Tottenham Hotspur have just sold out 18,500 new season tickets to members on the waiting list. But with 40,000 season ticket-holders in total, how will the club decide who gets to high demand games like cup semis and finals?
We look at the problem the club faces and propose an approach that would resolve it by combining the currently separate loyalty systems for the club’s ‘members’ and season ticket holders.
You wait 10 years for a season ticket then 18,500 turn up at once
Some members have waited over a decade to get a season ticket. Tottenham’s move to Wembley for the 17/18 season, and their subsequent move to a new 61,559 seater stadium, have enabled the club to release the extra season tickets. To get one ‘bronze’ members joined the list and paid an extra £15 per year more than other Spurs members.
During the last few weeks, the club have made season tickets available to tranches on the waiting list – starting with those at the very top; moving on to everyone up to 25,000; then for those up to 40,000; then 55,000 and beyond. In end-year reporting, the club announced that the waiting list had grown to 62,300. It’s striking that only around 1 in 3 took up the opportunity and while some have waited over ten years, others have waited less than two.
The process of giving out season tickets has been rushed. Fans waited years but then had to decide on a £1k per year commitment in literally a matter of days. A key issue for the club now is how it treats its season ticket holders and members.
Who will go to be able to go cup finals?
Loyalty points are key for the big games. For many away games there are only 3,000 tickets – even season ticket holders need several hundred loyalty points and they are also used to allocate members tickets for cup semis or finals.
A Tottenham season ticket will no longer guarantee a ticket to a Cup Final, nor even for the 33,000 semi-final tickets. A major challenge that now faces Tottenham and its new season ticket holders is how to decide who gets tickets for high-demand games like cups, or games away from home.
The default position may be that new season ticket holders are bottom of the list (see chart below). That may be fair (though some have been to more games than season ticket holders), but then who should get priority within new season ticket holders with the same (very low) number of loyalty points?
The club has already caused controversy on its approach to season tickets. In 2012, with no consultation, it introduced a 5 year cut-off for loyalty points so that season ticket holders who attended games 25, 15, or 6 years ago saw no recognition in their loyalty points. So, further wholesale changes seem unlikely.
What are the options?
The default position is that new season ticket holders start again with no loyalty points – so, 18,500 new season ticket holders, some who have been to a hundred games in the last five years, and some who have only been to a handful, will be equalised. The club appear to be suggesting ballots to allocate tickets. This is clearly unfair.
Carrying forward members’ loyalty points would also be unfair – as a currency, these are more liberally awarded, and less valuable than season ticket loyalty points. It would be ridiculous for a new season ticket holder who has been to half of games to jump ahead of one that has been to all of them.
Another option is to ‘freeze’ new season ticket holders existing (member) loyalty points, and use these to prioritise until the season ticket points are more differentiated. A similar option is to use new season ticket holders (last) position on the waiting list (which would represent how long they had waited). Both of these have the feature of being immediately available and the Supporters’ Trust have supported a weighted version.
Our proposed option is to create a single loyalty point system by boosting season ticket holder loyalty points. To achieve this, season ticket holders should be awarded the loyalty points they would have received for attending games as members. This could be done based on the games they actually attended (which corrects for when season ticket holders sold their ticket) – or it could be a simpler per-year award. Based on the mix of games, this would boost season ticket-holders’ loyalty points by some 60 points for each year they held the ticket. If all season ticket holders got 300 extra points (a few wouldn’t as they’ve had one for less than 5 years), and if we assume the new season ticket holders have the same distribution of loyalty points as all members, the resulting distribution would look as follows:
There is some overlap for the small proportion of members (1.5%) that have been to more games than season ticket holders (ie earned over 300 loyalty points) but otherwise, existing season ticket holders have a clear advantage.
The way forward
Overall then, this proposal would:
– solve the problem of how to assess the loyalty of new season ticket holders fairly
– treat season ticket holders and members consistently;
– reward the most loyal supporters; and
– create in incentives to attend less popular games.
With only one month to go till the new season, and no word from the club on its plans, it seems unlikely there will be any consultation on the approach. The Supporters Trust have rightly criticized the club for mis-information, a lack of transparency and no consultation on dramatic changes to both season ticket holders and members.
This proposal would require some effort on the part of the club to go back and calculate loyalty points – but the benefits would be a single clear system of loyalty points that avoids further major reforms.
Ian Mitchell – Director of Football Economics (and, full disclosure, Spurs ‘bronze’ member)
With excellent advice from Paul Lewis (Spurs season ticket holder of 19 years with a son on the waiting list for the last 5 years)