In past seasons we've been very critical of clubs who are happy to take TV's money, even if it means games are moved and away fans lose out on pre-booked travel and hotel costs. So we were interested to read that Portsmouth refunded fans' travel and hotel costs after the club's game at Chesterfield was moved from Saturday 1st to Monday 3rd March for TV. We spoke to Pompey CEO Mark Catlin to find out more.
The FSF: How early did you decide you’d refund fans?
Mark Catlin: Soon after the change in the date of the fixture was announced in mid-January the club started receiving emails from fans who were clearly very upset about the relative short notice of the change. As a result I asked our communications manager to ask fans for evidence of how they had been left out of pocket, with a view to trying to do something for them.
What were fans able to claim a refund on?
The offer is now closed as the claims have been validated and are being processed for payment, but in effect there were hotel and travel costs, including some airline fares.
Are you aware of other clubs ever doing anything like this?
No we are not, although some Premier League clubs have come up with innovative schemes to subsidise away travel from their TV money.
What fee do you get for being on TV?
We receive a fee of approximately £10,000. To a League 2 club, this is a significant amount. The Sky TV contract is very important to us and it should also be remembered TV coverage allows many of our fans to see a game they otherwise wouldn't have.
How many fans will benefit from this and what is the cost to the club?
We have validated the claims of around 70 fans, some of whom had made arrangements back in September for this game. We were fortunate that the publicity our initiative generated saw a fan come forward, who wants to remain anonymous, to underwrite the cost, so the club is not out of pocket. We are really grateful to that person, but we were prepared to cover off reasonable expenses incurred come what may.
If it is a minimal cost in comparison to the TV fee, do you think this is a model other clubs should follow?
To be fair, it is not a minimal cost, so it is difficult to see how clubs, especially in the lower leagues, could commit to doing this. We aren’t revealing the amount we have had to pay, but without the generous donation, it would have been a substantial part of our fee. We have made it clear to our fans this was a goodwilll gesture and have used the opportunity to explain that fixtures, even in League 2, can be re-arranged at as short as three or four weeks’ notice, so they should be mindful of that when making travel and accommodation arrangements in future.
Do you think leagues should put a clause in the contract with TV companies which includes a minimum notification period of three months? Fans often buy cheap rail tickets this far in advance then find themselves out of pocket.
The Football League always tries to give at least six weeks’ notice and regards 28 days’ as a minimum, although in exceptional circumstances even that maybe waived.
Whenever you have a cut off point you will have people who fall the wrong side of it. In typical circumstances there are at least six weeks' notice and fans should bear that in mind when making travel arrangements. To that end there is effectively a minimum notice period already. As a club we are supportive of the contract the Football League has with Sky.
Thanks for your time Mark.