Don't swallow the cap: Norwich City scheme under fire

Norwich City fans PA 42462313

You may have seen Norwich City in the media recently seeking out praise for lowering the price of matchday tickets at Carrow Road to £30, matching the price they’ll have to charge away fans in the Premier League.

In recent seasons, Norwich has been one of the most expensive places to watch your football – particularly for away fans regularly hit with £40-plus prices for the privilege of seeing their team take on the Canaries.

So this is a commendable move (although locked behind a membership fee), but also included in their press release were details of their new away membership – essentially a £50 paywall on access to away tickets for Norwich City fans across the 2019-20 season.

This will take the average cost of an away ticket for Norwich City fans above the £30 Premier League away ticket cap. If you go to five away games next season, your average away ticket effectively costs £40.

FSA vice-chair Tom Greatrex said: “Unfortunately this away scheme threatens to overshadow the work Norwich City have done in capping match-day ticket prices for home fans at Carrow Road.

“The FSA is wary of anything that increases the costs of tickets for supporters and we’ll be keeping an eye on away membership schemes such as this – if more clubs in the Premier League follow suit it could be a serious threat to the £30 cap.

“We’d urge Norwich City to have another look at this and commit to serious dialogue with their supporters on the issue.”

The club claim that loyalty points systems are “antiquated” and say they are only implementing what other Premier League clubs are doing. However, feedback from FSA-affiliated fan groups casts doubts over these claims.

Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, Manchester City, West Ham United, Liverpool, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Aston Villa all have loyalty points systems – only Villa have access to away tickets behind a fee, and Norwich City are alone among the clubs mentioned in ditching loyalty points.

Even Norwich City fans were caught off guard by the changes – in particular the Canaries Trust were critical of the club for the lack of consultation as they have a ‘Memorandum of understanding’ signed with the club.

Now a coalition of fan groups at Norwich City (the Canaries Trust, Along Come Norwich, Barclay End Norwich, Forces2Canaries and Proud Canaries) have written to the club condemning the changes and calling for proper consultation.

"For away tickets, the £30 cap was achieved after a lengthy and at times bitter battle between fans and clubs to secure more affordable football," they said. "The access to live football is at the heart of fan culture and it’s looked upon very cynically when affordable football is then turned into a commercial exercise to recoup those costs by selling access to those very tickets.

"The feeling is, that this scheme has damaged the bond between the club and the fanbase.

"We call on the club to urgently rethink the new membership scheme and re-engage across the fanbase to find a way forward which is beneficial to all."

The current competition-wide cap was introduced at the start of the 2016-17 season, following sustained campaigning by supporters across the country led by the then-FSF under the "Twenty's Plenty" banner.

Since its introduction three years ago, the £30 cap on away prices in the Premier League has saved millions of pounds for away fans. The FSA has a keen interest in ensuring the cap is not undermined and we will raise the suitability of these away schemes with the Premier League directly.

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