Mostar, McGinn, and Magic. Jubilant reactions and one post-celebration headache later — and even another game later, after the draw with Wolves — and I’m still having to weigh up my thoughts with how they’ve massacred my boy.
The Holte End has had the worst kind of facelift. In fact, it’s a little bit of a Chelsea smile.
Existing concourses are cramped, and options have been removed for ‘normal’ season ticket holders. They are dusty and incomplete. The Terrace View hospitality bolt-on blocks out a large section of the existing concourse, making navigation akin to the paper door game from Takeshi’s Castle.
The people in the Terrace View have their own bubble and own experience. I won’t knock that, because it’s seemingly a bit of a poisoned chalice. The Terrace View season ticket holders have a number of differences from ‘normal season ticket holders’. Bad ones. If you shelled out for a Terrace View season ticket to skip the waiting list, you quickly found out that you don’t have the same priority as ‘normal’ season ticket holders on tickets, they aren’t even classed as season ticket in away ticketing criteria. What’s more, you can’t really renew anywhere else in the ground, so all you get is a fancier concourse and your seat. It’s a Disneyland FastPass you can never let go of.
What’s bizarre is the price point gap between Terrace View and the latest offering. The Lower Grounds bolt-on offers an all-you-can-eat food and drink passage in a canteen environment. The Terrace View simply allows you to pay money so you can spend money in slightly fancier environs.
For regular season ticket holders, like myself, it’s £45 per game to enjoy a better concourse ‘experience’ or £60 to forgo that and have a buffet. With a regular match ticket, it’s £114. There’s around a £15-per-game difference between a fancy concourse and a food package. I’d rather the latter. If Villa can’t shift match tickets tied into TV or LG, that means blocks of empty seats, as witnessed against Brighton & Hove Albion.
It’s all a bit bizarre, and even though I understand the rationale, I can’t get down with putting physical blocks between fans in a kop stand. It’s meant to be the heart and soul of the stadium; now, bits of it have been cut out for an extremely pricey experience that isn’t all that it is made out to be — and, even when you buy in, seems to have been undercut by a better offering in the same bloody stand.
In a sprawling behemoth of a kop end, fans can’t mingle, they can’t bump into people they’ve not seen in a while. If your mate has a Terrace View season ticket, you’d best have one as well. This doesn’t help the atmosphere and it doesn’t aid any sense of camaraderie between supporters.
It has pissed off existing fans who pleaded for better facilities at the price point they were paying (which rose over the summer), and it has made targets of people who enjoy the Terrace View.
The situation, to put it bluntly, sucks.
You know what I’m sick of, though, really? Being patronised by other fans. Being told you don’t understand ‘business’, that you’re ungrateful, that you should remember what it was like under Xia, or Lerner (well, if you’re talking about matchday and not matches, the same — perhaps poorer). Being told I’m moaning. Football is weird like that: at the same time you’re told that it is just a business, you’re also being condemned for criticising the products.
As far as I’m aware, I’m a paying season ticket holder, and I have been for a number of years. I’ve been to plenty of away games, a good number of cup ties, and have paid for enough concessions to last a lifetime. It wasn’t free for me to go under Ellis, Lerner, Xia, or now under NSWE, and rightfully so it will never be free for me to go. Something which I am fine with, funnily enough.
I’ll pay. I love being part of the community. I’ll sacrifice finances because of that because it’s a labour of love. Holte Enders shouldn’t have to put up with the current offering, though. Things need to change.
And our criticism shouldn’t be branded as ‘negativity’. Are we not capable of holding competing thoughts in our heads? Have we lost sight of how important the fan experience is, to the point that any attempts to communicate legitimate complaints are named as ‘negative’?
If so, that’s sad. Communication is key, and it is productive to provide feedback. It’s not negative at all. On that note, the recent Fan Advisory Board notes dropped, and with some added annotations made to the one-way conversation by My Old Man Said who attended the meetings. There are some things in there — namely the comparison to Newcastle that needed correcting — that had me shaking my head.
So nobody is moaning. Nobody is freeloading. I remain ‘grateful’, but I am not going to deify executives above players and coaches, especially when it’s the off-pitch things that are lacking right now.
There are loads of positives about being an Aston Villa fan, and it is in these times that we should keep the club honest. It’ll only take a bump in form to really fan the flames of true negativity, and nobody wants to endure that again. Not the club, not the players, not you, and certainly not me.
Read more from James Rushton on Villa via the excellent House of V newsletter.