Nigel Kahn’s Column
When asked, as generally, I am, to give one good thing about the move to Stratford, in my opinion, I can only point to the fact that more fans than before now can attend. I’ll hold my hands up as well as before the move I never believed West Ham would get 54,000 fans in the ground let alone 60,000.
Of course, the truth is we don’t get that many in the ground all at the same time but the club have sold that many tickets if people choose not to attend there’s not a lot the club can do about that.
That increase in fan base attendance though has created a problem elsewhere, away tickets.
Back in the good old days of Upton Park, West Ham had generally averaged 34,000 fans of which around 21,000 were season ticket holders. Away tickets were not as hard to come by, generally. The allocation sold out, but many a game would get to general sale, aside from the London derbies. To get to the FA cup semi-final in 2006 you needed only just 1 away ticket point to get hold of one of the 19,000 tickets West Ham were allocated. Then, for the final, every fan that bought a ticket to the semi was able to get a ticket for the final in Cardiff.
Fast forward 13 years and with the club increasing season ticket holders from the average around 21,000 up to the max of 26,000 at the Boleyn to the current tally of 57,000 at the OS. that rise in fan base naturally brings with it a demand for away tickets. Another factor as well is that away tickets are capped at £30 where before the cap was brought in you could pay up to £55 for Arsenal away.
The club’s system has been criticised by some as not being fair in the way they distribute away tickets, especially recently with the introduction of the 10% ballot. Every away game you attend, you are given 1 point. The club now also award points for attending home cup games. This is done to try to increase the attendance for generally unattractive home games in the early rounds of the cups.
It seems now, though, that getting an away ticket (from the club) is a closed shop, with fans that have managed to build up their points to a level possibly buying for games they know they can’t attend. They do this to accumulate the point knowing they can easily sell the ticket on. With many fans feeling locked out, most are either new or fans coming back to attending. Add into that the fact the large and growing international support that book trips over in the hope of attending as many games as possible while in the country for their visit, many are calling on the club to do something to distribute the tickets more fairly.
But what is fair? After all, in life, as one group of fans gain access so does another group possibly lose access.
The club currently has 700 away season tickets, then the 800 bondholders have first dibs on buying, a percentage is put aside for corporate fans as well before the point holders get a chance, With 10% put aside for the ballot, that leaves generally around 50% of the seats available to the point holders. Academy members have no chance let alone general sale buyers.
What is the answer? What do you think is the fairest way to distribute away tickets? Please tell me in the comments section.
On the 2nd of October, I have been invited to attend the ticketing subgroup of the OSAB, and I want to know what as many West Ham fans as possible think on this, and I will do my best to put that to the clubs representatives at the meeting. I’m not a member of the OSAB so I’m not constrained by it or the club.
One thing I will say, WHUISA and Hammers United are the two Independent fan groups looking to represent fans as a whole in dealings with the club. As a result of their insistence of talking to the club their way and not the club’s way, they won’t have anyone at the meeting to put across their members thoughts to the ticketing department. In my opinion, that is a mistake. Fan representation should be about getting your members’ voices heard by the club, by whatever means is open to you. I won’t darken WHUISAs doorstep ever again while the current charlatans are in charge, they are not interested in representing members, just themselves and their opinions.
The OSAB is not great but at the moment it is the only way to walk in the door, so I will do that. I will give my take on ticketing and more important use what I read below to put to the club as well.
I will naturally report back next week on the meeting outcome, unedited by the club that’s for sure.