Supporters have been updated on proposals for a Fan ID process at a fans forum which took place ahead of Liverpool's home game against Manchester City on Sunday October 7.
The ticket availability forum also featured a preliminary discussion on European away tickets in light of concerns being raised by supporters about the effectiveness of the current loyalty system.
With five forum members attending in person and another participating via conference call, the meeting lasted for 90 minutes and began with a presentation by Phil Dutton, head of ticketing and hospitality, which detailed the progress of long-standing proposals for a season ticket amnesty which will be known as Fan ID.
After confirming that internal trials are taking place to ascertain the effectiveness of available technology and identify any issues which need to be addressed before the Fan ID process can go public, Dutton dealt with concerns that had been raised by supporters both via the forum and on social media.
He said: “Following feedback from this forum, the club has decided to shelve plans to store the photographs of supporters as part of this proposed process. Although pictures will be needed, they will be required only to verify ID in the first instance with all such data then being deleted. We took the feelings of fans into account on this issue and photographic ID is off the agenda.
“The second point that I need to stress to the point of repetition is that this is not a purge of season ticket holders. There is no intention on our behalf to take season tickets off anyone; that isn’t what this is about. We will start the process with 26,500 season ticket holders and we will end the process with 26,500 season ticket holders.
“Some season tickets may be returned to the club, that is always a possibility, and if that does happen I would be more than happy to allow you guys to verify how many have come back to us and that they have been allocated to those on the season ticket waiting list. Our motive on this is simple – as well as wanting to assist those fans who have told us that they would like the opportunity to have season tickets put in the right names, we simply want to be able to understand who is coming to the game.
“Before this happens, I need to address some issues that have been raised by supporters. The first is what happens to a season ticket if the named season ticket holder has passed away. At the point when Fan ID happens, we just need to know who is in possession of the season ticket now. We recognise and understand that there are a whole range of complex reasons why this would be the case and all we ask is that the supporter in possession of the season ticket goes through the process so that we know who will be using it.”
Forum member Kieth Culvin asked whether there would be any change to the existing regulations which require season tickets to be returned to the club once the named season ticket holder has died. Dutton confirmed that there are no plans to change the existing regulations, adding: “This isn’t about penalising anyone, it is in keeping with our existing terms and conditions and is simply about being fair to supporters who are on the waiting list and who deserve the opportunity to take up a season ticket if one should become available.”
Culvin replied: “Would you consider asking all season ticket holders whether they are happy with the idea of an amnesty, particularly as there will be those, like myself, who have an expectation that season tickets can and will be passed down. Could you do a survey, for example?”
Dutton responded: “This is ultimately a club decision but we have listened to you and we have listened to others and we will carry on listening but, when it comes down to it, we will have to make a decision that is fair. We have supporters who have been on the season ticket waiting list for 20 years and we have to be fair to them at the same time as being as fair as we possibly can to those who are already in possession of a season ticket. If we need to survey a wide group of supporters that this affects, then we are happy to look at that; we would have to speak to ST holders, people on the waiting list and also ticket-purchasing supporters.”
Dutton referred to an idea that has been put forward as ‘a halfway house’ which would allow season tickets to be able to be passed on to direct descendants of a supporter who has passed away but it would only apply to the current generation of season ticket holders.
Forum member Tony Fitzgerald said: “That would at least help keep the local heart which is so important for this club. Maybe this could lead to the creation of heritage season tickets which would create an avenue for young people to become season ticket holders, otherwise the average age of those coming to games will just keep on going up.”
Dutton continued: “The second thing that supporters have asked about is whether season tickets can be transferred and how they can be transferred once the Fan ID process is complete. From the club’s perspective, we simply want to remove any ambiguity about who is using the season ticket. For that reason, we intend to introduce a secure online method for transferring season ticket seats on a game-by-game basis to friends and family.
“We need the help of the fans forum to decide how many friends and family we allow but the basic premise is that a season ticket holder will be able to transfer his or her ticket to someone on their list who will have their phone charged with that ticket. The same process could also, for example, allow us to allow supporters to donate a ticket to a good cause. This is all the kind of stuff that we will discuss with this forum because, clearly, the more supporters buy into what we are proposing the better it will be.”
Culvin said: “Before discussing numbers, I have a straightforward question – if I or anyone else are unable to go the game can I transfer it to a kid? I’m only asking because that is what happens now and it allows kids to come in with their mates and with adults who aren’t their parents looking after them. It happens all the time on the row that I sit on, on the Kop, and getting these kids into the ground isn’t just important, it’s absolutely vital but would the system, as you’ve explained it, allow this to happen?”
Dutton said: “The system as it stands would not allow that to happen because we do not allow juniors into the stadium without an adult so a single ticket could not be transferred to a junior as there would be no way for us to verify that they are accompanied as our safeguarding rules require. This entire process is about safeguarding the club but it is also about safeguarding supporters.
“But we also know that supporters cannot come to every game as football is no longer like it was a generation ago when you knew in advance that games would kick off at three o’clock on Saturday afternoons. The world has changed and the plan is to get a process in place that reflects this so issues relating to younger supporters would naturally be a part of our considerations. It is also about making the system far more transparent and making it as easy as possible to use a season ticket.”
Forum member Anna Burgess said: “Just to support the point that Kieth is making, I don’t think anything that makes it harder for kids to come to games should even be considered.”
Culvin added: “The principle of friends and family is a good one but it has to work for young people and this should be a priority.”
Summing up, Dutton said: “I take all the points that you have made on board. With regard to adults being able to pass their season ticket on to a junior in the event of the adult being unable to attend we should look at how we could potentially make this work within our current safeguarding framework. There is a clear safeguarding issue that we have to bear in mind, though, so it is a case of seeing what is and isn’t possible.”
European away tickets
Introducing the issue of European away tickets, forum chair Tony Barrett asked those present to detail their experiences of the current system for purchasing tickets in light of various complaints from supporters about how it operates.
Burgess, who regularly attends European away fixtures, said: “I think the starting point for any discussion has to be that those of us who do travel abroad for matches are doing so at great expense and are using our own holidays in order to support Liverpool. There are obviously things that the club could look at with a view to improving the system but it should not be at the expense of those who travel to support the team.”
Dutton replied: “That’s a very fair point and the kind of support you mention is of great importance to the club but if there are ways of making the process better and fairer we have to consider them. If you look at the recent game away to Napoli, we sold around 2,500 tickets but only around 1,400 supporters actually attended.”
Forum member Nigel Taylor said: “That is a nonsense. I was on the cusp of qualifying for a Napoli ticket and many others were either in the same boat or did not have the necessary number of credits to qualify for a ticket. If those who are buying tickets are not going to the game and are instead doing so just to build up their own loyalty that isn’t right.”
Burgess said: “It is the system that is wrong. Supporters are using it in a way that the system allows them to. That may not be right but the system is the cause.”
Culvin added: “The problem is we have a system that has been in place for many years so how do you change it without inconveniencing or penalising supporters?”
Burgess said: “The key for me is giving people a break from feeling that they have to buy tickets or else they will miss out later down the line. As things stand, supporters feel locked in by the system and they also know that it can be cheaper in the long run to buy a ticket for an away game that they don’t go to because that gives them easier access to a ticket for a final should we get there.”
Dutton said: “To take this back to Napoli, there were people actually advertising their tickets for sale before they had even gone on sale. In those cases, they obviously qualified to buy a ticket but they clearly had no intention of going to the game.”
Referring to the club’s policy of enforcing a specific number of ticket collections at European locations when and where it was possible, Burgess welcomed the decision not to enforce the policy in Naples as to do so would have been both an imposition and a safety risk.
Burgess said: “I understand all of the concerns but, first and foremost, you have to look at it from the viewpoint of those of us who did travel. In my case, my flight landed in Naples at 10.30am on the day of the game and I arrived at my hotel at around 1pm. We were informed that the coaches would be leaving from 3pm onwards so collecting tickets at another location would have been unfeasible and it would have come at a potential risk given the kind of issues we were facing.
“In some cases, supporters did not even come to Naples until they were going to the stadium because they preferred to remain in nearby towns. You can’t expect them to come in to Naples if they do not want to. It was similar when we played in Hoffenheim at the start of last season. I don’t know anyone who was actually based in Hoffenheim, pretty much everyone stayed in other towns because of the situation with hotels, so collects wouldn’t have worked there either.
“What I’m trying to get across is that if there are collections all you will be doing is punishing some of your most loyal supporters unless they took place at the stadium. That would be the only realistic option and anything else would risk ruining our day which isn’t fair given the sacrifices we have to make to get to these games. If you do have to find a way of proving that fans have actually attended the game then it has to be a way that does not overburden those who have attended.”
Dutton replied: “I appreciate all of the concerns that have been raised and as a club we appreciate everyone who takes the time, trouble and expense to support us abroad but it is about striking a balance. We need to find a way to protect those who travel while also looking for ways to help those who would like to support the team abroad but are unable to because the system is working against them so we will pick up on this issue again in future forums.”