Bad experience at the football? Here's how to complain

Steward Photo Fiona Thomson

Almost every day of the year we receive emails from fans who are unhappy with some aspect of their ‘match day experience’. That doesn’t mean football is always getting things wrong but it does mean that out of the millions who go to football every season, a small percentage of fans have had negative experiences.

Complaints are varied in subject matter and severity - dissatisfaction with stewarding and policing; TV messing around with fixtures; gripes about ticket policy; dismay over a club’s attitude to fans; ownership issues and complaints relating to specific, individual events.

If someone is unhappy it’s entirely legitimate for them to contact the club (or football body) in question and seek to resolve their complaint. But how do fans do this? There’s a well-worn path to be followed (see below) but there’s a few things to run through before we get to that.

The FSF is here to offer the benefits of our experience and advice, when it comes to complaints, and while we think it’s important that supporters take responsibility for their own complaint, we are here to support them through that process. Too many supporters ‘expect and accept’ certain treatment and are more inclined to shrug it off “because it’s football”.  We understand this, but unless fans complain, clubs can’t right wrongs and others experience similar. There is nothing wrong with speaking out.

Before you do complain contact the FSF for referral to our case worker who can talk you through the options available to you. We might also be able to help with club/league contacts and, occasionally, a word in the ear behind-the-scenes can calm the waters and resolve matters before they ever get to the stage of a formal complaint.

Remember to spell out your complaint in full detail, referencing any relevant time/date/employee, and be clear on what would satisfy your complaint (e.g. a refund, apology, or change in club policy). Keep a record of your correspondence. Always be clear, polite and, if required, persistent.  

Our Case Worker is always happy to review correspondence before it’s sent and, if necessary, will help you draft your complaint. In matters such as discrimination or physical assault, we are able to speak to solicitors for advice on the merit of legal action. Initial advice is always given free of charge.

How to raise your concerns:

  1. Consider whether or not a formal complaint needed? If not (and remember we can advise in this regard) contact the football club’s Supporter Liaison Officer and see if they can resolve the matter – SLO contacts here. Let us know what the issue is and how the club responds.
  2. If your issue is more serious and warrants a formal complaint, search the club’s website for their Customer Charter where you should find the details of the formal complaints procedure. You should be able to do it all via email. Copy the FSF into your complaint: faircop@fsf.org.uk. It’s important that this procedure is adhered to in the event you need to escalate your complaint which will mean contacting the relevant governing body (such as the Premier League, Football League or the FA if the complaint arises from an England or FA Cup fixture).
  3. If you don’t receive a satisfactory outcome from the club or relevant league/authority, there is one further step. The Independent Football Ombudsman was established by the football authorities and adjudicates on unresolved complaints: Call 0800 588 4066 or email contact@theifo.co.uk. Remember, we are here to support and advise you throughout this process including the drafting of correspondence.

If your case involves the police or legal matters contact the FSF on 0330 44 000 44 or email faircop@fsf.org.uk as a different course of action would be required.

Further reading: “Advice for fans: Watching Football Is Not A Crime!” by Amanda Jacks

Thanks to Fiona Thomas for the image used in this article. Reproduced here under CC licence.