Having taken time to understand Hull City’s proposed new pricing structure over the weekend, HCST would like to share our views on the proposal, the associated ballot and the implications its result may have.
The New Proposal
Firstly, the pricing structure itself. The proposed model was revealed by the club on Friday and had not been shown to the supporters’ committee beforehand, so in order to come to an agreement supporters are happy with, the club must now take on board feedback.
There are undoubtedly good points to the proposal. The fact it includes concessions of any sort is something that has been fought hard for and seemed very unlikely at times. The simplification of stadium zones and match categories is welcome. The change means that the East and West stands, excluding the corner blocks, are now entirely zone 2 and their monthly membership price has reduced for all fans as a result. Elsewhere in the stadium there are price increases for adults which was always to be expected when concessions were re-introduced. We acknowledge that some current prices are very cheap for adults.
On the other hand there are some big issues with the proposal. The restriction that only one junior ticket can be bought per adult ticket bought is draconian, unrealistic and simply wrong. Families should be able to take their children to football without being discouraged or priced out altogether by not being offered a reasonable child price. It is very obvious that the current attitude towards child prices has caused a huge drop in attendances and this will need to change for supporters to return in numbers. Furthermore many grandparents take their grandchild to football, and if they qualify for a senior concession they should still be able to take their grandchild on a child’s ticket. Quite simply every child should get a child’s price, regardless of who they attend with.
Another big problem is the lack of concessions for disabled supporters and finally, the absence of any discount for young adult supporters is an avoidable deterrent. This is the age where so many young supporters stop attending live games, and City should be trying to minimise these losses by offering them a reasonable discount from the full adult price.
Overall, the proposal is an improvement on the current arrangements. The significant drawbacks don’t make things any worse than the current situation of having no concessions at all, and the improvements over the current system are notable.
The Ballot Process
Focusing on the ballot, we appreciate that the club has included former members and season pass holders in the ballot process. This is something which was initially not going to happen but following feedback from the supporters committee the club have listened and we are keen to recognise that.
Whilst some supporters have expressed concern over the black and white nature of the poll, with some calling for a third option such as ‘neither’, we note that following the previous ballot ran by the club back in 2014, many people wanted a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with no ambiguous options. In our view, a simple poll with only two options is the best way to establish a preference.
In order for this process to be democratic, votes can only be treated as what they are: an expression of preference between the two options. It doesn’t necessarily mean either is perfect and indeed, of all the feedback we have seen, no one has said they are really happy with either model.
Some supporters have expressed concerns that the result of the vote could have implications beyond the preference which they have explicitly stated in their vote. There are concerns that a vote for no change could be taken to mean ‘no concessions at all’ and that a yes vote could be taken to mean ‘no further changes are required’. If this was to happen it would be entirely wrong and an abuse of the democratic process. HCST’s ongoing work with the club will focus on ensuring that this does not happen, whichever way the vote goes.
It’s also important to note that this vote is not purely about whether or not supporters want concessions. It is beyond question that supporters absolutely do want concessions. This vote is about whether the club’s new proposal should be adopted to replace the existing scheme.
Finally, as part of our feedback to the club we will be looking for reassurance over the transparency of the ballot. Following the previous ballot in 2014 we have concerns that the result is entirely controlled and announced by the club and supporters have no way of verifying the outcome.
The Vote and Next Steps
We are confident that views across the fanbase are closely aligned on this issue. It appears that the only real split is around which option is more likely to be misinterpreted by the club to mean something more than it explicitly says. With this in mind, our next steps write themselves. If there is a verdict for no change, we will continue our campaign to introduce a real concessions model which is acceptable to supporters. If there is a verdict for adopting the new proposal, we will campaign for further changes to improve upon the negative parts of the scheme. Either way, we are confident that this debate will continue following the vote and hopeful that the club will listen.
We’re aware that some supporters are looking to us for guidance on which way to vote. We don’t believe it’s right for a trust to tell supporters which way to vote. We campaign for what supporters tell us they want, rather than telling supporters what they should want.
That said, our opinion as a trust board of directors is that voting for the new proposal to be implemented is the best option. We believe the new proposal is an improvement (albeit limited) on the existing scheme. We also believe it can be used as a first step towards a much better end goal which can be achieved in the long-term through dialogue and gradual improvement.