Remember the good old days? Remember when you could go to the football, have a few pints beforehand, have a pie at half-time, stop off for fish and chips on the way home and still have change from a fiver? No, neither do I. Modern day football is expensive. Therefore these halcyon, and to an extent made-up, times of cheap and easily affordable professional football matches are set to remain a relic of times (and imaginations) past. That is until now. All praise Leicester City who have announced that this Saturday’s match is a Fans Fixture with heavily discounted entry for all at the Walkers Stadium. Yep come one, come all and get in cheaply… unless you support Doncaster Rovers.
Leicester City’s club website has been boasting about this weekend’s imminent Fans Fixture, like a work colleague who won’t shut up about their up-coming skiing trip, crow-barring a mention of the incentive and the game into each and every news story in the last eight days. However, save for a small “Local Promotion Only” sub heading three lines down on the initial proud announcement of “The return of the fans fixture” the Foxes have not been so keen to advertise that this only applies to those fans decked in blue.
Tickets for Leicester City supporters for this game are priced at £10 for adults, £5 for under 18s, and £1 for under 8s. In addition to this, season ticket holders at the Walkers Stadium can purchase tickets for family and friends at a further reduced cost of £6 adults, £4 for under 18s, and £1 for under 8s. So a couple of weeks ago, having heard Leicester City had a cheap ticket deal running for this game, I rang up the Keepmoat Stadium to get my place secured early. Expecting to pay £20 for my two adult tickets I was more than a little surprised to be charged a significantly more expensive £52.
So while Leicester fans will be streaming in with their loose change rattling in their pockets the pricing structure for Rovers fans attending this game remains as follows and you can add £2 more on to each of these charges if you have the audacity to try and pay on the day;
£22 Seniors 60+
£16 Under 22’s
£10 Under 18’s
£5 Under 12’s
£3 Under 8’s
There are two questions to be asked here and the first, ‘is this fair?’ can be given a definite and short two word answer. The second, ‘how is this allowed?’ leads to a decidedly more complex answer. Clubs in the Championship are permitted by the Football League to offer up to four price promotions a season in an effort to increase attendances. However, there is no Football League ruling which insists that offers should apply to both home and away fans, instead its up to clubs themselves to weigh up the moral implications.
Doncaster Rovers have already offered promotional ticket discounts at two matches this season, with both November home fixtures – against Millwall and Swansea City respectively – subject to special offers. On each the club endeavoured to made tickets for away fans cheaper. The match against Swansea City saw over 13,600, including around 700 visiting supporters, take advantage of a £10 adult and £1 child ticket offer. At the previous home game against Millwall Rovers did run a ‘family discount’ offer for two adults and two children which was available only to home supporters, but to give balance the club did afford the game category ‘C’ status enabling fans of both clubs to purchase adult tickets for £15.
The Football Supporters’ Federation has been made aware of the pricing issue at Leicester City this Saturday and in correspondence with one Rovers fan the FSF have made it known that they fully support “the use of ‘Community Days’ as a way of reducing prices for particular games” and applauds clubs for introducing them. However the FSF went on to add that their only complaint against such days centres on “clubs [which] do not offer these discounts to Away Supporters. [The FSF] cannot understand why clubs would treat what are in effect their guests for the day in this way.”
This not the first time a club has made ticket price special offers only available to home fans and the FSF has already been working to challenge this concept. To date they have been using the indeterminate nature of the Football League’s own policy against them by making the case that the Football League’s ruling on discounted tickets (printed below) is at odds with their own Anti Discrimination Policy.
“Discounts or special promotions (in each case for one match only) made available to supporters of the Home Club must also be made available on a similar basis to visiting supporters provided always that each Club shall be permitted to designate four (4) matches per season as ‘local promotion’ Matches where this regulation shall be deemed not to apply.”
It was this argument which enabled the FSF to set a precedent on this very issue last month for the League One match between Huddersfield Town and MK Dons. Supporters of the Dons travelled to Huddersfield for a League One game having paid £21 for a ticket only to discover that home fans were being charged just a third of that price. Now whilst I and others would be of the view that this is a perfectly acceptable way to treat those who choose to follow MK Dons, it is the wider implications which are significant here.
Following an appeal from the MK Dons Supporters Association working with the FSF Huddersfield Town decided three hours before kick-off to drop the price for away fans to £7 to bring it in line with the cost for home fans. Huddersfield subsequently took the decision to refund the difference those fans who had already paid the pre-advertised full price to attend. However, the fact that MK Dons supporters only counted for 87 of the 12,773 crowd in attendance for the game will presumably have made that decision easier to make.
Though the FSF have now been in touch with Leicester City regarding the price of tickets for Doncaster Rovers supporters this coming Saturday the Foxes have as yet shown no inclination they are set for a change of heart. According to feedback from the FSF’s communication with Leicester City the club are convinced that as they are playing by the League’s rules there is no issue here and as Rovers ticket sales are poor (708 out of an allocation of 999 at the time of writing) they feel that cutting the price won’t change much.
Obviously this defence misses the point somewhat in that many Rovers fans have discovered that they are to be charged more than two and half times as much as home fans and have duly chosen not to attend in principle. Over on the Viking Supporters Co-operative messageboard many Rovers fans have declared they will not attend the game in view of the pricing policy, whilst many others claim they have already secured tickets for the home sections of the stadium. The latter of these approaches is of course an inevitable consequence of having such significantly higher prices for away fans.
So, what is the upshot of this? Leicester City will without doubt have an increased home attendance for this game and the added home fans coupled with an effective price-imposed limit on away attendance they are also likely to benefit from a heightened match atmosphere as well. However, they have also increased the likelihood for trouble as should Rovers find the net the sight of many a person in the home end jumping for joy is not likely to sit easy with the natives, as we have experienced ourselves in matches against Leeds United at the Keepmoat Stadium.
It seems that City are unlikely to renege on their decision and offer discount to away supporters, despite the news that Leicester Supporters Group the Foxes Trust have vowed to raise the issue in a meeting with the club today. As such it falls on Rovers fans to make their displeasure known and ensure that Leicester’s failure to offer this ticket incentive to away fans becomes as widely acknowledged as their official media’s hype of their kindly ‘fans fixture’ promotion. A “club-initiated supporter-focused match” is how Leicester City’s website termed this fixture, but their effective discrimination against anyone without an LE postcode certainly challenges the notion of ‘supporter-focused’.