Skip to main content Skip to site footer
Ticket News

TICKETING, TRAVEL AND RETAIL: KEY QUESTIONS FROM OUR SUPPORTERS - AND ALL THE ANSWERS FROM THE CLUB

30 December 2016

The club addresses a number of queries raised by fans.


Over the course of the first half of the season, the club's supporter services team and chief executive Paul Barber, have received numerous questions on a number of recurring themes.

Here, for the benefit of all supporters, we publish our fans' most frequently asked questions – and the answers.


Q. Why for "sell-out" games do we still see empty seats around the stadium?
A. The club's priority is always to sell all available seats in both home - and away areas of the stadium. However, we can't control whether or not people actually use the tickets they've purchased. Unfortunately, every club in the country suffers from "no shows" for a variety of reasons – including the day or time of the game, travel, illness, business or family commitments, to name just a few. "No shows" for all clubs, including the very biggest, can vary from around 5% to, incredibly, 40% at some clubs, depending on a wide range of different circumstances. Our objective will always be to minimise the number of "no shows" but some empty seats at matches are inevitable as individual circumstances can, of course, change right up until kick-off. Interestingly, over the past couple of seasons, we have seen little variation in our "no show" rates, regardless of the day or time our matches are played, with the exception of Tuesday night fixtures.


Q. What can the club do to minimise "no shows" and help supporters who can't get tickets come to games?
A. The club already does more than most clubs to minimise our "no shows". Regardless of a sell-out, we allow season ticket holders to upgrade their tickets – child to adult or senior to adult – up to six times per season. This means that children's tickets, for example, can be used for midweek evening games when the children might not be allowed to attend if they have an early start for school the next day. Many clubs do not offer upgrades and those that do usually limit the number of upgrades to an average of three matches per season.

Q. Shouldn't the number of upgrades (children to adult) be increased to take in to account the number of evening matches and changes to fixtures for live TV?
A. No, we believe the balance is right. Every Championship season will include a number of midweek home games. These are scheduled at the start of the season due to the number of matches required to be played in any given Championship season (46). The majority of the matches we have had moved for live TV purposes have been moved to a Friday or Saturday evening, neither of which are followed by a school day for the vast majority of children.

Q. Why do season-ticket holder guests receiving an upgraded ticket have to pay the difference between the pro-rated season ticket cost and the price a matchday ticket?
A. The season-ticket discount is provided to an individual for their commitment to attending matches across the season. A season-ticket holder's guest hasn't made the same commitment and so isn't entitled to receive that discount.

Q. Yes, but this policy might stop some people from accepting a season-ticket holder's invitation to attend a match – and the guest may have become a lifelong supporter?
A. The club carefully balances its ticket pricing to provide maximum value to season-ticket holders – who commit to attending 23 matches across the season – and occasional ticket purchasers who pay a higher ticket price for the flexibility of not committing to a season ticket and attending matches when it best suits them. The club offers a number of ticket promotions throughout the season to help attract new supporters to the club. With season-ticket numbers at record levels and attendances growing, this strategy has served us well and we do not believe that we are missing opportunities to secure lifelong supporters of the club through this policy!

Q. What about the ticket exchange – could this be used more to reduce "no shows"?
A. The ticket exchange system is activated when the club declares any given match a "sell out" in home areas. Typically, this will be when every seat available to home supporters is sold or when there are a limited number of single tickets available. At this point, season-ticket holders are able to list their tickets for resale online and if they are purchased by another supporter, the season-ticket holder receives a rebate by way of retail vouchers to spend in the club store. For the match against QPR, nearly 200 season-ticket resales took place.

Q. Why can't the ticket exchange be available all of the time?
A. The club's priority is to sell out all seats in the stadium rather than resell those season-tickets it has already sold. Once a supporter lists a ticket for resale online, the process behind any subsequent transaction is largely manual. The club must ensure a season-ticket holder's card is deactivated for one match, a new ticket must be produced for the new purchaser and despatched, a voucher must be generated as a rebate for the season-ticket holder, and the club must then account for the retail voucher issued. As such, it's a labour intensive and costly process for the club.

Q. Why has our ticket exchange system gone backwards - didn't our old ticketing system do things automatically?
A. No, this is a complete myth! Our ticket exchange system has always been a manually administered process once a ticket has been listed for resale. Previously, however, we provided a credit to e-cash cards, a system that wasn't particularly popular with our fans. More automated ticket exchange systems do exist – at considerable software cost to the ticket issuer (in this case, us!), unless there are significant fees applied to the seller and/or purchaser for the individual transactions - or the tickets available for resale are allowed to be sold at a higher than face value price (from which a commission is then paid to the software provider). We prefer a simpler, low cost (to our supporters and us) system – and we believe our fans prefer this too. At the moment, this means we have a manual system – which means we have some limitations – but we are working towards a better ticket exchange system for the 2017/18 season.

Q. Surely it's better to have a full stadium than worry about the cost of processing ticket exchanges?
A. It's always better to have a full stadium! But, like any business, the club must always consider the costs of sale too. Season tickets are discounted to a large extent to (a) reflect the commitment and loyalty of the supporter making the season ticket purchase and (b) to reflect the much lower cost of sale to the club of a single transaction of a season ticket rather than selling the same seat 23 times. To allow ticket exchanges to take place before a match is sold out would likely increase the number of tickets listed for re-sale by fans, potentially significantly increasing the club's costs as each transaction would need to be administered manually, while also making it very difficult, if not impossible, for the club to sell all remaining match by match seats in the stadium as the best seats (typically held by season-ticket holders) will usually sell first – so the stadium probably still wouldn't be full and the club could be faced with much higher costs for a similar sized crowd.

Q. What's the club's policy on fans passing tickets between each other or through unofficial ticket exchanges?
A. Our terms and conditions are clear: season tickets are not transferable. However, the club is aware that, from time to time, season tickets may be used by other family members or close friends. Responsibility for the use of any season ticket always rests with the season-ticket holder – regardless of whether they attend the match. Therefore, unauthorised use of season tickets is extremely risky. Similarly, with regard to unofficial ticket exchanges, it is illegal in this country to sell or pass on (even free of charge) a ticket for a football match to a third party without approval from the issuing club. Anyone passing on a ticket or using an unofficial ticket exchange risks losing their season ticket without refund, a ban from purchasing tickets or attending games, and/or prosecution. A further issue, highlighted by the club earlier this season, has been the abuse of season-ticket reprints. In a large number of cases, fans hadn't lost or mislaid their ticket, the season ticket re-print system was simply being used to pass the ticket on to someone else. As a result, reprints are now only available on a matchday at cost of £5 for a paper ticket replacement (and is limited to a maximum of three per season), while a card replacement is £15.

Q. This seems very harsh when the club wants a full stadium?
A. Our club provides supporters with different ways to maximise the value and use of their season ticket, bearing in mind most clubs strictly apply a policy of non-transferability when it comes to season tickets. The club must ensure that it not only complies with the terms of its safety certificate – which, in turn, determines the ground regulations applied to supporters' use of tickets – but, in the current security climate, must also do everything possible to minimise any possible risk to the safety and security of supporters within our stadium, our staff and the club's property.

Q. Why can't I choose a payment date for my season-ticket Direct Debits?
A. The club provides an interest and fee free Direct Debit service to help supporters spread the cost of their season tickets (some clubs charge fees and/or interest for the same service, while others don't offer such a facility). To keep our costs of providing this service as low as possible, we require all supporters to make their payments on the first of each month.

Q. Why am I charged £10 for a Direct Debit failure?
A. Again, in order to maintain such a service free of charges or interest, it is essential that our costs are kept to a minimum. If Direct Debit payments are missed, the club incurs significant additional costs for chasing missed payments.

Q. What happens if I miss season-ticket Direct Debit payments?
A. All supporters are expected to keep fully up to date with Direct Debit payments. If payments are missed, season tickets are very likely to be blocked, preventing access to the stadium for matches, until any outstanding monies are repaid. Supporters are fully responsible for ensuring all Direct Debit payments are made and for keeping the club informed of any changes to bank details, contact details, or changes to personal circumstances.

Q. Why can't I cancel my season ticket midway through the season?
A. The purchase of a season ticket, either via a lump sum payment or by monthly Direct Debit, is, by definition, a seasonal commitment to the club. Season-ticket income remains an important element of the club's budgeting processes and supporters are expected to honour their contractual commitment and to meet any payments owed to the club. Where payments are missed, the club will use all reasonable means, including legal action where necessary, to recover any outstanding debts. The club will however consider very exceptional personal circumstances for early cancellation of a season ticket without penalty.

Q. How do you determine how many tickets to give to visiting teams?
A. The number of home tickets we can make available for sale – and when – will be determined initially by assessing the demand from our visitors. We can sell between 200 and 4,500 seats in our visitors' section depending on demand and the competition we are playing in. A lot of discussion takes place with the visiting team to determine the likely demand from their fans (this number can be influenced by many factors – including: time of year, day of week, travelling distance, visitors' form and league position, live TV coverage etc) as well as discussions between our ticketing staff, safety and operations teams, and, on occasions, with Sussex Police before we confirm an initial number of away tickets.

Q. Can this number change after the initial allocation has been confirmed?
A. Yes, it can – both ways. If a visiting team have over-estimated likely demand from their fans and we believe we can sell more home tickets, we may well take visiting supporter tickets back. On the other hand, if visiting supporter demand is higher than originally estimated, we can sometimes extend a visitors' section, subject to the order in which we have sold home supporter tickets. This is often why certain section of the South and East stands become available for sale (to home supporters) later than other sections as we are keeping our options to maximise ticket sales open. We are also conscious of controlling our costs and not open areas of the stadium that will likely go unused when there is low demand or simply spread fans thinly across wider areas with all the associated additional stewarding and other staffing costs.

Q. What is the maximum number of visiting tickets we are obliged to provide?
A. We are obliged to provide a minimum of 2,000 tickets for EFL Championship and EFL Cup matches (3,000 for Premier League matches) and up to 15% of the stadium capacity (4,500) for FA Cup matches. Our stadium configuration for visiting supporters is amongst the most flexible in the league, allowing us to use the South Stand and South East corner of the stadium in a variety of ways to maximise home (and away) supporter ticket availability, assuming there is demand. Sometimes, segregation requirements – determined by our safety officer - will limit this flexibility both ways.

Q. If we are only required to provide 2,000 tickets for away fans, why do we sometimes allow more than 3,000 visiting supporters to attend?
A. Our priority is to sell out the stadium. We also want to ensure we can generate the best possible atmosphere. Experience shows that the best atmospheres at the Amex are created when the visiting section is full and we can maximise attendance in the home areas. Sometimes, this will mean providing our visitors with an extra 1,000+ tickets to meet their demand which, in turn, helps to create more demand – and noise! - from home supporters. It's also important to remember that selling out our home stadium generates vital revenue for the club.

Q. Surely a better atmosphere would be generated if the visiting supporters were put in the North East corner of the Amex?
A. We often hear this (from one or two supporters in particular!) but operationally, this simply isn't possible. The stadium wasn't designed to accommodate visiting supporters in this area. What is often forgotten (or ignored!) is that segregation is not only necessary in the stadium bowl but on the concourse and in entrance and exit gate areas too. This means that visiting supporters will always be housed in the South Stand and, if necessary (for example, for high profile cup matches), in to the East Stand lower corner as these areas have concourse areas and gates designed to segregate home and away fans.

Q. What more can the club do to improve the stadium atmosphere?
A. The atmosphere at the Amex has been good this season and is building nicely and organically. We have always been clear that we are opposed to artificially generating atmosphere beyond our pre-match build up. Atmosphere generation is very much down to our fans. We will of course look to support any reasonable and workable ideas to help fans generate more atmosphere but we are not looking at goal celebration music, we will not enhance crowd noise, and the general feeling is that the introduction of musical instruments would not be welcome by the majority of supporters.

Q. So, where are we with safe standing?
A. Our initial consultation with fans is complete. It is best summarised as follows: whilst a majority of Albion fans responding to our surveys and contributing to meetings are positive about safe standing being introduced to one area at the Amex (preferably the North stand), there is not overwhelming demand from fans to actually stand! The majority of fans are happy to remain in their seats but have no problem if a number of fans wish to stand in a designated area – provided it doesn't impede their view. The vast majority of fans also accept ticket prices won't reduce and capacity won't increase.

Q. What happens next?
A. As promised at the meetings, we will now consult our stadium engineers and architects about where we could possibly look to install a limited number of safe standing places – and assess the cost of doing this. We will then consider the likely demand, as evidenced by the initial research we've carried out, against the proposed costs before discussing further with the club's board. Of course, any work beyond that will be determined by any changes to legislation.

Q. This sounds less positive than a couple of months back?
A. The club remains open-minded. However, it's fair to say that the reaction from our supporters to the idea of introducing safe standing was not as enthusiastic as we had expected. Responses to the two surveys were decent but nowhere near as high as expected and, although the majority of respondents were in favour of the concept, a small minority would consider taking up the opportunity to stand. This means that the club does have to consider very carefully whether such a move would be viable.

Q. What more can the club do to help supporters get to and from matches?
A. We are one of the very few clubs in the country that provides any help to supporters getting to and from matches, the only club that has such a comprehensive travel plan, and is the only club that provides any kind of financial subsidy towards supporters' matchday travel. As such, the club does as much it can and, in recent times, has done even more to try and offset the effects of a rail strike that has lasted for more than eight months already. This has come at a significant additional cost to the club.

Q. But I pay the club through my season ticket for travel services, so my contract is with the club: shouldn't you be doing more?
A. Supporters do not have a contract with the club for travel services. And the club does not run any travel services. As part of our planning consent, the club is obliged to agree a travel plan for matchdays – but not to run or pay for any supporter travel services. Since the stadium opened, and for the benefit of supporters, the club has however co-ordinated the services of a number of different travel providers within its matchday travel plan – and in addition to passing on in full the travel subsidy collected from fans, the club provides a significant contribution to the cost of activating the travel plan.

Q. What pressure are you putting on Southern Rail to resolve their dispute?
A. As much as we can – both publicly and privately. We have met a number of senior executives from Southern and our talks have been constructive and helpful. We have also written to Government, to local politicians, and to the RMT calling on them to resolve their differences with Southern for their benefit of all commuters and rail users, not just our supporters. However, the ongoing dispute has massively inconvenienced our fans, not least after the match against Aston Villa, and has now cost the club close to half a million pounds in lost revenues and additional costs.

Q. What are the stadium store's opening hours?
A. The stadium store is open 362 days per year (with up-to-date opening hours available on the club's website). The only days the stadium is closed are Christmas Day, Boxing Day (unless there's a home match) and Easter Sunday. In addition, the club's online store is open 365 days per year, 24 hours a day, with both delivery and collection options available.

Q. Why don't we have a store in the city centre?
A. It isn't viable for us to operate a city centre store. Rents and rates are high, and additional staff would be needed to man the store. The value of incremental sales would need to be very high in order to offset these costs. In addition, our matchday and online sales continue to grow – for both merchandise and ticketing – making a permanent city centre even loess desirable at this time. At Christmas, however, our city centre pop-up store at Churchill Square was very successful and provided people with quick and easy access to our merchandise at a time when footfall and gift purchase is obviously very high.

Q. Why can't I pick up my child's free replica shirt on a matchday?
A. On a matchday our store is geared towards a high volume of transactions in a relatively short period of time. As such, we minimise all other transactions on a matchday to avoid any unnecessary delays for supporters looking to purchase items on our busiest sales day of the week.

Q. Why can't I exchange items on a matchday?
A. On a matchday our store is geared towards a high volume of transactions in a relatively short period of time. As such, we minimise all other transactions on a matchday to avoid any unnecessary delays for supporters looking to purchase items on our busiest sales day of the week.

Q. Why can't I substitute my child's free replica shirt voucher for something else where they already have a shirt?
A. We are the only club in the country that provides a free replica shirt for children (subject to terms and conditions). This is a specific marketing initiative designed to encourage a new generation of supporters for the Albion. This is an expensive exercise and to keep costs as low as possible, we bulk purchase replica shirts based on Young Seagulls membership numbers. As such, we do not have the flexibility to substitute the voucher for other items of club merchandise.

Q. Why is the club so inflexible when it comes to using gift vouchers or free replica shirt vouchers after the expiry date?
A. As with most retailers, our gift vouchers have an expiry date. Plenty of time is given for fans to use the vouchers but the expiry date is fixed. The use of vouchers for free replica shirts for children is subject to a number of terms and conditions, of which an expiry date for use is one.

Q. Why won't the club accept gift vouchers as payment for away match tickets?
A. Revenue collected from the sale of tickets to away matches is passed on to the away club. As such, our gift vouchers are not acceptable as payment.

Q. Why do you ask that my child is registered with you as a Young Seagulls member a month before their seventh birthday in order to claim a free replica shirt?
A. As previously mentioned, we order our replica shirt stock in advance based on membership numbers. We also require some confirmation when giving out such a high value item free of charge that the young supporter concerned is a genuine Young Seagull (sadly, some individuals have attempted to abuse the club's gesture to attract new young supporters). Please also note that from the 2017/18 season onwards, we will require junior members to have been a Young Seagull member during the previous season in order to qualify for a free replica shirt.

Advertisement block