THST Q2 Board Meeting – brief summary
Meals for the NHS update
THST Forum launch
Cycle on You Spurs retro cycling jerseys
We’ve also carried on donating membership fees from new members to Meals For the NHS – again, more on this below.
We’d like to thank you for your continued support and reiterate the message to stay safe in these challenging times.
1. Project Restart
The Clubs and football authorities have continued to discuss how it might be possible to restart the 2019/2020 season. We think most people in the game understand that, in the grand scheme of things, football is not that important at the moment. But, like many other industries that are also not as important as the main part of the current crisis, it has to plan for how it can emerge from the current situation. So we understand why discussions are happening, and even why some previously unpalatable ideas are being considered.
We would like supporters’ organisations to have been more involved in those discussions. We have spoken to colleagues at the FSA about building on the ideas we put forward in our statement of 10 April but the organisation’s view has been that it is difficult to take a position without a mandate, and with the situation changing rapidly. We acknowledge the difficulties but would have liked to see the national supporters’ organisation showing more leadership in putting a fan perspective.
We were pleased to see the FSA backing the ideas put forward by Damian Collins MP and Sunderland AFC co-owner Charlie Methven on 22 May, ideas that back up what many of us have been saying about governance for many years. We do, however, think those ideas assume top-level football will always be able to rely on funding from TV. With the prospect of games, if they do go ahead, being played in empty stadiums, we are not convinced TV companies will want to pay the same price for a diminished spectacle. We also need to consider that, once this phase of the crisis has passed, many supporters will be worse off, and many more will have got out of the habit of football. So the value of football content may well be significantly less than it is now.
We’ve been left with responding to suggestions about where the game goes from here when people have asked. To give the Board of THFC some credit here, it has at least tried to canvass opinion informally.
We’ve taken the position that the safety of players, staff and supporters must come before any other consideration, and that all concerned should be given a choice about how to respond to any plans made. As a supporters’ organisation we are not keen on the option of games behind closed doors, but we acknowledge the serious implications of games not going ahead. We also recognise there are many different points of view among our membership and the wider supporter base around the various options.
We did express strong opposition to the idea of playing games at neutral venues. We didn’t agree that football fans, many of whom are in risk groups, are frontline NHS workers etc would automatically rush out to gather outside stadiums to not watch the games they could see on TV at home. It’s sad that, after all these years, senior police officers and other leading figures in the game still assume the worst of football fans. So our view was that, if games went ahead, they should be played at scheduled venues, where clubs, local police and supporter groups could deal with more familiar circumstances.
As we wrote this newsletter, news was emerging that the Premier League clubs have voted to resume football in empty stadiums on 17 June if possible, after voting to resume contact training. We note that, as we write, the people who will actually be making that contact and playing those games have not expressed an opinion about any restart. There are also rumours that several “high-profile games” could be played at neutral venues. To date, we have had no contact from Haringey’s Safety Advisory Group – on which the Trust is represented – or the police about this possibility, and little contact from THFC aside from a general conversation about the principle of neutral venues.
While we hope for a safe and successful return to action, news of the latest positive tests carried out by the Premier League reinforce the possibility that the restart may not go ahead as planned. What worries us is that, when we asked the Club what the Plan B was if live games could not be played, we were told there was no Plan B. We would like to see the reservations we expressed in last month’s newsletter, and referenced in the media log link below, addressed satisfactorily.
We also asked what, with the Club potentially facing a heavy financial hit whatever happened, the owner Joe Lewis was prepared to do. We were told the Club did not wish to comment.
On Wednesday 20 May, THFC announced the process for handling outstanding tickets and ticket monies for the remainder of the 2019/20 season. We want to clarify our position on that process for the benefit of Trust members.
First, it’s worth remembering that ticketing is a complex area, so it’s necessary to share a level of granular detail in order to fully appreciate certain points. Please stick with the science bits below!
- REFUND OPTION AS WELL AS CREDIT OPTION
We didn’t feel it would be fair for the Club to hold onto that money by default when we are many months away from knowing how the 2020/21 season will start and even further away from knowing when fans will be able to attend matches.
We also felt it was important that fans who needed to take a refund weren’t made to feel they were being less supportive of the Club. Both the Club and individual fans are experiencing challenging times and the Club should recognise this.
We are also very aware indeed of the impact on even the biggest and richest clubs of matches not being played as normal. And so it was important that those fans who were willing and able to leave their monies with the Club were able to do so.
We advised that in terms of messaging hierarchy, the Club led with refunds not credits.
The Club wanted to wait for formal confirmation as to how the season would conclude before activating any refund or credit mechanisms: a position we fully understood.
For many years now, we have encouraged the Club to clearly articulate its definition of a Season Ticket. During our recent conversations, the Club confirmed that its view was that a Season Ticket comprises 19 home league games and is a completely separate product to a single match ticket. Therefore, the monetary value of one league game is 1/19th of a Season Ticket. This is what is meant by pro rata.
Many fans, not unreasonably, think their season ticket is made up of the value of the ticket for each game under the Club’s match categorisation system. But in the Club’s view, match categories are applicable for one-off match day tickets only. So, the sum of the Season Ticket is not the sum of the 19 match-categorised games broken down into Categories A, B and C.
- TICKET EXCHANGE (TEX)
The Club told us it considers the match-day sales value on Ticket Exchange (TEX) to be a benefit of holding a Season Ticket. It could change that metric to 1/19th to bring that in line with the wider metric but felt fans wouldn’t thank it for removing that perk. We think the Club is probably right on that. The Club is comfortable that the TEX metric is an anomaly and not the rule.
The TEX metric caused further confusion around Season Ticket seats sold on the platform for Manchester United and West Ham United (the two games that were live on TEX as the season was suspended), whereby sellers had been credited match-day pricing in their Cashback Accounts but those Season Ticket holders able to attend the matches would only receive the pro rata value for those games as a refund/ credit.
We asked that the Club clearly articulates what will happen to funds held in Account Cashback for TEX ST sales for the games against MUFC and WHUFC. In our opinion, this hasn’t been done. We advise Season Ticket holders who sold their seats for either MUFC or WHUFC on TEX who need further clarification about what happens to those funds to contact the Club directly on email@example.com
- FIVE-GAME SEASON TICKETS
To be clear, this was not a multi-game pack sold to One Hotspur members. This was a Season Ticket for the last five games of the 2019/20 season, which automatically rolled into the next season as a full Season Ticket.
The Club has subsequently confirmed that it will refund those supporters at match-day categorised pricing, not on a pro rata metric.
This undermines the Club’s insistence that Season Tickets are a wholly different purchase to match-day tickets. The repeated switching of metrics across the ticketing portfolio is not helpful when trying to clarify a position and fuels suspicion of the Club’s motives.
- WHICH METRIC SHOULD THFC USE?
However, the Club is not wrong for classing a Season Ticket as a one-off purchase, not as 19 individual purchases. It is a one-off purchase and the Season Ticket pricing is set before the match-day pricing each year, not the other way around. The issue comes from failing to articulate that proposition clearly enough over many years and failing to explain that the TEX metric was a benefit, not a rule right from the off.
We are mindful that there is no majority position among fans either. A quick glance at social media shows entrenched views on both sides of the argument. Along with those grateful and shocked that the Club is offering any form of reimbursement at all!
The actual difference in the money fans receive back as individuals under each metric is not, in the majority of cases, so substantial that we think people will make a fuss about it. Although it is a healthy amount when multiplied by the number of Season Ticket holders.
- PREMIUM MEMBERS
Several have asked that we explore the legalities of this with Trading Standards and the Football Supporters’ Association on their behalf, and we are doing so.
- ONE HOTSPUR MEMBERS
We have asked that each refund transaction for One Hotspur Members is itemised on bank/ card statements, clearly identifying which match each refund relates to. We haven’t received a response on this yet.
- CLAIMING YOUR REFUND
We also stressed that claiming a refund should be as simple as possible for Season Ticket holders. (One Hotspur members are refunded automatically onto the card used for purchase.)
After patiently waiting for an announcement, supporters have been given a two-week period to apply for refunds. To do so, they must download a form and fill in separate applications for each refund. They then have to return that form by the deadline, then wait another eight days for that money to go into their ticketing Cashback accounts so that they can apply for the refund to be transferred into their bank accounts when the Club does its payment runs. This means that, after negotiating a number of obstacles, the earliest any fan will see their money is July.
This is an unduly complex procedure in our opinion. And an unwarranted delay.
We have also asked for frequent payment runs to be actioned and not one each month, to avoid even further delays in fans accessing their money. The Club has not responded.
- SEAT MOVES
We were, therefore, surprised to see this go live without the promised discussion. As a result, we have no further information on how the Club plans to practically implement the scheme. It is already clear from the questions we are receiving that there are a number of problems with the way the questions have been put, creating confusion among fans and leading in some cases to expectations that may not be able to be managed.
The reason we offered to discuss the mechanics of the scheme was to avoid confusion, and avoid the chance of an increased workload for both us and the Club as confused supporters tried to get clarity. The Club chose not to take up that offer of help, so we can only advise supporters with questions around the practicalities of the scheme to email firstname.lastname@example.org with queries.
We also believe in transparency, hence sharing our thoughts and positions, and we believe in fairness.
We pushed for the option of a refund and not solely a credit against a future purchase because it was the fair thing to do. Fans should not have money withheld from them, whether they are in economic hardship or not, and fans who prefer to leave their money with the Club in the form of a credit should also be perfectly welcome to do so. Doing one or the other does not mean the difference between supporting and not supporting the Club.
The fact that so many fans were surprised to be offered any refund at all speaks volumes for the Club’s reputation, and not in a good way. If the Club had set out the options available to supporters evenly, and made its case plainly for leaving monies with the Club where possible, we believe more fans would have been inclined to do so. Ironically, the perception that the Club is putting obstacles in the way of claiming refunds seems to be prompting more fans to pursue refunds.
We believe in clear communication and urged the Club to share its FAQs with us and to explain basic parts of its announcement in more detail, such as what was meant by ‘Pro Rata’. This didn’t materialise.
We continue to urge the Club to better articulate its Season Ticket proposition and its membership proposition publicly to avoid kickback around metrics in future. We remain willing to work constructively with the Club for everyone’s benefit.
We’ve set out our thinking here. It’s up to the Club to explain its view, and clarify any confusion caused by its communications or policy.
For all further queries, please contact ticket.office@TottenhamHotspur.com
3. THST Q2 Board Meeting – brief summary
The Trust Board met via video call on 18 May for our Q2 Board Meeting. In a detailed session, we discussed the day-to-day running of the Trust in extraordinary times, membership matters, website traffic and engagement and finances.
It was agreed to launch the new members’ forum (more of which later) at the end of May and to continue to donate new members’ fees to charity until 31 May.
We also discussed the Trust’s other charity and community initiatives (again, more later). Some time was spent on discussing the latest situation with Club ticketing and our views on the Project Restart proposals, as covered earlier in this newsletter.
4. Meals for the NHS update
As lockdown was introduced, we began to notice a spike in membership. This was mainly due to the information that we were putting out, and the work that we were doing to get the Club to rethink its position on the use of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
We decided that we wanted to use the increase in membership to make some sort of practical contribution to help fight the virus. Our attention was brought to the Meals for the NHS scheme, which we thought was a great initiative providing help directly where it was needed. So we took the decision to donate all new THST registration fees during the period of lockdown in the UK to the Meals cause. The total raised is well in excess of £2,000, which has gone towards providing around 300 meals to frontline NHS staff.
Meals for the NHS has so far delivered well over 182,000 meals to NHS workers at around 96 hospitals throughout the UK. Unfortunately, many NHS canteens shut at 5pm, meaning that staff working later shifts have not been able to access hot meals, drinks and snacks. In many cases, the only option is a vending machine. Meals for the NHS was set up to address this situation, and to ensure that tired and hungry staff are fed properly.
One of our Trust Board members, Anthoulla Achilleos, who is a student doctor, has been working in London intensive care units throughout the COVID-19 crisis. What Anthoulla and her colleagues really appreciate is that, thanks to Meals for the NHS, there is always food readily available to re-energise them. “It’s one less thing to think about in these stressful times. It gives a huge morale boost to the teams, and helps us get through the long shift hours,” she says.
Meals for the NHS is still looking for your support. Anyone looking to donate or for more information should go to mealsforthenhs.com.
5. THST Forum launch
We’ve been testing out our members’ online forum area and are pleased to announce it is going live from Friday 29 May. You’ll see a new yellow button marked FORUM in the navigation bar of our website, and all full members have received instructions on how to join in the covering email that came with this newsletter.
We hope the forum will be seen as a membership benefit that can be used to help develop Trust ideas, policies and initiatives.
To access the Forum, you’ll need to be a full or life member of the Trust. You can join us via this link.
6. Cycle on you Spurs retro cycling jerseys
You’ll remember a few months back that, with the permission of both Spurs and Carlsberg UK, the Trust was pleased to promote the sale of a limited edition white cycling jersey based on the classic Spurs Holsten 80’s/90’s design.
Well, the good news is that if you missed out then, or if you would prefer a yellow or dark blue top, you can buy one (but only one) here. Just enter the password COYS and select your favourite.
Each jersey costs £85 +p&p, with £50 of each sale going to our nominated charity Prostate Cancer UK.
In addition to the Spurs badge and Holsten logo, all versions carry the Trust logo on each sleeve and COYS across the back pockets. There are also COYS cycling caps available.
Please note that you can only purchase ONE jersey. Also, it is advisable to choose one size larger than normal.
Our Cycle On You Spurs team has ridden the London to Amsterdam PCUK fundraiser every June since 2016 and has raised £136,000 for the charity to date. It is hoped that this year’s ride will take place on September 4-6, with the final decision to be taken shortly.
Football London: Reservations over concluding the season
Football London: Trust discussions referenced
29 May 2020
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