Treatment of fans: Time has come to crank up the pressure, increase the noise - enough is enough with tickets
Here we are, a week into the new league season. Clubs have been welcoming back sell-out crowds, season ticket holders and big away followings with wide, open arms.
Well, from a distance it looks like welcoming open arms.
On closer inspection it is club officials ushering supporters towards them with the machiavellian aura of the very best conniving salesmen. Whispering, nodding and laughing.
‘Look at all these desperate mugs, wanting to give us lots of money. Let’s make it as difficult as possible’.
A ball has barely been kicked in anger but anger is certainly not in short supply. Fans have had their common sense and patience tested by clubs, big clubs no less, who appear unaware that the year is 2022 and that there is also a cost of living crisis.
Honestly, where do you start?
‘Is there pay at the gate?’
The City of Discovery is a good place. There was understandable uproar from Partick Thistle fans who, for their Championship-opener at Dundee, had two options. Get your ticket from Firhill or have it posted out to you. No online sale or pay at the gate. Oh, by the way, it was £24. TWENTY-FOUR pounds to watch a second tier match.
Credit to Dundee, they listened and tickets were made available on the day of the game at the ground, noting they are “looking into viable ways to improve the experience for spectators moving forward”.
It is far from just Dundee. Ross County fans travelling to Tynecastle Park for their league opener – adults paying £27 for the privilege – had to pick tickets up from Dingwall the day before the game.
A club spokesperson for Hearts told the Scotland on Sunday that County “were notified well in advance that tickets would not be available to purchase at Tynecastle”. With a sold-out home support, the view was home fans would look to buy tickets in the away end.
Then this weekend. St Mirren travelled to Aberdeen. No pay at the gate option. Instead Buddies fans had to go to their ticket office between the hours of 10am and 2pm (plus 5-7pm on Thursday) to part with £26 for the pleasure of the hassle. The Dons told the Scotland on Sunday tickets are sent in advance to “anticipate crowd numbers”, “speed up” entry to the stadium and “avoid” situations of possible safety issues if large numbers of fans try to buy tickets minutes before the game starts. Pay at the gate at Pittodrie was removed during last season because “fewer people have been carrying cash”.
Fans of clubs are unsurprisingly spread around the country. Not all County fans can get to Dingwall, or Buddies supporters to Paisley. And heaven forbid if someone decides to take in a game on a whim. Even if there is not a pay-at-the-gate option, collection points can surely be set up, or online proof to allow access.
Technological advancements like QR codes and emails could surely be used to get tickets to fans. Dundee said “it is not financially prudent” to go down the route of electronic tickets. There are clubs well down the pyramid who use Fanbase, allowing for tickets to be purchased online and for a code to be sent your phone. Other cloud-based, cost-efficient methods are available, such as SeatLab.
It is encouraging that Aberdeen are “now looking at ways to adopt technology to make the process easier for all visiting supporters”.
Some, however, appear to treat technology with the same suspicion as a dad does with Google Maps, opting to pull across to the side of the road, hunkered over a map laid out across the bonnet as the family hold the corners.
When it comes to selling away tickets through the various online platforms it is understood to be problematic. For some clubs, it is fear of fans buying for the wrong end if the demand is there, which is understandable, Livingston had issues for their match with Rangers on the opening weekend. For others it may be the cost of online fees and postage.
Yet it is the fans who, as usual, take the brunt of it. You purchase your £30 ticket. Then you are sucker-punched with a transaction fee, say £1.50. Like being hit by a massive puddle then the bus you were waiting on drives by. Such fees are often the result of the ticket-hosting provider, like Ticketmaster.
Not pulled out enough hair in frustration? Ticket prices. Embarrassing. £33 for Hearts fans at Easter Road, no doubt the same for Hibs fans at Tynecastle later in the season. Kilmarnock fans were charged £31 to go to Ibrox on Saturday. As for Celtic and Rangers, when it comes to ticket prices their supporters a constantly stung, considered category A games wherever they go.
All these things add up and it feels as though a tipping point is approaching.
This past week a Twitter campaign was set up by Kilmarnock fan Craig Anderson. The aim? Affordable tickets across Scottish football, with a £20 cap on away prices. Easier purchasing options and more consideration for supporters regarding fixture changes.
"The live atmosphere thrives on having two sets of supporters reacting to every incident,” he tweeted from the Twenty's Plenty Twitter account.
“Away supporters already often have to make long (and expensive) journeys to get there, let’s make sure the ticket price isn't the final straw. We can’t afford not to have them.”
The campaign starts now
So much within football is tribalistic which brings with it whataboutery and one-upmanship. This, however, is more important. So important that it is time to put it all to one side. This impacts all of us who go to games as fans, making the game in the country what it is.
Clubs and the football governing bodies are so keen to emphasise the role of the fan but their actions show can make that seem hollow. What chance do you have when the chief executive of the SPFL, looking ahead to the new season, spends most of his time talking about fan behaviour. That attitude sets the tone.
There does seem to be a real suspicion and even fear of football fans. Whether it is the clubs themselves, police and stewards or even the Scottish Government. In fact, you can scrub the ‘seem to be’. There simply is.
Yes, supporters have to take responsibility with regard to pitch invasions and flares – another area for discussion with clubs – but you see a teenage Motherwell fan at St Mirren being manhandled by a number of stewards and police. It is hard to think of the supporter doing anything to warrant such an approach.
Fans have to mobilise, together, no matter the allegiances, and pressure their own club to be better, to be realistic with prices and to make the process easier. It can work, as Dundee and now Aberdeen have shown.
It is of course understandable that gate receipts are imperative for revenue and clubs have, for so long, relied on that loyalty. But fans are being pushed and pushed and pushed. We are now in a situation where ticket prices are going up, it is becoming more difficult follow your team away from home. When you are making your way to games or at the ground, there is hostility.
The time has come to crank up the pressure, increase the noise, enough is enough. We deserve so much better.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.