Fans Forum gets off to positive start

Liverpool are to look into ways of allowing young people to sit together at Anfield on matchdays at the request of the club’s new ticket availability forum.

The inaugural meeting of the forum took place on Saturday with a wide range of issues being discussed relating to three main agenda topics – the Members sale, away tickets and young supporters.

Attended by eight forum members, either in person or via conference call, and six representatives from the club, including chief executive Peter Moore, the meeting lasted for two hours and took place ahead of Liverpool’s home game against Southampton.

The discussion about young supporters was preceded by a presentation by Paul Milne, Liverpool’s safeguarding and assurance manager, who outlined the challenges faced by all Premier League clubs when it comes to safeguarding children and explained why Liverpool do not allow unaccompanied children under the age of 16 to attend games.

Within that context, forum members contended that while safeguarding has to be a priority the club needs to be more imaginative and creative when it comes to allowing children and young people to sit together at Anfield in the belief that such an improve could have a positive effect on the atmosphere.

Two predominant ideas emerged from the ensuing discussion. The first was to create a seated area where children can congregate with parents and guardians seated around them rather than next to them. The second was to designate a section on the Kop where young adults, such as those from Spion Kop 1906, who want to drive atmosphere can sit together.

Both ideas were welcomed by the club officials present and will be examined as part of an ongoing review into ticketing issues. Phil Dutton, head of ticketing and hospitality, admitted that both suggestions are not without challenges, particularly as each would require existing season ticket holders to accept their seats being moved, but there was a collective commitment to consider the proposals fully.

Discussion on away tickets focused mainly on what the club can do to prevent sales from becoming a “closed shop” as a result of the loyalty system that is currently in place. Phil Dutton admitted that this is a particularly complex issue and stressed that the club has no wish to penalise supporters who show great loyalty by supporting Liverpool at away games throughout the country.

The forum was largely supportive of that position but there was also a unanimous feeling that more could be done by the club to prevent abuse of the existing system. The club put forward the suggestion that one way of dealing with such abuses would be to hold ticket collections at away venues for a limited number of randomly selected fans, an initiative which is used occasionally by other clubs, including Manchester United.

Keith Culvin, the supporters trust delegate, contended that while no one would condone abuses of the system, particularly ones which take advantage of fans, the club needs to strike a balance between addressing such concerns and making attending away games more arduous than it should be.

The forum agreed that if collections could take place without causing an undue imposition to travelling fans it would be an idea that is worthy of further consideration, particularly if it leads to a reduction in the number of instances in which the current system is being abused. At such a point, the forum agreed, the club could then look into whether such an approach would lead to reclaimed tickets being made available and how they could be distributed, with a ballot for those tickets being deemed worthy of consideration.

In light of those concerns, the club agreed to examine what other Premier League clubs do to counter such problems with a view to making improvements which will benefit those who currently attend away games and those who aspire to do so.

The forum, via Melissa Fallon and Rae Bezer, also put forward that if the club was to go down such a route it would need to give serious consideration to the introduction of a “friends and family” system to allow tickets to be passed on legitimately. Forum member Andrew Morris said that “It is up to us to get a system in place that is fair to everyone,” a position that received unanimous support from both forum members and club officials.

Addressing Members ticket sales, Phil Dutton began with a presentation which outlined who home tickets go to. A full breakdown can be seen below but in light of recent events, the club asked for it to be placed on record that Liverpool’s contractual commitment to travel partner Thomas Cook is limited to 384 hospitality tickets for home fixtures and zero tickets for away games.   

Confirming that Liverpool have around 120,000 existing Members, the club declared that in the region of 35,000 of those Members are able to purchase tickets each season. It was also revealed that the season ticket churn is less than 200 per year. In terms of the Members sale itself, Phil Dutton said that while the entire allocation was sold in July, the club hadn’t got to that position in a good way due to technical issues.

Concerning the more recent members sale, Phil Dutton said that it had gone “as well as could have been expected” but conceded that there is an availability issue because Liverpool “do not have enough tickets to satisfy demand”. He was satisfied that the system had held up well on this occasion, however.

As part of the ongoing ticketing review, Phil Dutton said the club wants to understand how supporters want the Members sale to work but stressed that “We cannot have a closed shop, we have to give people the opportunity to buy tickets but at the same time we also have to reward loyalty.”

Various ideas and potential initiatives were put forward and discussed, including a proportion of tickets being sold via a ballot, but as with away tickets the prevailing feeling was that abuses and shortcomings of the existing system must be addressed first. Accepting that position, the club revealed that one of the immediate challenges facing it is how to address a situation in which up to 2,000 seats are being left empty at every home game due to the ticket holder not turning up.

Referring to Bayern Munich, who have a system in place which penalises supporters who leave their seats empty for three matches each season, the club asked the forum whether Liverpool should look to adopt similar measures because, as Phil Dutton explained, “in this day and age there is no need for a seat to be left empty.” It was agreed that forum members and the club would continue to look into this issue and also consider how the Members sale could be improved.

At the conclusion of the meeting it was confirmed that the ticket availability would reconvene at the earliest possible opportunity in order to resume the discussion on all of the above matters and to discuss other topics. 

“This was the first meeting of the five forums and it was a really positive start,” said Tony Barrett, Liverpool’s head of club and supporter liaison. “The contributions from all of the forum members were challenging, as they should be, but also highly considered with a range of ideas put forward and discussed which the club will now look into. It is important to reiterate that this is just the start and the initial aim of opening up communication has been achieved but there is no question that this remains a work in progress.”

 Average Breakdown of Attendance

Figures are based purely on Premier League games only as cup game visitor allocations can vary dramatically; this is relatively consistent.