AFC Bournemouth's supporter liaison officer Liz Finney gives some details about ongoing fan matters at the club.
I wanted to clarify the process applied to arrangements for this game as the bad weather first hit us and then worsened on the Friday before the match.
The game was originally due to go off sale at 12 noon and this had been published when the game went on sale. However, due to the icy weather on Friday, our ticketing manager asked Leicester to extend the deadline and they accommodated us on this, but only up to the end of the day as they wanted to have the ticket reconciliation by close of play that day, hence the 5pm deadline.
We also changed our refund policy around having tickets returned to us before processing repayment to accommodate as many people as we could who might have found it treacherous or difficult to travel to the ground.
Time was not on anyone’s side so instead supporters were able to email their request to have a refund on their tickets which many took the opportunity to do.
As we returned so many tickets it took us under the sale or return level, meaning the club became liable to pay for these seats under Premier League regulations but we realised that these were difficult circumstances and wanted to accommodate fans as far as possible.
Regarding coach travel, Bluebird were great, keeping in touch through Thursday and Friday and sending a coach to each of the pick-up locations in case supporters found it easier to get to those stops on Saturday morning rather than the ground. All five coaches booked to travelled to the game went to Leicester with no issues.
Two ticket office staff were two of a small handful of people who made it in to work on the Friday and where we would normally have sent them home early because of the hazardous conditions, Dan and Kris stayed and worked late to process refund applications, deal with the busy phone lines and liaise with the coach company and then complete the reconciliation after 5pm to send on to Leicester.
Furthermore, both came in the next morning when they were not scheduled to, one to co-ordinate the departure of the coaches around any ticketing issues and the other to travel to Leicester and be based in their ticket office to assist with queries for Cherries fans. This had not been part of their plans for their weekend and we appreciate their efforts with this.
I hope that the above clarifies the processes in respect of tickets for this game under difficult circumstances for both supporters and staff given the uncertainty of the weather.
Still on ticketing…
The department will be introducing new procedures around feedback from fans over the coming months so that there is a more consistent approach to dealing with supporters around any issues together with appropriate escalation.
We see this as a positive move in the supporter relationship with the ticketing department. This relationship is an important one and we want to improve the engagement with supporters in this area.
Already, we have seen some improved procedures in terms of accessible online booking, more clarity around ticketing information for on-sales and points drops, pick your seat options for as many away games as possible and a quick turnaround for posted tickets.
However, it does need to be a two way arrangement. I have been shocked, as I am sure many of you would be, at the abuse reported by ticketing staff from supporters and while everyone will appreciate the frustrations of ticket availability versus demand, the language sometimes used and aggressiveness shown to staff is not acceptable.
We have a duty of care to support our staff with this and while we will provide further training around dealing with customers, we will also implement a means by which such incidences are formally logged and reported and thereafter followed up by club management with a potential for the ability to purchase tickets to be withdrawn. Hopefully, it will not come to that as with mutual courtesy and respect I am sure issues can be resolved.
The match with Spurs last Sunday
There were, as expected, a few Spurs fans in home areas where our supporters had passed on tickets. Where we have the details we have followed up and we appreciate supporters’ continued assistance with this.
In Block 2 there were three Tottenham supporters who were part of a sponsors table in the restaurant, a group from a company that regularly books matchday sponsorships and have done so for a while.
The men in question were spoken to at half time by two steward supervisors when back in the restaurant for the break. The stewards' advice regarding their expected behaviour seemed to be taken on board at the time but the safety officer also allocated an extra steward to that area. The stewards also spoke to a home supporter in Block 1 who was being quite vociferous towards the men in question.
Reports after that are more subjective but it seems that as Tottenham scored additional goals the tension between home fans and the Spurs fans increased, undoubtedly not helped by the latter side's taunting around the score. However, it became a serious issue at the final whistle when a home supporter attempted to get at one of the Spurs fans. The stewards had to separate them and ejected one of the Spurs fans.
The club does not sell tickets to away supporters in hospitality. Demand there far outweighs availability and it is very rare for anyone who is not well known to the club to book a table in the restaurant. However, companies will invite guests who support the opposition on occasion but it hasn’t escalated the way this incident did last Sunday.
The situation is probably not helped by the fact that our hospitality guests now sit in the middle of the stand as opposed to right at the back in a separate area. However, due to the requirement to install a raised viewing platform in place of hospitality seating, we have needed to work with this situation. I should point out that we regularly have Cherries fans in away hospitality areas when we travel.
I agree however that we do need to more proactively engage with both the companies that book tables and any away supporters that are invited by them.
We have had several internal discussions both on Sunday and since the match around this and will review our booking conditions and correspondence pre-match to actively deal with this particular issue.
We will place a trained steward in the restaurant from guest arrival whose job it will be to engage with any identified away fans, as well as other guests, in a friendly and professional way, but clearly setting out what we would expect from them and the consequences.
Part of this conversation will be to point out that their seats are adjacent to a family area and that language and behaviour should reflect that. The steward will be also placed in the ground during the game in addition to existing stewards to monitor our hospitality guests.
Main stand stewards will also be briefed at the next game around this particular issue and proactively dealing with incidents going forward. In advance of tomorrow’s game against West Bromwich Albion, those that have booked hospitality have been emailed to reinforce the message around expected behaviour and language and to take into account that they are adjacent to a family area.
It is a real shame that this incident marred the enjoyment of the game for many of our supporters in Blocks 1 and 2 and we will work continue to work to avoid a repetition going forward.
Junior Cheries with zero points
Our initiative whereby Junior Cherries are offered a section of unused accessible seating and any sponsor returns continues to be successful but we have had a games recently where availability has outweighed applications.
We are really keen to get as many young members to Vitality Stadium to enjoy live Premier League football and support the team as we head towards the last games of this season.
Look out for an email to Junior Cherries zero pointers, members with no points yet can also click here to complete the form and apply for a Junior Cherries ticket and one for a parent/guardian for any of the last three home games. Just three home games left? How did that happen!
We put out flags for the Tottenham game and for future game use to help ramp up the atmosphere at Vitality Stadium and encourage visual support on top of the vocal support from Cherries fans.
We would like this to be an ongoing feature and it would be great if the supporters who took home flags could bring them back and use them to get behind the boys.
Mike Botto on our stadium PA was going to ask this of fans on Sunday but we were experiencing some small problems with the address system which have hopefully now been rectified. We are supplying bins for collection and return as fans leave the stadium so that the flags can be there for all games.
And finally… Fans' Champion
Look out for Sheila Marsh, our Fans’ Champion for the West Brom game. Sheila has been a longtime and loyal supporter of the Cherries and always gets to the ground early and stays late on a matchday. I know she is really excited and will have a great memory to keep forever.
Kelvin Trevett, an amazing man and huge Cherries fan, whom we recently lost, said being Fans’ Champion was one of the best days of his life. If you would like to give another Cherries fan this experience, please email [email protected] and let us know the reasons behind your nomination.