Loyalty Has To Count When Fans Return To Stadiums !
Sunday, 23rd Aug 2020 15:34
There has been much discussion recently about how clubs would ballot for supporters to be present at matches when they are allowed back into stadiums, I feel that loyalty is an important factor and that those that have been to the most games should be given priority.
This is going to be a controversial subject and there are many who would say that no Saints supporter is a better supporter than another, I would agree with that, but I would say that some supporters choose to be more dedicated than others, they prioritise supporting Saints over other aspects of their lives whilst others do not choose to.
Since time immemorial football clubs have used a loyalty based system when it comes to tickets for big games and away games and most supporters accept this as the way to prioritise tickets, whether it is a points based system as it is at some clubs, or like at St Mary's where the pecking order is firstly season ticket holders with a number of away games, then season ticket holder with no away games and then members and finally a general sale to the database.
This system has been used at Southampton Football Club for a number of years ever since records were held on computers and it is a fair system, so if it is good for important cup and away matches, then why should it not apply when there is reduced capacity at stadiums ?
The truth is we only have a small number of fanatical supporters, so the impact would not be great in the big picture, but these supporters live and breathe Saints, years of great support should mean a little more than just an equal chance in a ballot with someone who may just have brought a season ticket for the first time last season and hasn't been to an away game.
There are those out there (I am not one of them ) that have barely missed a match home or away in years decades for some, they could just about take missing the games after the restart because they appreciated that no one was allowed in for good reason, but they would feel let down, kicked in the teeth even by the club they have devoted themselves to, should they find that their support & dedication actually counts for nothing.
Any good business will look after it's best and long standing clients first and football should be no different.
I would say that the majority of supporters will accept that some do deserve to go more than others due to their loyalty, yes there may be a few who can't go to as many away games at present as others, but that is a choice and therefore those who chose to prioritise Saints in their lives should have that recognised.
Indeed at the recent onine fan focus group meeting on the subject, although some felt that it should be an even ballot for all, most felt that loyalty should be rewarded, indeed a prominent member of the Saints online community after admitting that he due to previous commitments he had been a season ticket holder only a short time, he felt strongly that there were many who should be in the stadium before him and admitted he would actually be very upset to be in the ground if he knew that there where those who had been to many more games then him allowed in.
Taking into account what was said at the meeting and that the club is likely to have 10-12,000 spaces and a season ticket holder base of 16,000 who wish to go I recently put the following to the club both at a online meeting and again in e mail.
I suggested two tiers of loyal fans who would be guaranteed entry to all games.
Tier 1 - Those who have season tickets and have been to a certain number of away games, I would suggest a minimum of 6 in the league in the season just gone (given we played only 14 this is a reasonable number) I would think that there would be about 2,000 who would qualify under this, it can be adjusted depending on exact numbers.
Tier 2 - Those who have had a continuous season ticket for 10 years at St Mary's, again the club would know the numbers but I would think they may have around 7,000, however I would also say that most of those in tier 1 would also be in tier 2, so only 5,000 would need to qualify in the tier 2 group.
I would then say both of those in these tiers ie 7,000 in total, would be guaranteed a seat for all the games when fans are allowed to return.
Assuming 12,000 allowed in and again the figures can be adjusted this would mean the remaining 9,000 season ticket holders would be in a ballot for 5,000 tickets per game, this would mean that all would be guaranteed at least 1 game if there were 2 played in this reduced number and that some would see both games.
All in all most supporters would be satisfied with this arrangement, but more to the point the club would be seen as having looked after those who have been the most loyal, no one could argue with that.
I have spoken to a wide number of fans about this and 99% agree that the most loyal fans deserve to be given some sort of priority, to them being at the game is more important in their lives than the rest, again this doesn't make them better supporters, but they are more committed and it should be remembered that although yes some fans are unable to go to away games or have a season ticket for good reasons be it family or financial, this number will be relatively small, we all choose our level of support and in any football club a minority will choose to follow the team away from home regularly, most choose not to.
So when Saints decide how they are going to distribute tickets when St Mary's is allowed to reopen, they should look after those that go further than the rest when attending games, this is what being a football supporters is all about, in the near on 50 years I have been going that is how you are judged as a supporter, by the number of games you go to.
For those who want to find out what was said in that meeting then I have provided a link to a public site for the London Saints Supporters Club below , they took notes and have published them online, all comments are those of LSSC and not of the Ugly Inside or myself.
Photo: Action Images
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