The “local promotions” rule will be familiar to many away fans of Football League clubs who feel their loyalty is often exploited. On four occasions per season clubs are allowed to charge away fans more than home fans and this week it’s the turn of Hereford United fans to lose out.
The Bulls visited Bradford City yesterday and travelling supporters were charged £20 to enter Valley Parade (aka the Coral Windows Stadium since 2007). But home fans buying match-tickets before noon on Saturday only had to pay £1 thanks to the Bantams’ use of the local promotions rule.
“Our fans think it’s a bit harsh,” said Graham Goodwin of Bulls News. A number of Hereford fans contacted the FSF to complain. “It’s a big stadium, we’ll be outnumbered, and we’re not doing too well anyway. But it really does rub salt in the wound – it’s the principle of the matter. I have been told by one or two that they’ll sneak in the home end too.”
It’s important to point out that this isn’t a direct criticism of Bradford City’s fan base in any way, shape, or form. Home fans have every right to take up the offer and this time next month it might be travelling Bantams’ fans who lose out when a local promotion is offered to the home side.
Away fans lose out
The irony is that, in principle, the local promotion rule is a sound idea. It can pull in new, young, or wavering fans to fill otherwise empty seats. Those supporters spend money on catering and club merchandise. They might even splash out on a season ticket next year and become lifelong match-goers, who knows? The problem is in the implementation.
Travelling supporters spend more on their teams than anyone and much of this goes to the home club - think of all those extra pies and pints sold. Away fans also bring enormous benefits which are far harder to quantify. They add to the atmosphere immeasurably and encourage home fans to up their game when it comes to vocal support of their team.
Without the most loyal fans following their teams nationwide, week in, week out, the popularity of football as a spectator sport would decline. And what thanks do they sometimes get for this effort and commitment? More expensive tickets.
Local promotion rules also encourage away fans to save money - £19 in the case of Hereford fans - by purchasing tickets for the home end. While we certainly don’t think fans are incapable of mixing in the right environment without segregation, there are obvious policing and stewarding implications during a game.
To ask for equal treatment when it comes to local promotions isn’t an unrealistic dream either – on Valentine’s Day Aldershot Town passed on their saving to travelling Bulls fans. Last season Watford offered their deal to Barnsley’s away support while Doncaster Rovers have passed on these deals too. Huddersfield Town also reimbursed MK Dons fans after concluding the rule was unfair. Credit to those clubs and let’s hope others follow their examples.
What can you do?
The Football Supporters’ Federation has outlined its position on local promotions to the Football League but they say their rules can only change if member clubs act. We will raise this with them again and draw the issue to the Independent Football Ombudsman’s attention on the grounds that the deals are discriminatory.
However, individual fans and supporters’ organisations also have a role to play. Clubs will only act en masse if they know supporters feel cheap deals should be passed on to all fans. If you know your club is planning a local promotion contact them, forward this link, and make the case that away fans should benefit too. Your club might even offer the local promotion to away fans on a reciprocal basis and you could feel the benefit next time you travel to that club’s ground.
- HOME FANS: If your club runs a local promotion and refuses to pass the deal on to away fans write to them, inform them of your experiences, and explain that you believe they should pass on any special offers to away fans.
- AWAY FANS: Write to the offending club pointing out how unfair you feel this is and ask how many times they’ve run local promotions this season. Any more than four and they’ve broken Football League rule 31.2.11 (unless the offer is passed on to away fans). Contact your club too arguing the unjustness and ask that they do not treat visiting fans in this way.
- ALL FANS: Email the Football League via firstname.lastname@example.org when you spot one of these deals not being passed on to away fans and link to this article. Explain just why you think Football League rule 31.2.11 is unfair and should be amended to incorporate football’s most loyal and important supporter – the away fan.