Pre-season is in full swing and in just under two short weeks, Aston Villa face Hull City in our Championship opener at the KCOM Stadium.
This past week, in preparation for the game, the club released the first batch of tickets for the travelling Villa supporters. The first group of fans eligible are those who are part of the new away season ticket scheme. This scheme is the revamped loyalty scheme devised by the ticket department at the club.
Upon its’ release, it proved to be controversial and there was a social media kick back from the fans. Their reasons were varied but there were many common themes throughout.
The main one was that there was a low entry requirement. Any person with a home season ticket was eligible to purchase an away season ticket regardless of how many away games they had been to the season before. This varied from the previous scheme where, to be eligible, someone had to go to a number of away games in the previous season.
As a result of this new, lower threshold it fails to reward the loyalty of the fans who followed the team across the country last season. The only benefit they get is that it only cost them £25 to renew their membership in the scheme and not the £40 it cost the new members. A nice sentiment, however, £15 won’t go very far in a league where away tickets are often over £20.
There is a further problem with this scheme and it again stems from the low threshold to enter it. Previously, people didn’t need to enter the away scheme because they had a sufficient booking reference which would guarantee them a ticket. Now, people who have entered the scheme who previously had an insufficient booking reference will jump up in the priority rankings. This has forced many people who have gone to lots of away games to enter the schemes as new members and pay the £40 fee.
When the criteria for the Hull away game is further examined, there are more frustrations for loyal fans. After the away season ticket holders and those who went to 15+ away games last season, the next people in the priority list is home season ticket holders. The issue with this is that this fails to reward the loyalty of people who went to 1-14 away games last season. They are given the same priority as those who did zero. Last season the club provided gradual priority, for example, for those who had been to 15 then 12 then 9 then 6 then 3 away games. This was a fairer system as it rewarded away loyalty.
A stat came out this week that 89% of fans had renewed their season tickets for the upcoming season. This is the highest number since 2003/04 and means that over 20,000 fans have season tickets for the 2018/19 season. With loyalty like this the club must do all they can to reward it. Hopefully as the season unfolds, the teething problems for the new scheme will be smoothed out and the away support will be given something to cheer about on and off the pitch.