider why that is.
To explain briefly here, the 20% of full ST price secures a ticket for the coming season, and gives the Club reassurance that you are committed to retaining your ticket for the coming season.
It also enables the Club to know which seats will be free for relocations for those ST holders who've asked to move seats and allows them to start that relocation process. This is something a great number of fans think is very important. Our view is that it would have been better to pause this process until we got back to ‘normal’, but there was clear demand to go ahead. And for that to happen, the Club needs to know which seats will be available.
Any games played at a limited capacity (or less than the number of ST holders) are likely to have tickets allocated via a ballot that interested ST holders apply for. If you don't want to be included in those ballots, you don’t apply.
Each of those limited capacity games will be charged as a one-off match - not part of your season ticket. So if you don't go, you don't pay.
Once we're up to a good/full capacity again, you'll be asked to pay the remainder of your season ticket PRO RATA minus your 20% deposit. So, if there are 10 home games left, you'll be asked to pay 10/19th's of your season ticket minus the 20% deposit.
If there are no games at full/good capacity next season, your deposit rolls over to the 2021/22 season. If at that point, you decide not to renew for the 2021/22 season, your deposit will be returned to you after the renewal window has closed.
The only circumstances in which the 20% deposit is non-refundable is if you default on paying the remainder of your season ticket once the stadium is up to good/full capacity again later in the 2020/21 season. Your deposit is a commitment to the Club that you wish to retain your season ticket for the coming season. If you then default on that commitment, you will forfeit that deposit.
We’ve seen some suggestion that the Club is wrong for taking a deposit in the current circumstances. So what would the alternatives have been? Let’s remember that we are starting from a point where we cannot get every ST holder into the ground for the foreseeable future. The Club could have suspended the whole concept of season tickets for 2020/21 and just put whatever tickets were available for games at reduced capacity on sale first come, first served. We suspect that would not have been popular, and it would not have been right.
If the idea of a season ticket is to be retained, the Club needs a firm idea of who is renewing – not least because there is strong pressure from supporters to move seats. The 20% deposit is significant enough to indicate a commitment, but also low enough to recognise the financial pressures fans are facing, and the fact that a good number will be unable or unwilling to attend games.
We have certainly not always agreed with the Club on ticketing and certainly not on pricing. And we recognise the exorbitant price of tickets at our stadium has eroded an awful lot of goodwill. But in the current circumstances, we believe the Club has acted fairly and offered flexibility while it is taking a financial hit by being unable to bank season ticket monies in full before the season starts. And we think the conversations we regularly have with the Club have helped secure that fair and flexible outcome.
Supporters who still have questions about the process should consult the links below. If they still cannot find answers, or need further reassurance, they should write in the first instance to the Club’s ticket office and copy us in if any answer doesn’t satisfy them. We may then be able to further clarify or help you get your query resolved.
3. One Hotspur membership proposition
We’ve been asking the Club to update and more clearly define its membership offer for some time, especially now the number of Season Ticket holders means access to tickets is extremely difficult at best for members, and with the likelihood of no access at all for members during the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, THST co-chairs Kat Law and Martin Cloake had a virtual meeting with the Club’s Head of Fan Relationship Management to explore One Hotspur membership propositions in more detail, given the vastly changed outlook for next season.
We recognise that many members join to have a connection with the Club and, for a number of reasons, are unlikely to attend games, but the basic membership proposition is based around access to tickets. There’s clear recognition from the Club that the membership proposition needs to change.
We discussed how to add value to the membership offering in terms of welcome packs, priority bookings, partner and retail discounts and access to exclusive experiences. While it’s for the Club to announce its latest offer, we’re happy that fan feedback is being taken on board and there is some development of the offer to recognise new realities.
At the time of writing, the Club has not confirmed dates for the opening of One Hotspur and One Hotspur + renewal windows but we’ll be sure to help communicate once those have been clarified.
4. Business and Community Liaison Group meeting – 8 July
The Business and Community Liaison Group met on 8 July, via Zoom, with Pete Haine representing THST. Tony Stevens, the Club’s Head of PR and Corporate Social Responsibility, was introduced to the group. Tony has been with the Club for some time, with the CSR role a new addition to his remit. As part of his roundup of community work, the new Club partnership with Cadbury was mentioned, who are keen to become involved in community initiatives.
The phased return of fans on matchdays was discussed, with various options being thought through. These included limited attendances and staggered arrival times. There was a focus on how people would travel, with the expectation that disabled fans and those in vulnerable groups would be more likely to want to drive, meaning thought would have to be given as to how to accommodate this. It’s likely there will be increased encouragement for people to cycle to games. Discussions with TfL about matchday travel are ongoing.
The Club’s message to the government, which makes the ultimate decision, is that it can manage a phased reopening, but only with a reduction of minimum social distancing to 1 metre.
Early planning has begun for a minimum of two NFL games in October 2021. Various other initiatives, such as development of The Goods Yard, Northern Terrace and the proposed Museum are on hold due to the financial pressures created by the Coronavirus. The Club’s focus is on being able to keep paying staff.
The Club indicated its continued wish to support The Antwerp Arms.
The Club formally thanked THST for the work it has done raising funds for Prostate Cancer UK through the annual sponsored ride and the sale of branded cycling jerseys.
5. Cycling to Spurs
In anticipation of an upsurge in the popularity of cycling to and from the stadium, Kevin Fitzgerald, Rob White and Pete Haine from the Trust met with the Club’s Supporter Liaison Officer, Levi Harris and Head of Planning, Richard Serra to discuss plans and strategies to encourage and accommodate cyclists.
The current temporary “toast rack” style bike stands are to be replaced by 220 hoop-style stands (holding a minimum of 440 bikes) at two off-street parking hubs, in addition to the existing Haringey/Sainsbury's stands. These will be located at the Tottenham Community Sports Centre by the Church Road/High Road junction and at the adjacent school, opposite the South Stand. The access to the former will be improved. Work is on-going on cycle routes in Enfield and Waltham Forest.
It was agreed that the Club will include a special feature on cycling within travel comms when fans return, with specific cycling info prior to every match, and will liaise with THST on content. Stewards will be briefed regarding cyclists’ need to carry helmets, bike tools and accessories into the stadium.
In a very useful exchange, the Club indicated it was receptive to discussing other cycle-friendly initiatives with THST and to providing feedback on cycling-related provisions.
6. PCUK London to Amsterdam bike ride
Our Cycle On You Spurs team of 27 riders are warmly inviting other Spurs fans to sign up and join us in cycling from the Olympic Velodrome to the Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam from the 4-6 June next year.
You can join us or donate here.
7. THST Forum
Discussion on our full members forum is gathering pace, so if you’ve not signed up, please do so on our website. It’s proving a really useful tool to gauge opinion on issues such as the phased return of fans, arrangements for paying for season tickets, what to do about ticketing points, and the more members involved, the better we’ll be able to represent opinion.
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 announcement of the closure of the Haringey Irish Centre took many of us by surprise. It’s been a much-used community resource for many years and has been a popular pre and post-match venue for both home and away fans on matchdays.
Precise details of what has happened appear hard to come by, but what does seem to be clear is that the Centre is insolvent, and a decision will be taken on 3 August about whether to go into liquidation or to reopen.
We are aware of a petition calling for the centre to be saved, but as yet we’re not aware of any viable campaign or plan to save it. If anyone reading this wants to contact us about a viable rescue package, please get in touch at mailto:info@THSTOfficial.com
It’s a podcast only media log this month, so grab your headphones.
The Fan Engagement Pod
Episode Six (Part 2): The Fans. Kat Law (Spurs), Fulham (Dan Crawford), Liverpool (Jay McKenna) | The Fan Engagement Pod
The VAR Side
The fans are coming back!
31 July 2020
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