We are grateful that club officials attended to explain their rationale behind the price increases. However, those present who stayed behind for a further conversation after the debate were left feeling that dialogue should have happened long before the announcement.
Many continued to feel angry and bemused by both the explanation and their refusal to reconsider key aspects of their season ticket proposals.
We are not selling out every week. Benefits have been removed with no details of a replacement. There are price rises way above inflation for the disabled and children in particular which are neither acceptable nor affordable. There is a threat to pay up within three weeks or lose your seat, five months before the new season starts. This stance does not engender loyalty, breaks up friends and family groups and aims to force them to move to a family section in the gods through economic sanctions or to not renew, and provides no evidence that it will generate increased revenue in the way the Club hopes.
It is in effect a tax on loyalty delivered without representation from supporters in the hope that those who can afford to pay the increase will more than offset those who can’t and who leave. We urge the Football Club to urgently reconsider and outline our proposals in the following open letter:
Following the meeting, the board of Bristol City Supporters Club & Trust and the FAN committee call on the Football Club to review, reconsider and act on the following proposed changes to the season ticket terms.
1/ To recognise that the low cost of child season tickets has had a positive impact on the number of supporters attending games, an improvement in the family atmosphere and planted seeds for the long term longevity for match-going supporters. The affordable price of season tickets have allowed families and communities to put Bristol City at the heart of their weekend routines. We are proud of you for taking this approach over recent years. Stick to your principles, see it through and increase season ticket prices for all under 25s categories by a maximum of the Retail Price Index. For those who have already renewed, provide a refund.
2/ Recognise that wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living. 23 matches a season is not like three or four cinema trips a year and must stay within the financial reach of those supporters who already make Bristol City the focal point of their entertainment budget. Unexpected increases of the magnitude proposed jeopardises this for many. There are always empty seats, don’t risk making more seats empty by pricing existing supporters out. Keep encouraging new supporters in as you are doing so successfully and retain your existing supporters by increasing season tickets by no more than the Retail Price Index.
3/ Don’t spring surprises on us; allow us to budget. We know roughly when season card renewal time is but we only budget for inflationary increases and even that’s a struggle for many of us. No matter what the price, always give us five weeks to renew so that we can always have at least one pay day. Tell us a year in advance when that window will be and stick to it.
4/ Bristol City should be proud of its large contingent of disabled supporters and look to grow its supporter base from across the community. You have told us that you are unable to positively discriminate for disabled people having previously classed them as a concession. The recommendation from Level Playing Field is that this may not be the case and that drastic increases are not required. Recognise that this group can no more cope with huge price rises than able bodied supporters. Meet with disabled supporters’ representatives, respond to their emails and agree a strategy for gradual alignment. Investigate if there are other ways of keeping the match day experience affordable to all.
5/ Recognise that supporters sit where they have always sat. We come not just for the match but for the whole experience. Parents and grandparents want to stay in the part of their ground where they have built match day relationships with everyone around them and that they can access easily. We want to introduce our children to the cultural and social makeup of our part of the ground and to mix, learn from and respect people of all generations, not just other families. We have invested years of traditions stretching back generations. Understand that other parts of the ground have the best seats already taken and that it’s too late to price us out of our accustomed seat. We don’t want to be forced to move on economic grounds. Football is not just a business. Respect the nature of your supporter base and keep the cost of child season tickets in proportion to adult prices consistently across the ground.
6/ Provide more detail on the benefits of loyalty with season ticket renewal now rather than asking us to renew blind. Engage urgently with supporter representatives on your current proposals for a loyalty scheme. Consider confirming that all 2017/18 Season Card Plus benefits will apply in 2018/19 while undergoing extensive and genuine supporter consultation on any proposed new scheme.
7/ Immediately withdraw the threat of losing our seat if we do not renew by the end of the current window. Some supporters will simply not be able to do so now and their seats should remain available to them at least until 1st June when it can be freed up if not renewed. We all want to renew given the choice and ability, don’t coerce us into making financially difficult decisions with the threat of losing our treasured regular seats.
We look forward to hearing the Club’s considered response to these requests and ask for an urgent response by the weekend. In the meantime we encourage supporters to hold fire for as long as possible on their season ticket renewals. #fansnotcustomers