Time for clubs to kick categorisation into Row Z

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The football ticket office is home to many a fan’s most frustrating moments and one of its most annoying policies is match “categorisation” - a subject raised at the FSF update events in Manchester and London earlier this year.

Clubs categorise matches A, B, and C based on the level of opposition - or the number of tickets they think they can sell - and prices are bumped up accordingly.

While categorisation often applies to both home and away fans, many of the former are season ticket holders who pay a set price and aren’t affected on a regular basis (although if you’re skint and pay match-by-match, you’ll know about it).

Away fans are far more likely to have something to say on categorisation, especially if they support a “big” side who are Category A wherever they visit. Fans of that club will pay a lot more to follow their side over the course of the season.

Categorisation was one of the big driving factors behind Manchester City fans’ protests when visiting the Emirates in January 2013. The game was Category A which meant individual match tickets cost up to £62.

Arsenal were vilified for that price and it was enough to kickstart the FSF’s Twenty’s Plenty for Away Tickets campaign. If Arsenal had only priced all away tickets as Category C prices (£25.50 in 2012/13) there would have been no such protest.

It’s not unknown to hear the counter-argument that Club X is loaded, so who cares if they pay through the nose for tickets? It’s a deeply flawed position for one very obvious reason, neatly summed up by FSF Chair Malcolm Clarke.

"This business of categorising matches is blatantly unfair. Just because Manchester City have a lot of money doesn't mean their supporters have, and the same is true of the other teams who get charged the highest prices every time they play," Malcolm told The Independent.

As Sunderland fan Paul Dobson, who emailed the FSF ahead of last season’s trip to Villa Park said, “Why should I pay more than, say, a Norwich fan to sit in the same seat at Villa Park, and why should a Man U fan pay more than me?”

Categorisation doesn’t just apply to top-flight clubs either, it’s not uncommon to hear from fans of Football League clubs unhappy with the prices they pay at away games. Huddersfield Town fans boycotted a game at Bramall Lane a few seasons ago after they were charged double what Bury fans paid.

What can I do?

Fans will also march on Premier League and Football League demanding “Affordable football for all!” on Thursday 14th August 2014. The FSF will lead fans from dozens of clubs demanding that ticket prices are reduced. Save the date!

Supporters will meet at a central London location at 1pm to hear from prominent voices in the fan movement before marching on the Premier League and Football League HQ at 30 Gloucester Place (W1U 8PL).

Join the FSF demonstration and make sure football hears your voice. Please notify us of your attendance so we can let the authorities know expected numbers. No personal details will be shared. Email: events@fsf.org.uk.

There’s plenty to get involved with, depending on what appeals to you. Every club is different so there’s no “one size fits all” model, but there’s a range of ideas here. If you’re a fan and have any other campaign ideas email tickets@fsf.org.uk.

What is Away Fans Matter?

Away Fans Matter is the umbrella term for the FSF’s campaign work that champions the cause of the away fan, and it takes on many different forms. Supporters who travel away from home know there’s a whole host of issues which can make or break their day, and categorisation falls under this.

As part of Away Fans Matter we’ve met with the Football League and spoke to all 72 clubs on the importance of welcoming away fans and improving service. The Away Fans Survey 2013-14 also made a splash, with more than 5,300 fans sharing their matchday experiences.

However, if there’s one issue that unites fans like no other it’s the cost of actually getting into the match. High prices are a blight on our game throughout the leagues and it’s not just top-flight fans who contact the FSF to remonstrate about pricing.

The weekend after Twenty’s Plenty was launched in 2013 we looked at on-the-gate prices for League Two - at five out of eight away ends you wouldn’t have got change from £20.

Clubs such as Barnsley and Derby County have implemented reciprocal ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ style deals along with Cardiff City, Hull City, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Swansea City, and West Bromwich Albion.

It was the strength of feeling about the importance of away fans that formed the background to the Premier League’s Away Fans’ Initiative. That’s £12m over three years to make games more affordable for away fans, equating to £200,000 per club, per season.

Clubs have spent their dosh on a range of initiatives and, from the feedback received, by far the most popular offers have been those which subsidise away tickets or travel. See this link for the full list of deals we know of from last year and let the FSF know what your club does throughout 2014/15.

  • Twenty’s Plenty has made a difference by securing cheaper tickets for 10,000s of away fans but there’s still a long way to go. If you’re a fan and have any other campaign ideas email tickets@fsf.org.uk.

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog.