Ticket prices (what else?) kicked off 2015 when FSF chief exec Kevin Miles led a delegation of fans meeting with the Premier League. Their message for the clubs was simply: to end match categorisation.
Fans from a cross-section of clubs and supporter groups met with Premier League officials demanding an end to match categorisation – which can see some away fans charged more than double that of others – as well as concessionary pricing for young adults.
FSF chair Malcolm Clarke said: “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."
Elsewhere, fans of Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United came together to help the club sort out problems with access to their away end after a crush before their league cup match at White Hart Lane.
- Month in numbers: 35 - price difference, in pounds, between category “A” and “C” away fans at Upton Park this season.
Research released in February confirmed what we’d suspected for a long time – that the overwhelming majority of football fans want safe standing.
According to a survey produced by the Welsh Conservatives 96 percent of football fans back safe standing and want to see a safe standing pilot in Wales. The 2,364 fans surveyed made it clear that the choice of safe standing should be made available, and the technology would reduce conflict with stadium staff.
Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies said: “Legislation governing standing was drafted in a different era, to address a different set of problems and it’s time for politicians to move on and give the people what they want.”
A young Crystal Palace fan settled his long-running action against Thames Valley Police in February. Tommy Meyers needed extensive surgery after being unlawfully arrested and bitten by a police dog when travelling to an away game at Reading in 2011. "This case illustrates the importance of seeking legal assistance in both criminal and potential civil cases,” said FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks.
- Month in numbers: 96 - the percentage of fans who support safe standing.
The Premier League’s new TV deal starting in 2016 will see an increase of 71% on the previous cycle, domestic rights alone going for £5.1bn.
With money pouring into the game, fans demanded something back. We brought together supporter groups under the banner of #ShareTVWealth and demonstrated outside a meeting of the Premier League shareholders – calling for the following:
- An Away Fans Initiative Mk II at £1m per club to subsidise ticket prices for away fans
- Structured engagement with fans on how to spend this money
- An end to the application of match categorisation to away fans
- No reduction in away allocations or relocation of away fans to inferior accommodation.
March also marked an important victory for Hull City supporters, as once more the FA rejected a move by the club’s owners to rename the team Hull Tigers. The name change was voted down by the FA Council 70% to 30%. Hull City Supporters’ Trust said: “This decision will also be welcomed by fans of other clubs who may be concerned that their clubs might, at some point in the future, face a similar threat.”
- Month in numbers: £10.19m – the amount broadcasters will pay per Premier League match starting in the 2016-17 season.
April was the month of boycotts as Cardiff City, Liverpool and Newcastle fans all stayed away from games for very different reasons.
The Bluebirds returned their full allocation of tickets to Leeds United, due to draconian travel and collection restrictions, leaving the away end at Elland Road completely empty.
Liverpool fans boycotted Hull City away after being asked to pay £50 for a Monday night game (more than double what fans of other clubs pay to see their team at the KC Stadium). And finally, Newcastle United fans left St James’ Park half-empty for their match against Spurs, expressing their discontent at how the club was being run by owner Mike Ashley.
In the world of politics, we helped launch the VoteFootball website – a simple campaign tool that lets voters see where their election candidates stand on various matters of footballing policy (whether it be safe standing, ticket prices and so on). Thousands of voters made use of the tool and it will continue to help the public hold their elected representatives to account in future.
Month in numbers: £120 - the cost of a season ticket at Eastleigh, the cheapest in the top five divisions.
One of the biggest off-pitch stories of the last twelve months has to be the FIFA scandal. In joint operations between the US State Department and the Swiss authorities, FIFA officials were arrested in dawn raids in Zurich on a plethora of corruption charges.
Some of the charges were staggering, with corruption appearing endemic in the organisation. “They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest. Instead they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves,” said the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch. “They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”
Some things are bigger than football. In May, the football world paid tribute to 56 football fans who perished in the Bradford fire, thirty years ago.
Leeds United Supporters’ Trust chair Paul Keats attended the memorial on behalf of the FSF. He said that though the amber and claret of Bradford City was everywhere, fans from every club had paid their respects. “Football united, in remembrance,” he added.
- Month in numbers: The 56 - RIP.
A major breakthrough for the safe standing campaign came in June as Celtic were given the go-ahead to install rail seating at Celtic Park. Initially, 2,600 rail seats will be installed for the start of the 2016/17 season. Our safe standing campaign co-ordinator Peter Daykin said: “Celtic deserve praise for being brave enough to pursue this and for listening to their fans.”
Developments north of the border will no doubt increase the pressure on authorities in England – if fans can stand at Celtic Park, why not White Hart Lane or St James’ Park?
The results of our 2014/15 Away Fans Survey were also published – Wigan Athletic came out as the highest scoring away day, narrowly beating Derby County to the top spot.
Wigan’s combination of large allocations, affordable tickets and good facilities proved popular amongst away fans. QPR’s miserable season wasn’t confined to the pitch as travelling fans scored their trip to Loftus Road a lowly 3.58. Crystal Palace limped to 4.94 while Liverpool completed the top-flight’s bottom three with 5.32. Blackpool (5.00) were rock bottom of the Championship.
- Month in Numbers: 6.26 – average score fans gave away grounds out of 10 across all leagues this year (down from 6.44 last year).
Supporters and activists from around the country descended on Manchester for the 2015 Supporters’ Summit, our annual event with our friends at Supporters Direct.
Highlight of the weekend was our FIFA Question Time panel featuring Stephen Russell from the Playfair Qatar campaign, sports ethics campaigner Jaimie Fuller and former-MP (and Fulham fan) Tom Greatrex. The FSF AGM passed a motion calling on fans to lobby FIFA sponsors.
July was a pleasing month for fans of Swansea City – the club announcing that for the 2015-16 season all travelling Swans would pay no more than £22 for their away tickets. The move represented a huge boost for the Twenty’s Plenty campaign. If Swansea City can do it, why not other clubs?
Pressure on the Premier League clubs to give something continued to ramp up as Norwich City earned promotion to the top-flight following last year’s relegation. This meant their parachute payments of £24m were returned. We wrote to all Premier League clubs outlining how this returned payment could and should pay for Twenty’s Plenty at every club for a whole season.
- Month in Numbers: £20m – the cost of funding a £20 cap on all away tickets in the top flight for a year.
As the Twenty’s Plenty campaign enters its third year, we estimated it’s saved fans £738,000 since launching. Twenty’s Plenty created an environment where clubs look to enter into reciprocal deals, saving money for thousands of away fans.
A coalition of supporter trusts from London, and beyond, called for a full public inquiry to be launched into the deal between the London Legacy Development Committee (LLDC) and West Ham United for Olympic Stadium rental costs. A petition asking for the Government to open this inquiry has racked up more than 25,000 signatures.
- Month in Numbers: 68,000 – the number of away fans that have already benefited from reciprocal deals.
The FSF Roadshow has been out across the country throughout 2015 and in September arrived at Broadhurst Park, the home of FC United. It was a real pleasure to visit FC United’s fantastic new facility, and talk to supporters about FSF campaigns.
FSF Cymru also continued their good work – meeting with the Football Association of Wales to talk ticket allocations and travel. Wales had a fantastic qualifying campaign, eventually made it to the Euro 2016 finals, with the FSF Cymru team providing excellent support to Welsh fans along the way.
- Month in Numbers: 57 – the number of years since Wales last qualified for a major tournament.
One of the largest nation-wide actions by football fans took place on the first weekend of October – supporters up and down the country backed the Twenty’s Plenty campaign. Twenty’s Plenty banners were displayed by home and away fans at every Premier League ground, as well as many in the Football League. The campaign’s core message, a £20 cap on away ticket prices, reached an audience of millions.
Ticket prices remained in the spotlight all month, as Bayern Munich fans protested at the Emirates Stadium. £64 tickets led to Club Nr 12 call for reciprocal pricing in European competition.
- Month in Numbers: 20 – Twenty’s Plenty.
We brought together MPs from across the House of Commons to form the Football Supporters All Party Parliamentary Group. The group aims to represent the interests of match-going football fans in Parliament and support the objectives of the FSF. The newly inaugurated cross-party group will be chaired by Ian Mearns MP.
The FSF’s diversity work was recognised at the Asian Football Awards. Our diversity and campaigns manager, Anwar Uddin, won an Asian Football Award for the “behind the scenes” category for his work on our Fans for Diversity campaign. Congratulations to Anwar!
- Month in numbers: £4.50 - the price of a pie at Kidderminster. The most expensive in the country - hope they're good!
Once again, the FSF awards celebrated all that’s good about the beautiful game – from the best fanzines, pundits, players and much more. Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez picked up Player of the Year, Jamie Carragher won best pundit and Robbie Savage accepted the Radio Show of the Year award on behalf of BBC 5Live’s 606. The third year of our partnership with William Hill, the awards were a huge success.
FSF chief exec Kevin Miles said: “Where our awards are unique is in celebrating the best fanzines that are out there, promoting the SLO role and giving credit to those clubs that provide the best away experience.”
Elsewhere, AFC Wimbledon announced that they will be returning home to Plough Lane after the club won planning permission to build a new stadium. We wish the Dons all the best at their new home.
- Month in numbers: 11,000 - the initial capacity of New Plough Lane, AFC Wimbledon's planned stadium.
Hope you enjoy the festive fixtures, and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Thanks to Action Images, Barklay End Projekt, Dave Jones, Chelsea Debs and Paul Keat for the images used in this piece.