In recent weeks, as a member of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), MOMS has been privy to a few discussions on the topic of paid Away Season Ticket/Schemes in the Premier League.
Recently Norwich City introduced one, that looked simply to be a paywall for fans to obtain away tickets to matches. While the Premier League’s tickets are currently capped at £30, Norwich fans would have to pay an additional £50 a season to be able to buy any away tickets. The knock-on effect would be the price cap would be broken – for example, if a Canaries fan went to five away games tickets would work out at £40 each.
Aston Villa have an Away Season Ticket open to home season ticket holders that for a membership fee (last season £25 for away scheme members or £40 for new applications), gives fans priority on booking on away tickets and choosing their seat. Essentially, it works in a similar fashion to paying for speedy boarding on an airline.
In the recent Villa Away Consultation Group meeting (Thursday 20th June 2019), the subject of the club’s Away Season Ticket came up. Since its introduction caused some controversy last season, the club had offered in the recent FCG meeting on June 11th to look at it and rework it from scratch if need be, while some Villa supporters felt it should be scrapped all together.
Away Season Ticket Membership
The concept is to have a dedicated window where fans are guaranteed a ticket for each match and the option to select specific seats.
Last season feedback from those not in the membership was that they felt there should have been a criteria in the first instance to join the membership and not opened up to all season ticket holders, although the reason the club did this was based on feedback from supporters who were struggling to obtain tickets for away matches and felt it was fair to give all season ticket holders the opportunity to join the membership.
Looking towards the upcoming season in the Premier League, the club have been looking at keeping the scheme as it is, operationally in that fans would could purchase the membership however the club would only invite current members the option to renew if they had attended a certain amount of away games in the 2018/19 season.
After the renewal period the club would open the sale of the membership to supporters who were not current members but are home season ticket holders who have attended a significant amount of games (the number was discussed and will be revealed in the meeting notes next week).
There is also a mooted price increase on last season ala the Claret membership cards.
Is the Away Scheme Actually Needed?
It was put to the club by some members of the Away Consultation Group that the membership is not really required and if away tickets sales were based purely on loyalty and the club would still be able to guarantee certain groups of supporters’ tickets who had relevant criteria.
Obviously, the key benefit of the scheme is the priority booking, but that shouldn’t prevent an away supporter with an excellent/perfect record from previous seasons from getting a ticket.
It should be ‘priority booking’ and not ‘priority allocation’ in that respect.
For example, it would be unfair for non Away Season Ticket supporters with near ever-present away records in the previous season to miss out on tickets for the limited allocation (around 1,300) of Bournemouth away.
Without the scheme, supporters with very good previous booking history would have the benefits of the priority booking and first dibs on seat choice anyway.
There is also the issue of supporters joining the scheme just to have access to the big away games, then selling on the tickets to the other away games. This was the main controversy of the scheme, when you consider fan social media commentary on the scheme over the past season.
There is an issue of away support becoming a closed shop and the demographic increasingly ageing.
The Away Season Ticket did at least allow home season ticket holders the chance to get on the away ladder, so to speak. If they then went to enough games after being in the Away Season Ticket scheme, they would then be allowed to renew their Away Season Ticket the next season.
While loyalty is the key factor when allocating away tickets, the closed shop danger extends out of any away day schemes. How do you keep the open the door for new fans or supporters who want to see Villa play in the area they live for example? Surely the option of getting a ticket for an away game shouldn’t be impossible? For example, a Villan living in Plymouth ideally should at least in theory have a shout of getting a Plymouth vs Aston Villa FA Cup ticket?
The club suggested a ballot system for a very small amount of tickets to ensure that fans who might not be able to access tickets to away matches could at least have an opportunity to do so. This is a notion MOMS would support, as the number that would be offered wouldn’t impact on the fans that go to EVERY game (a surprisingly low number) or the majority of the games, who deserve first dibs on tickets for their efforts.
Anyway, back on topic, what do you think of the Villa version of the Away Season Ticket, which ultimately acts as priority boarding?
Away Season Ticket Vote
Should there be a paid Aston Villa Away Season Ticket Scheme? Vote in poll below.
The viable options:
- [YES vote] Having an Away Season Ticket Membership but exclude the Bournemouth match and only have members accepted who have attended substantial away league matches during the 2018/19 season. Gives fan security for the coming season.
- [NO vote] Not having an Away Season Ticket Membership and basing all away ticket sales on loyalty at previous matches
Vote in the poll below…
If you need more insight into how the scheme operated last season and other Villa supporter’s feelings on the matter, check out the debate on the Away Season Ticket on the MOMS Facebook page.
Also, one train of thought is that it was understandably a good idea commercially to create such a scheme as an extra revenue stream, when Villa were in the Championship. But is it needed now? Due to the vastly increased income that Premier League clubs are privy too, would it just be seen now as rinsing loyal supporters, who spend enough on travel regularly following Villa away from home?
If you have any thoughts on how an Away Season Ticket should work and could be a good idea, or why you think it should be scrapped, please comment below.
The minutes from the actual Away Consultation Group meeting and the club’s verdict on the Away Season Ticket will be published next week.