Following on with our discussion about season tickets with chief executive Nigel Clibbens, we asked him about the growing number of fans who have stated that they are happy to pay for a 23-match season ticket now, even with the detail of the 2020/21 season still to be resolved.
INTERVIEW: We’re not going start selling until I’m certain that we can provide our part of the bargain7 July 2020
“I’m personally uncomfortable with that,” he insisted. “The reason being is that I’m not sure what we can fulfil out of that 23-game commitment, and I don’t want to be taking other people’s cash, having it sat in the club’s bank account, and it potentially then getting spent, only for somebody to come forward and tell us that we haven’t fulfilled our side of it so they want their money back, and we find that we aren’t in a position to do it.
“That’s a road we don’t want to go down. We’re not in a position where we need to think about doing it, as some other clubs might be, so we’re not going to do it.
“The support we’ve had from the fans in terms of waiving last season’s refund, and then asking us to get next season’s on sale because they want to help the club, is really humbling and generous. It’s tight out there for a lot of people with the current situation, so for them to be willing to give some of their money to us, effectively for us to sit on without being able to tell them when they’ll next be back at Brunton Park to watch football … it’s just fantastic and really generous.
“On the last call we had with the EFL there were clubs saying the same as we were, that they weren’t putting them on sale until more is known, and there were other clubs who were talking about the fact they were going to have to revisit what they’d already done, and possibly even backtrack.
“This isn’t easy, there isn’t one solution for every club, but we want to do right by our fans and that means they’re better off having their own money with them than putting it into our bank account at this moment in time.”
Pre-lockdown the club, along with input from supporters, were beginning to look at introducing different categories for the 2020/21 season, with new groups and age ranges set to be targeted. So will those changes still be implemented going forward?
“I think we’re going to have to try to keep it really simple,” he said. “Another example of what’s been talked about is that if fans are allowed back into games, and there’s no need to socially distance within family groups, then does that mean you don’t need to socially distance inside the confines of a stadium?
“The impact of that is do we plan for one person with a two metre gap, or one metre plus one as it is now, or could a family of four, five or six sit together and then have the gap to the next group or individual? That affects how we sell tickets, how many we can sell, and it means we can’t even say which seat would be available. Again, just to repeat, that’s why I feel it isn’t right to start selling season tickets in a situation like this.
“We’ll be better served keeping it simple, and another added complication is iFollow. I think it’s clear at the moment to say that we aren’t going to start a new season with unrestricted fans in the stadium. There are going to be some restrictions in place and limits on people coming in.
“As a consequence of that, iFollow will be available for those we can’t get into the game. You’re then into how much do you charge for iFollow? Do you make it available game by game, in monthly blocks, in quarters, for the first half season up to Christmas, if you think that’s how long fans might not be allowed in, and then what do you price it at?
“I’ve seen other discussions which suggest that people buy a season ticket and, if there’s no games they can go to, just put it on iFollow as compensation and give them a free pass to watch it. But if you’re paying an average of £15 or £20 for a season ticket seat per game, and someone can buy iFollow for a tenner, then how does that work?
“How will season ticket holders feel about that? A lot of people might find themselves paying for games they never actually see, or can only watch on their device or laptop.
“Clubs have given feedback on iFollow, and it’s likely to be set at the same price for every club in each division but, right now, it’s just something else we don’t know the finer details of.”
With Brunton Park boasting three large terraced areas, we asked if that could become a factor when taking social distancing into account for fans attending our games.
“They’re all factors in the mix, and there’s already a specific limit on the number of fans you can have per metre square of area, and that determines, in part, your capacity levels anyway,” he commented. “We all know that we’ve got a big standing capacity, so if someone was to say to us that we needed to implement social distancing in Brunton Park, we could draw some squares on the floor and have people properly distanced with a good number of fans in the ground.
“So, yes, that would be a really big advantage to us. Similarly we can start to look at how we’ll use seats but, as I keep saying, we don’t yet know what the rules are so we can’t get the paint pot out just yet.
“Something else I’ve repeated is that there is no point in making too many firm plans because things change so quickly, and this is another area where that could very well be the case.”
In part three of our interview, on the official website on Wednesday afternoon, we’ll be talking about the rumoured start dates for the 20/21 season.
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