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Ticket Policies and Challenges
For me, and I'm sure for all of us, there are few better sights in football than Goodison Park packed to the rafters, and that's why, every day, the focus of so many people at the Club is to ensure every game is as close to a sell-out as possible.
But, while selling the tickets for home games is top of our list, the selling process for away matches generates a significant workload, and often a few headaches, for our Fan Centre team. Specifically, our games at Scunthorpe United and Chelsea have presented us with difficult challenges.
As you may know, all visiting clubs are entitled to receive an allocation of tickets for their supporters for Premier League games. Under the current Premier League guidelines, clubs are required to offer a minimum of 3,000 tickets or, if the stadium is less than 30,000, ten per cent of capacity to the visiting supporters. As fans will have seen, certain clubs, those with spare capacity, often offer us more, constrained only by local safety factors.
When Everton go on the road, whether it's West Ham or Sunderland, we always enjoy great support - one of the best travelling supporter groups in the League. Our priority is always to secure the allocation we need. Our problem is that certain clubs only offer full allocations - the 3,000, if we commit to buying all of those tickets. They can segregate their stadia to accommodate guaranteed home sales and don't wish to take the risk of unsold seats, a risk they pass on to us. We have to decide whether we are certain we'll sell 3,000. If we fall short, we fund the balance, a balance that could be tens of thousands of pounds.
How do we decide whether we can sell the 3,000? There are a number of factors for us to consider; from the opposition, to kick-off times, to previous years' records. We've tracked away sales for a number of seasons and feel confident we can anticipate demand. Taking into account all of this, we make our decision.
This challenge is illustrated by our visits to Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. On both occasions, we had the option to take the full allocation of 3,000 by committing to the full purchase. Our estimate of demand, based on past records, was a need for between 2,000 and 2,500 tickets (of course, we take account of previous restrictions in capacity when we make our assessments) and in these circumstances, we could be face with a bill of up to £50,000.
Almost as frustrating for us as it is for you, for Chelsea, on Saturday, we're about 200 to 300 tickets short. It gives us no pleasure at all to see loyal fans missing out but when we're stuck with inflexibility on the part of the host club, it's something we have to occasionally face up to.
Cup football presents us with a slightly different challenge . When we sell the tickets for the away Premier League games we allocate to the supporters who have attended the most away games and spread the sales periods to ensure we can provide the best levels of customer service and spare supporters the frustration of lengthy queues and waiting times.
We do, however, adopt a slightly different approach for the cup competitions and for three seasons now have been operating an AutoCup scheme for each of the two domestic cup competitions, home and away, and for European home games when we qualify. For away ties in the domestic cup competitions, season ticket holders who are signed up to ‘AutoCup' are given priority.
The scheme - its conditions and benefits, is communicated each year during the season ticket sales period, though it has been apparent from recent feedback that there are fans unaware of why they should join. We'll commit to ensuring the information is communicated better in the future. ‘AutoCup' allows us say to all season ticket holders, if you know you definitely want to go to all our away cup matches, accepting any opposition and price, you can sign up and gain priority on your ticket. For us, that's quite a commitment and show of loyalty, and it's one a great number of supporters have been happy to make.
We know not all of those who regularly travel to away Premier League games want to go to all the Cup games. All supporters relish our annual trips to Old Trafford, The Emirates and The Stadium of Light, some, however, would rather take a weekend off when trips to Glanford Park and Moss Rose come around. I can understand both ways of thinking, and this scheme gives season ticket holders that choice.
The benefits to the supporters who sign up is that they get that peace of mind and avoid the inevitable scramble when a big draw comes around. Even then, it's not guaranteed. As Scunthorpe United will show, when we don't have enough to go round, purchase history will be required alongside AutoCup to ensure fans get a ticket. And that's the perennial problem we face - we have such a tremendous travelling support, that when we get drawn against teams with a small stadium we inevitably have to prepare to manage disappointment. Not something we enjoy, and as I said pre-Wembley 2009, totally at odds with all our hard work trying to sell tickets. It always feels uncomfortable saying ‘no'.
In all cases, please be assured, we will always try and negotiate as big an allocation as possible and we will always try and prioritise loyal support. Please also be assured that we listen and learn. If something doesn't work for our fans, we will fix it. Most of all, I know our team is working hard to provide a service of which the supporters of this football club can be proud.
Having had one eye on Zurich, and the World Cup bid this morning, I'd like to how proud we all are to see Steve Johnson feature in England's bid submission. In a very exclusive list of commentators, Steve did his bit to show how football, in England, is socially responsible and extends into all communities. Steve is a hugely respected member of Everton in the Community and, for the past seven years, has helped developed disability football in Liverpool. With 125 caps for England, he's not a bad player either!
Incredibly, in my opinion, and very sadly, it hasn't helped us win the big prize. Hugely disappointing and a decision that's very hard to understand.
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