Zoom has become an oft-used tool for Brighton & Hove Albion since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The club used it for regular press conferences, staff briefings and fans’ forums throughout lockdown, and last night it was put to good use again, with all 23,000 season-ticket holders invited to join a question-and-answer session on the possible return of fans.
More than 1,000 households registered for the event, and during a 90-minute plus stoppage time session the club’s chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber, head of ticketing and supporter services Jenny Gower, and supporter liaison officer Sarah Gould listened to questions from fans and provided some insight to the work that has been going on at the club for the past few weeks.
Barber is on a six-club Premier League working party which is supporting the league’s efforts with government to help devise the process for clubs at all levels of the game to begin to bring fans back into stadiums over the coming weeks and months.
At last night’s event he revealed that the club has offered to stage a test event which, subject to Government approval, could take place at the Amex as soon as Saturday week, albeit at a significantly reduced capacity, with the Albion and other clubs potentially working towards returning to higher capacities, and ultimately to full capacities, at the earliest and safest opportunity.
So how would things work for Albion fans if the Amex capacity is initially restricted? Firstly, with approximately 20,000 season-ticket holders and 3,000 1901 Club members, tickets are likely to be restricted to those groups for now, and distributed via a ballot process.
Loyalty points, seat position, and other season-ticket benefits would be frozen for the foreseeable future, at least until the stadium is able to welcome back all home supporters. So fans loyalty points will not be affected if they missed out in ballots, or couldn’t attend for medical reasons.
The club will provide a full opt out to any season-ticket holder who is deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable, as per the guidelines issued by the government.
For those paying by the monthly payment scheme, season-ticket payments would be halted after six months. Those payments would be converted into a credit balance, and that balanced used to pay for match tickets (charged at 1/19th of the season-ticket prices) and any remaining balance used as a deposit towards next season’s season-ticket; or refunded at that point if the holder doesn’t renew.
Fans will automatically be entered into EVERY match ballot, and each match will be subject to a fresh ballot (eg – if you are successful in one, you are NOT ruled out of the next). However, there are two key considerations for all season-ticket holders and 1901 Club members.
Firstly, there is an opt-out and fans can choose to sit out up to six ballots (two per match category) across the season.
Secondly, you need to let us know if you wish to attend in a group. If you choose to attend in a group this will not diminish or improve your chances of success.
However it is important to note, that you can only join one group for the season, although members of the group can still opt out of individual games.
Groups will be capped at a maximum of five people. If you do not enter the group ballot you will be assumed to be happy to attend matches on your own.
Those general admission season-ticket holders successful in the ballot will then be able to select a seat in their price band or below, from those available. Those who do not select seats will automatically be issued with a ticket by the club; please note, groups may also be split at this point depending on availability.
Fans who are successful in the ballot, will also have the option of listing on the season-ticket exchange, should their circumstances change, with funds returned to credit card or bank account, and not to credit balance if their ticket sells.
Crucially, this will also provide a second chance to those who miss out in the ballot process.
With demand for tickets expected to be high, and to climb higher still as confidence grows and our country returns to a more familiar look and feel, we expect brisk business via the ticket exchange which would operate on a first-come, first-served basis, with season-ticket holders and 1901 Club members given an initial priority, but closer to matches, and subject to availability, tickets will be made available to MyAlbion+ members.
Supporters were advised that in line with track and trace the named ticket holder must be attending games and that photo ID will need to be shown on entry.
Disabled season-ticket holders will be automatically included in the random ballot, including both wheelchair users and ambulant disabled. Wheelchair positions and easy-access seats will only be visible and available to those registered with the club as having access needs.
Finally, the question of loyalty points. Some fans have already suggested this as a mechanism to prioritise.
However, the main reason the scheme was introduced was for away matches – and while we did consider providing some additional access for the highest loyalty point holders, the club concluded it was unfair for home league games.
Loyalty points will be used for home cup matches for general admission season-ticket holders (further details will be shared with 1901 Club members on cup match ticket allocation in due course).
Should the Government permit access to away match tickets, we will also use the loyalty scheme, but the overwhelming view was that all season-ticket holders should be treated equally for all home Premier League games to ensure the fastest possible ballot.
As explained last night, rules, regulations and guidelines are changing frequently so these details may be amended, possibly at short notice, and we may have to adapt our proposed approach, or further points may be added.
We are constantly working on the plans, liaising with the government, the DCMS, Premier League and Sports Grounds Safety Authority – so we will endeavour to keep fans informed throughout this process.