Gallowgate Voices: Loyalty Point Opinion (including survey results)

by • July 25, 2017 • NewsComments (11)1062

In my role as a board member for the Newcastle United Supporters Trust I set up a poll to gauge the opinion of members and non-members ahead of the clubs planned consultation with fans groups about the loyalty point system which grants fans access to tickets for away fixtures (and presumably cup finals – don’t laugh).  The loyalty point question is an emotive one for fans and within minutes of posting the poll on social media there were numerous comments belittling the idea and some angry, strange people getting a bit upset.  Social media in 2017.

I think the club are to be applauded for seeking dialogue on important fan issues. So fair play to them.  Quite a few people seem to believe that as they’re seeing fan consultation then a change must be in the pipeline.  I doubt that’s the case.  I know as much as you do at the moment but having worked with the club on the implementation of the new singing section and Gallowgate Flags, I’ve every faith in them to make the right decision.

Before going into detail about the results and adding some comment I’ll come clean on where I stand.  I’ve over 100 points and I’m in my late twenties.  If I had a vote on whether to keep the current system the same or change it – i’d keep it the same.  The idea of the system is fair.  If you’ve been and supported the team a lot – you deserve priority.  If you’re a season ticket holder you’re rightly more important to the club and get priority.  I don’t think people who aren’t season ticket holders or live away from the city are ‘less of a fan’ or care less etc, but the club has a duty to it’s paying customers.  The system, as a basic idea, is fair.

I also have to confess to not having much time for much of the comments from those who dislike the system.  Much of the information or arguments presented by a lot of these people is, well, factually wrong.  There seems to be a slight age divide in opinion about the current system.  There were plenty of comments that it is too difficult for younger fans to access away tickets.  Besides the point which i’ll address later that the majority of games don’t actually require any loyalty points for tickets, I remember being on a school trip to Greece aged 17 in 2006 and desperate for an away ticket for when i got back.  I started going away from home at 15 and under Robson, Souness and Roeder combined  i’d done something like 23 away games.  There was no online ticket process then (which seems mental looking back) and each season ticket holder got a small pink book that looked like a book of raffle tickets and each page had to be filled in and sent off for an away ticket.  You then waited to hear back from the club. As I was abroad, I was reliant on a parent calling me if/when tickets arrived.  The club always got back to you, even with a letter telling you that you’d been unsuccessful.  The game I was waiting on was Sunderland away.  We were resurgent under Roeder and they were on the way to breaking their own record low points total.  I wanted more than anything in the world to go.

I didn’t get a ticket (quite rightly looking back – I had no concept of points etc and they weren’t made public – so you had no idea what was required for a game).   As i’d been doing so many games recently I thought I was in with a shout.  Wrong.  Gutted. Even listening to the radio that day (the local pubs and clubs were banned  from showing it on the foreign tv by police order) I was still gutted though the hammering we dished out by the end cheered me up.

I’m delving into a bit of my own personal supporter history here as at no point did I begrudge anyone else going to that fixture or think ‘the system is broken’ or ‘unfair’.  There was no real social media then (i didn’t fancy MySpace or bebo) so no place to get all upset and say that the system was unfair.  If you’re a younger fan now, you’ll need to do the time.  Watching NUFC away from home is normally rubbish anyway.  Before last season we won something like 5 away games in 50 games.  There was never this rush for tickets.

Even now, in these heady days of Rafa and his away day mags loads of games go to zero points.  Last season off the top of my head the following games went to zero points (I may be wrong a bout a couple, but the overall point stands)

Fulham

Bristol

Derby County

QPR

Aston Villa

Barsnley

Preston NE

Wigan

Blackburn

Wolves

Brighton

Reading

Birmingham

Birmingham (cup)

Cardiff

Ipswich required 5 Loyalty Points by the end of the season.  Even if you’d started with 0 at the start of the season then you’d be in with a good shout surely of making it and want to watch NUFC away from home regularly.  The season before 0 points were

Swansea

Man Utd

West Ham

Man City

Crystal Palace

Tottenham Hotspur

Arsenal

Watford

Chelsea

Stoke

Everton

Leicester

Norwich

Southampton

I’ll not go on but I could.  It’s a fact that if you’ve a passion for watching Newcastle United away from home, there are ample opportunities.  It will be the same this season.  Whenever you see a fan claiming that ‘you need 25 points to go to any away game’ or ‘it’s impossible for any fan to build enough points’ – please point them in the direction of this article.  Everyone wants to do Leeds away.  Why shouldn’t it be the same people who do Norwich and Southampton?  Or Brighton on a Tuesday night.  I know not everyone can go for a variety of reasons but that doesn’t mean that the fans that do, should be punished as others can’t (in most cases don’t want to).

The Survey we ran brought about the predicted result.  450 people were good enough to fill the survey in.  80% of those who filled responded were season ticket holders.  A landslide of 70% respondents believed the current Loyalty Point system to be fair.

53% of respondents had more than 30 loyalty points. 54% of respondents attend more than 5 away games per season.  This gives the survey a level of balance as from this information half of the people completing  the survey would be ‘regular’ attendees at away games and the other half less so, or don’t currently attend.  On a basic level you could expect those that go to away games regularly to like the system and those that don’t to be against it.  That 70% are in favour of the system is a good barometer that it should stay in place.

There were however some excellent ideas by those in favour of the loyalty point system to improve it:

  • A ten year expiry for points
  • A ticket collection scheme at away games so only actual season ticket holders and points holders were at games (more on this later)
  • More points for more arduous journeys (eg Norwich/Brighton mid-week)
  • Each ST renewal being worth a point
  •  Remove the admin fee per away ticket
  • Scrap the ability for people to be able to buy numerous tickets on the friends and family system
  • Points reductions should occur more quickly – why let it take a week to go from 100 points to 30 points as one day should be enough and transport is therefore more expensive for people with less points

Those unhappy with the current system suggested the following improvements:

  • Scrap the points system – first come first serve
  • Points for home cup games and away friendlies
  • Points for members
  • Three year rolling points schemes
  • A small number of tickets each game for fans who prove they live local to the away ground for general sale
  • A cap on points for games – eg 30 points being the max and then it allows more people the chance to buy tickets
  • Points band – e.g 45-60.  Infuriating if you’ve 59 points and a game sells out at 60
  • Option for non-ST exiles to collect points without being a member
  • Put all fans back to 0 points after this season as so many points have been gained improperly by selling tickets on
  • Collection only for tickets – how can you have supporters buses selling tickets with bus seats?

 

I don’t agree with any of the above particularly but a few of the points a certainly worth considering.  A vast number of comments from people who were fans and non-fans of the current system were based around abuse of the system.  I’m inclined to agree with a lot of the comments but it’s hard to be too critical without being hypocritical.  I understand why any fan would take a ticket off a friend not going but who has the points, take the ticket off someone selling on social media – do anything they can to get to a game. I also understand fans who want to help out mates.  I’m firmly against buying tickets to ‘build points’ and selling to people you don’t know.  It is a reason many fans feel like the system is broken when in fact the system works fine – it’s those abusing it that make it seem broken.  Away coaches selling tickets with seats is probably not that common (or I haven’t seen much evidence of it) but the idea is repugnant and these people are little worse than touts and many cited it as a problem.

The rules are clear with away tickets – only the season ticket holder may buy a ticket for an away fixture and only that season ticket holder can attend.  Have they ever been enforced and if not, is it any wonder that abuse of the system happens?

Recently other clubs have had to clamp down on the problems I’ve alluded to.  Manchester United and Liverpool have made fans collect tickets on match day with identification. It obviously caused uproar – but from who?  I spoke to Man Utd fans who go away and they think it’s a great idea. Why wouldn’t they as they bought tickets for themselves and it stopped the sale of tickets to football tourists or lads intent on causing trouble etc?  One issue was it stopped groups going who’d gone for years, probably doing hundreds of games as they’d always used someone elses ticket.  I doubt NUFC have the desire or the resources to go down a similar route.  It would be fair though, wouldn’t it?

The loyalty point system is designed to reward loyalty.  I’m in favour of keeping it the same and despite some minor tweaks and tightening up on the point collectors – I hope it stays the same for the rest of my match going life.

If you’ve any thoughts we’d love to hear them in the comments box below.

Alex Hurst

true faith editor

@tfalex1892

 

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11 Responses to Gallowgate Voices: Loyalty Point Opinion (including survey results)

  1. Steve W says:

    I agree with all of the above, and as you rightly say Alex, those of us who are happy are those of us who have put the graft in to get the points.
    Like yourself, I’m well over the 100 points required to get tickets for every game.
    I’ve spent hours travelling.
    I’ve spent thousands upon thousands of pound doing so.
    So somebody wants to do Huddersfield away “because it’s their birthday” It’s never their birthday when its Reading away on a Tuesday night is it?
    On some of the comments as to what to change. “points for away friendlies”
    If they had actually bothered to go to them, they would see that they DO get the points for them. I got mine for Hearts, Preston and Bradford.
    Not being funny, for the sake of a tenner, buy the ticket even if you can’t make it.

    I’m part of that meeting next week, and I will be asking about a couple of minor changes. But on the whole, it needs to stay like it is.

    • Andy says:

      Hi Alex, firstly thanks for taking me back to the old style of getting away tickets, i’d almost forgotten about putting in a self addressed envelope in with the application.

      I am just a couple of years older than yourself and too started going to aways in my late teens and even got an away season ticket (i guess that’s not a thing anymore?) at one point. As you say the system does work but unfortunately it can (and has been) be abused but i do think it is the fairest way moving forward.

      I don’t mind the concept of picking up tickets but from memory the man utd / liverpool fans had to pick up the tickets miles away from the stadium and as somebody who generally gets the train to aways and has a few drinks before heading to the ground this would be a real inconvenience (as it would be for a lot of fans i think).

      i don’t think there is a simple solution but as you say if you put the hard yards in you’ll get your points over time. My first away trip to London was a 5-0 dicking by Arsenal (Ray Parlour hat trick)…..i don’t remember too many fans crying about not getting to away games in those days.

  2. David Airey says:

    I remember the 5-0 dicking at Arsenal and I wasn’t a ST then so didn’t get a LP for my effort, might write to the club now and see if I can get it retrospectively added!
    People forget that you’re only on 0 points for 1 away game! I served in the forces from 2003-2011 so only got my ST back for the 2011/12 season and have had no problems getting tickets for every game I’ve wanted a ticket for (bar Sunderland and Bournemouth). Not sure how much of a difference the rolling qualification period would make. It certainly wouldn’t affect me (may actually make it slightly better!!).

  3. Steve Clark says:

    Wouldn’t be the hardest system for the club to set up an ‘away card’ complete with photograph and if the photocard doesn’t match the name of the season ticket holder on the away ticket then access to the away ground is refused (and accepted by the ticket purchaser in advance). This is implemented on major racecourses (horse racing) for annual members and takes away abuse of the ticketing system overnight. Most will then see the system as fair with points accurately accrued by those actually going to games.

  4. Will says:

    I managed to get to 8 away games and 7 home games last year, despite living in south Yorkshire. It would not be financially viable for me to spend £400 on a season ticket when I can only attend half the games. I agree with everything mentioned in the article regarding people buying to sell. However I think that giving members the right to earn points needs greater consideration. Why should a season ticket holder earn more points and therefore the right to go to more games next season despite going to less away games than me In the past?

  5. SteveP says:

    I’ll return to this tomorrow, but I have to say I do like the friends and family thing, it allows the 14 of us that go to home games together to apply together and get tickets together (for the majority of the time) for the away games we are able to do.
    Having to apply separately may well stop people buying up chunks of tickets but it’ll likely end up with groups spread all over the away section

  6. brian says:

    It’s a thought provoking article, I been going for more years than I care to remember!
    My only thought is games could be bracketed – a midweek trip to Brighton is somewhat more difficult than a Saturday trip to Manchester etc.
    But trying to sort out what games belong in which bracket would always provoke further argument
    A slightly more evocative subject is TV moving the games after fans have booked travel and accommodation, this needs to be looked at as fans should be compensated

    • Steve W says:

      I mentioned this on twitter last night. The problem with adding extra points for the more difficult games is that those with the most points, who are possibly some of the most regular travellers, would be at these games and still get more points.
      The gap would remain the same to those behind them and may well increase.
      Before you know it the minimum points for a high profile fixture is 150 points and it’ll keep rising.
      As many have pointed out, though not so much on here, midweek games at Brighton and Reading are not majorly popular with the 2-3 away game a season fans who say they need the points. hence the massive general sale of tickets and away ends filled with southern based fans who weren’t season ticket holders.

  7. Greg Pullen says:

    Agree with everything, I don’t think it should change at all, and the flexibility in bending the rules allows me to sometimes take my 8 year old to away games (uproar!) if I didn’t have a son I would probably choke at this but if you have bairns growing up supporting a club you will understand the pride and emotional sharing of these moments that it brings. If you haven’t got enough points to do it so be it, if you don’t have family or freinds who have enough points to get you that extra ticket you probably haven’t been supporting the club long enough! Controversial but disagree if you like.

  8. Biffa Bacon says:

    If you lot aren’t congratulating yourselves or talking about bloody flags, its taking a holier than thou ‘I am considerably more geordie than you’ approach. And lazy, slack jawed references to putting int the graft like you’re all soldiers etc are pathetic and regressive.

  9. Ed Bell says:

    It’s as fair a system as any I suppose, and someone is always going to be disappointed. But… There’s always a but… 🙂

    Speaking as a member (ST not an option as I currently live in the Midlands (16 home / 4 away last season, 17 homes / 24 aways in the last 2 seasons in the PL (including Norwich & Soiuthampton x2), it does appear that we lose out, primarily because we can’t accumulate points…

    My suggestion? A single point to be awarded for every game attended (home or away), or 2 for aways if it’s felt that they’re more difficult. Season ticket holders to get all of their home points up front at the start of the season (only fair to give them an advantage); and only the last five years to be included in the totals (which would help out younger fans). It’s not original, I spotted it on Sheffield Wednesday’s website when I was trying to get a ticket in their home end last season…

    In all likelihood, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference to members when trying to get an away ticket for any away game on a Saturday, but at least the more persistent amongst us would eventually stand a chance…

    Or maybe, from a more selfish viewpoint, we could just introduce a special dispensation for supporters who only missed a single game home and away during the 90/91 season. Blackburn at Ewood Park it was, because they had to got to a cousin’s wedding…. 🙂