Milton Keynes Dons fans who made the journey north for their team’s Tuesday night League One game against Huddersfield Town have been given a £14 refund thanks to the work of MK Dons Supporters’ Association (MKDSA) and the FSF.
Travelling supporters had been told away tickets would cost £21 only to find out that home fans were being offered entry at a special price of only £7. Under Football League rules the Terriers were not actually breaking any rules. The so-called “local promotion” rule allows home sides to offer discounts, to home fans only, four times per season.
Football League rule 31.2.11 states: “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 provided always that each Club shall be permitted to designate four (4) matches per season as ‘local promotion’ Matches where this regulation shall be deemed not to apply.”
MKDSA chair John Brockwell felt this rule unfairly discriminated against away fans and wrote to Huddersfield asking them to reconsider. Working with the FSF’s ticketing guru Alan Bloore he argued that the Football League’s rules actually contradict themselves and that the Terriers’ should drop prices for away fans too.
“The Football League’s rules ‘seek to ensure that spectators, players, officials and others involved at football matches and in football generally should be protected from discrimination, including that on the grounds of age, Race or Ethnic Origin, Religious Belief, Sexual Orientation, Disability, Gender or any other unjustifiable reason’,” argued John.
He continues: “One widely held definition of Ethnic Origin is ‘Ethnicity is defined from the recognition by others as a distinct group and by common cultural, linguistic, religious, behavioural or biological traits’.” Who better fits the definition of shared culture, language and behaviour than football fans after all?
Eventually on the afternoon of the game the club’s ticket office put forward the idea to club chairman Dean Hoyle who, to his credit, listened to the arguments and agreed. At 4.35pm on prices for away supporters were dropped to £7. Unfortunately that was too late in the day for most fans who had made the decision not to travel. Only 87 MK Dons fans showed up; the club would normally take a couple of hundred to this fixture.
“I know lots of regulars were posting on forums saying they wouldn’t go and we only took around one-third of our normal crowd. To give credit to Dean Hoyle as soon as he heard about it he dropped the price but it was too late by then,” said John. “The club also had people on the gates handing money back – they didn’t try to make it awkward to get a refund – so once they made their minds up to give money back they got themselves into gear. No club can say it’s too late to implement a change now either”
While fans might have eventually been treated equally off the pitch, on it, things were far from even. Huddersfield ran out comfortable 4-1 winners with two second-half goals from Jordan Rhodes helping the Terriers regain a play-off place. “A lot of people were saying blummin’ good job I didn’t go!” joked John.
While the FSF is obviously delighted to see cheaper tickets being offered to supporters the local promotions rule isn’t something we support in its current format. The aim of the deal is obviously to encourage locals along and hope they get hooked enough to come back time and again. Nothing wrong with that, cheaper football and big crowds sounds good to us.
However, clubs then argue that they shouldn’t have to pass on these discounts to away supporters as they’ll only return when their own team plays. We don't feel this is at all fair. Away supporters spend more time and money than anyone following their team, and you can almost guarantee they’ll buy a pie and a drink in the ground, so why penalise them? The extra atmosphere that away fans bring to a game cannot be underestimated, either – would you go game in, game out if there was no atmosphere, and no away fans to share banter with?
We’re sure clubs would like to see their own fans get cheaper tickets on their travels so, at the start of the season, why don’t they contact each other and offer reciprocal deals? Then both clubs can benefit from more feet through the turnstile and, just as importantly, both sets of fans feel they’ve been treated fairly.
If you see an example of this we’d recommend emailing the club in question and pointing out the inherent unfairness of this rule (and by all means copy in the FSF). These rules are decided by the clubs themselves and they’ll only change the rules if fans put pressure on them. Equally, contact your own club and inform them of your experience while explaining that you believe they should pass on any similar offers to away fans.
When fans stand together, we’re all stronger.
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