FSF Chief Executive Kevin Miles explains how Twenty's Plenty gives fans the opportunity to lobby their clubs for cheaper away tickets in a focused, realistic manner...
Firstly, a declaration of interest – as a Newcastle United season ticket holder and regular at away games it’s obviously good news for me that Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion have responded positively to Newcastle’s offer of “reciprocal pricing agreements” for away fans.
The upshot is that Newcastle fans will be offered cheap tickets (£20 and £15 respectively, £5 concessions) when we travel to the Liberty Stadium and the Hawthorns. In return, away fans heading to St James’ Park will receive the same offer.
This idea mirrors the FSF’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign and is clear proof that clubs can be persuaded to drop away ticket prices and subsidise other deals to make away days more affordable.
Last year, according to nufc.com, our away ticket prices rose by 10% and my empty wallet backed that up. There was a clear appetite among fans for the FSF to lead a ticket campaign.
When Twenty’s Plenty was launched, it received an enthusiastic response, although some asked whether £20 wasn’t a bit too ambitious or even (whisper it) unrealistic? It was a fair question but one which has now been answered – no, it wasn’t.
Tens of thousands of fans will now receive cheaper tickets and subsidised travel in response to fans’ campaigns on ticket prices and, crucially, the logjam on ticket prices has now been broken in the top-flight (more on the Football League later).
What can you do?
Fans of Premier League clubs who feel away prices are too high now have a clear question to ask of their club: “Why don’t you take up Newcastle United’s offer and secure cheaper tickets for your fan base?”
This allows focused campaigns with a measurable aim (persuading your club to do a reciprocal deal) to be launched at any club whose fan base wants it.
Each club is different, but it’s a clear opportunity for club-specific fan groups - social media campaigns, match-day protests, visual displays and banners, letter writing, articles in the local media and blogs or fanzines. Whatever works.
You could even use resources that the FSF has already created - sign the FSF's Twenty's Plenty petition and it automatically triggers an email to your club and the relevant league outlining your support for the campaign. More than 20,000 have now been sent.
Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion have also showed a willingness to explore these options, so you could point your club in their direction too. Hull City and Crystal Palace have also joined in with some new offers. The opportunity is there to build on this momentum.
This is definitely a step in the right direction but there’s still a lot of work to be done, not only in the top-flight but also in the Football League, whose fans have yet to feel the benefit of the Away Fans’ Fund or reciprocal deals.
We’ve always argued that Twenty’s Plenty applies to clubs throughout the leagues. High prices are a blight on the game at every level. Fans have even contacted us to highlight prices they feel are unacceptable at Conference level and below.
The weekend after we launched Twenty’s Plenty we carried out a quick spot check of on-the-gate prices for League Two away fans . At more than half of the away ends you wouldn’t have got change from £20 – this campaign clearly benefits fans throughout the Football League.
I suspect the perception from some fans that Twenty’s Plenty isn’t for them probably comes from the fact that campaigns are almost always reported by the national media through the prism of top-flight football (eg Manchester United get national coverage when considering safe standing but Aldershot Town and Exeter City don’t).
As the representative fans’ organisation with individual members from hundreds of clubs (and 200+ affiliated supporters’ groups) the FSF does try to challenge that. We understand that fans outside the top-flight are unhappy with ticket prices and we’ll be raising Twenty’s Plenty with the Football League in an upcoming meeting.
If clubs could be persuaded to knock a few quid off prices, say £25 down to £20, we think they might still see the benefit. Cheaper tickets equal more away fans. We think it’s in the long-term interests of fans and clubs to make sure football is affordable and the game needs to make sure it doesn’t lose the next generation of match-going fans to other forms of “entertainment”, whether that’s the Xbox, NFL or anything else.
Fans’ groups from Premier League clubs in particular were very active over the summer and recent results have proved we weren’t wasting our time. We think we’ve helped to create a climate where fans’ concerns are much more likely to be listened to and taken seriously, and even better, acted upon.
Now fans of Football League clubs need to make sure their voices are heard too, whether that’s via the Twenty’s Plenty petition or club-specific protests and displays. Let's turn it up.
- Organising something at your club? Let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org