Football Ombudsman: “Family tickets” should be offered to away fans

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The Independent Football Ombudsman (IFO) has said that clubs offering “family tickets” to their own fans should extend this gesture to away supporters.

The recommendation follows a complaint made by Shrewsbury Town fan Chris Wynne who was unhappy following his side’s visit to Walsall. Chris pointed out that family tickets were only available to home fans in certain parts of the stadium and that didn’t include the away end.

After digging out his calculator Chris worked out that whereas tickets for himself and his son had cost him £37, the equivalent price for a home fan with a child using the family was only £23.50.

Chris argued that this contravened Football League rules and amounted to discrimination against families in the away end. The Saddlers’ Club Secretary didn’t accept this line of thinking while the Football League concluded that the home side wasn’t obliged to offer an away family ticket.

While the family ticket offer wasn’t extended to away fans, Walsall did offer visiting supporters concessionary tickets in line with what was offered to home fans.

Persistence pays

The next step in football’s complaints procedure is the IFO, and that’s where Chris headed. His complaint related specifically to Section 34 of the Football League’s Handbook. The rules are reproduced below for clarity:

  • No Club shall charge higher admission prices for visiting supporters for accommodation that is ranked as comparable with or inferior to that used by supporters of the Home Club (34.2.8)
  • Concessionary admission prices for senior citizens and children, if available to supporters of the Home Club, must also be available on a similar basis to visiting supporters (34.2.10)
  • Discounts or special promotions (in each case for one match only) made available to supporters of the Home Club must also be made available on a similar basis to visiting supporters (34.2.11)

It’s at this point you’d be forgiven for drifting off, but when it comes to rules and regulations, persistence and attention to detail pays, and Chris stuck with it.

The IFO ruled that there was “an ambiguity in the application of the regulations which in one dimension appears to leave away fans disadvantaged.”

The IFO said: “There is a sense in which the special circumstances at Walsall are not in the spirit of the regulations, even if no breach of them has occurred. The Club has thanked the complainant for identifying this ambiguity and has agreed to review its policy for the next season.

“The complainant has also identified a lacuna in League regulations which deserves some attention. In the light of this investigation the IFO recommends that Walsall FC does indeed review it ticketing policy to bring the Family Ticket within the spirit of the League’s requirement to treat home and away supporters the same.

“The IFO further recommends that the Football League reviews its regulations so that Family Tickets are included.”

The Football League were commended for exploring ways to “better understand” the needs of away supporters and the IFO said opening up the family ticket to away ends “will remove one, albeit obscure, apparent omission in the requirement to charge home and away supporters the same price for tickets in comparable accommodation.”

If you’d like to do your bit to improve things, read more on our Away Fans Matter campaign and march with us on the Premier League and Football League demanding “Affordable football for all!” on Thursday 14th August 2014.

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