AFC Bournemouth's supporter liaison officer, Liz Finney, gives an update on fan matters at the club.
ID on Matchdays
I was stopped at a recent game by a fan who was worried about bringing his passport to games for ID purposes. I explained that, where there was an instance for such a request, we would be expecting to see a bank or ID card or something similar which is the type of thing most supporters will bring to games anyway. Apologies if this was not how this has been portrayed previously.
To recap, part of the reasoning behind this move is that there have been many indications where it is felt that some supporters are buying tickets for games they have no intention of attending in order to keep their points tally high.
This inflates the points at which a game reaches the 'all tickets issued' point, deprives loyal fans with lower points the opportunity to attend games, promotes touting and, given the lack of club knowledge of who is occupying a seat, raises the potential for safety issues.
Another reason is that a significant number of supporters seem to be using concession tickets, matchday and seasonal, when they are not of that price type. Both these activities are either against the spirit or the fact of club policies and it makes sense for us to address them.
Where a fan is stopped and unable to produce suitable evidence that they are the person the ticket is allocated to, we will take details and if this happens a second time, we will impose sanctions on purchasing future tickets which will also affect the person originally issued the ticket.
To give an idea of the scale of this issue, we randomly spoke to 150 supporters at the Saints game who were unable to prove that they were the person named on the ticket. I am sure, like us, you will want those who are eligible to attend games to have the opportunity to do so.
Junior Cherries Ticket Initiative
This is a reminder that the club offers any seats not taken up by the front-row wheelchair users together with unallocated seats in the family stand, to Junior Cherries who have zero priority points.
This gives young supporters already engaged with the club, whether it be by attending community sessions, wearing a replica shirt or coming to the various Junior Cherries events we offer our young fans, the chance to attend a live Premier League game and get on the points ladder.
Around 1,500 young supporters have benefited since the inception of this scheme just over a season ago and this can only bode well for the future of the club. Where available seats outweigh applications, we will add the seats to the Friday 11am online sales.
Ticket distribution by a group that sat outside the club, and consequently outside the points system, was not a fair way to continue when there is demand for tickets from points holders, especially at the level games were all tickets issued last season.
We started speaking to exiles representatives about this two seasons ago and we genuinely tried to approach this matter sensitively knowing as we do the long and loyal support of many of the membership.
We met again in the spring of this year and we agreed a way forward which meant that the four season tickets held by the group would not be renewed but that everyone who had attended a home game under the scheme would be allocated the appropriate points so that they could buy tickets in their own right. This was something endorsed by the exiles representatives and the allocation of points subsequently took place.
It seems also that there was not always the demand for these seats as we did see one member attend a significant number of games last season. We do recognise that there are supporters who have moved away and are unable to attend.
We have a fledgling International Cherries newsletter where we hope to maintain that link between overseas supporters and their club and to hopefully attract new fans. We have some very vibrant supporter groups from the US to Australia and it’s great to be able to reach out to them in this way.
We will also consider how genuine supporters in the UK who are not local can apply for a ticket and I have spoken to the Exiles to see how this can be best managed. There will be four home tickets in total allocated per match for this scheme and again, if the tickets are not drawn, they will be added to the Junior Cherries ticket initiative allocation for that game.
Friday Returns Online Sale
Introduced part way through last season, the 11am Friday on sale of returned home tickets seems to be well established. If there are any tickets remaining after an hour, these go to supporters with one or more away or cup point. Again, this aims to reduce the number of empty seats we see at games and gives as many supporters as possible the chance to attend.
Season Ticket Resale Scheme
The club is set to sign an agreement with a third party re-sale provider to enable the re-sale of match seats by season ticket holders. This has taken a little longer to set up than anticipated but we will update as soon as possible when we can launch.
We see this as a positive move in ensuring as many supporters can attend games as possible with a reduction in the number of empty seats that frustrate us all. Everyone will appreciate that season ticket holders may not be able to attend every game at Vitality Stadium but over the last few games we have seen hundreds of season ticket seats not used each match and this gives the chance to make these available to those supporters who meet the points criteria at the time of re-sale.
HOME COACH TO VITALITY STADIUM
You may have seen that, having canvassed supporters who live along the route the away coach takes from Weymouth, to Dorchester, then Poole, Branksome and on to Vitality Stadium, we offered the service for our home game against Saints on Saturday. Despite receiving really positive feedback about the initiative, we had only a couple of bookings.
Initial feedback about the booking fee tipping the balance towards public transport being cheaper was taken on board (no pun intended) and we waived this but with no real impact.
So, we are going to give it another try for the home game against Arsenal on Sunday 25th November. Prices and timings are as follows:
|11:10am||Dorchester, Tesco Fountain||£8|
|11:55am||Poole Train Station||£6|
|12:20pm||Branksome bus stop, outside John Lewis||£5|
|12:30pm||Arrive Vitality Stadium|
We hope the time up to the Arsenal game will give us and you the chance to spread the word about the service – we would like to make the pick-up point the start of the matchday experience with a quiz and Cherries video content on board as part of the journey and the opportunity to be here for the pre-match build-up without hassle.
At the same time, we canvassed supporters on the potential popularity of an accessible vehicle for home matchdays and this followed much the same pattern with initial enthusiasm and two uptakes.
League games this season have seen an improvement in the number of supporters getting into the ground in good time before kick-off and we would like to thank fans for their cooperation in this respect.
For our Cup game against Blackburn there were 1,100 people less in the ground 45 minutes before kick-off than at the evening Premier League Crystal Palace match and 1,300 less than at the Everton match.
We have also reviewed the throughput on the turnstiles for Blackburn. At our non-cup games the throughput is higher which shows that the turnstiles are capable of dealing with more traffic per minute than actually went through at Blackburn which supports our view that, for that game, a lot of supporters arrived later and also took longer to go through the turnstiles due to unfamiliarity with the system.
We do appreciate that evening games will present a challenge for many in timing between work and travel to the ground and of course the A338 works may also impact but, with another cup fixture approaching on Tuesday evening, we would urge supporters to arrive as early as they are able to avoid queues.
EQUALITY FOCUS GROUP AND EVERYONE, TOGETHER CAMPAIGN
We held our first equality focus group on Thursday evening bringing together a wide range of Cherries supporters to discuss issues that affect their matchday experience. It was a good meeting with lively discussion and we will as usual publish the notes once approved by the group.
A couple of weeks ago we brought together a group of Cherries fans to be photographed for inclusion in our Everyone, Together. campaign. This is launching at the Arsenal game so look out for the imagery at the ground on that day.
Arsenal is also featuring our Junior Cherries Takeover which we did at the last game of the 2017/18 season. It's great fun to see our young fans actively involved in the matchday from announcing to match reporting, and we are looking forward to working with them.
A reminder that supporters continue to have the opportunity to nominate a fellow Cherries fan to deliver the Premier League match ball to the podium before kick-off on a matchday.
We have already had some memorable supporters enjoy this great experience so far this season and reviewing the video post-match is one of my favourite things as they never fail to make me smile.
So, if there is someone you think deserves the chance to be part of the match build-up and create a really good memory, just email [email protected].
As ever, if you have any questions, feedback or ideas around the matchday experience please contact me – [email protected].