After an initial call from the Club for ideas at the January meeting of FAN, to which the members responded, the Supporters Club & Trust was hugely disappointed by the absence of a second stage of consultation before season card prices for 2018/19 were announced on the Club’s website.
An unprecedented reaction from fans followed, leading to the SC&T and FAN calling a joint meeting at which Club representatives had the chance to explain the rationale behind their plans and to listen at first hand to fans deeply affected.
While the outcome of that meeting left many fans still baffled and angry, we are pleased to have gained at least some limited concessions both in the immediate aftermath of the initial pricing announcement and in the Club’s statement on 15th March. Namely:
• Reinstatement of U12 and U19 price categories initially removed from certain areas (albeit significantly increased)
• An extension of the payment deadline from 19th March to initially 26th March and now the 29th
• A spreading of the price increase for disabled fans over 3 years
Despite these limited concessions, we remain dismayed by the continued lack of empathy being shown by the Club, including in yesterday’s statement, for fans on tight budgets and for fans in groups, many long-standing, who may be forced to move from their traditional area by the season card pricing structure in a process that can be perceived as social engineering.
Issues not addressed
Many of the issues for fans that have arisen from the Club’s plans could have been addressed and avoided through a second stage of advance consultation. Many of these, however, are still not addressed even in the latest statement. For example:
• For many fans the increases are well over inflation
• Fans are still being forced to move from their traditional area by disproportionate increases for U12s and U19s
Going forward, we call for a commitment from the Club:
• To hold no fewer than three rounds of consultation with supporters during the period of setting season card prices each year.
• To agree, now that the ‘incorrect’ prices of recent years have been ‘corrected’, to cap increases for the next five years, e.g. to no more than the rate of inflation.
A helping hand
While we recognise that our ability to influence pricing matters is very limited if the Club refuses to engage in proper dialogue, the Supporters Club & Trust will not stand idly by as fellow fans find themselves priced out by large, unexpected increases that they had no chance to budget for. The SC&T doesn’t have the funds to help every fan affected in this way, but it can help the fans of the future. The Club & Trust is therefore looking to launch the following schemes:
• ‘Fans Funding Fans of the Future’: we will fund the season card price increase for any U12 fan in the Dolman or Lower Lansdown if the parent/guardian feels unable to do so*
• A season card purchase scheme for blocks of seats in prime areas, which we will make available to U12 fans and their parents/guardians for a variety of purposes**
Full details of these schemes will be announced shortly and the SC&T calls on the Club to work with us to ensure that they can be administered smoothly.
We fully understand and share the continuing deep dissatisfaction with the current price increases still felt by many supporters and recognise that many fans are being placed in a serious financial predicament. In these circumstances, we fully back the right of every supporter to protest in a peaceful, lawful manner at Ashton Gate on Saturday.
We hope that after this regrettable period of confrontation, the Club and fans can go forward in a new spirit of co-operation and common purpose to achieve our common aims and objectives.
* The ‘Fans Funding Fans of the Future’ scheme is set to launch with an initial pot of £2,500. Details of how claims can be made and of how you can help the SC&T by contributing to the pot if you wish will be released shortly.
** The implementation of both schemes may require logistical assistance from Bristol Sport, which we very much hope the staff there will be happy to provide.