Hull City’s co-owner, Ehab Allam, has finally admitted in an article published by the Hull Daily Mail (30/04/15) that the £200,000 of Away Supporter Initiative (ASI) funding provided by the Premier League to each of its clubs this season has been spent on tarting up the visiting fans section of the KC Stadium and subsidising the price of their beer and food consumption.
Ehab Allam told the Mail: “The initiative is about improving the experience for away supporters at your home ground. It is not supposed to be meant as a subsidy for your own fans, and a selection of your own fans at that, to attend away matches.”
Funnily enough, he didn’t hold that opinion last season when all of the ASI funding received by Hull City was spent on providing free transport to the first seven league and cup fixtures.
Hull City Supporters Trust (HCST) recently wrote to the Premier League for clarification of the rules on appropriating the ASI funding only to be advised that it was at the discretion of each individual club. We were informed that the Premier League recommended each club involve fans in the decision-making process.
This season Hull City’s ‘Fans Working Group’ has urged the club to spend the money on subsidising the price of away tickets so that all the club’s traveling supporters would benefit. This request has clearly been ignored under the pretence of fairness.
Ehab Allam: “The principle of subsiding one set of away fans rather than another set of my home fans is fundamentally flawed. It is not something I am prepared to do. I treat all of our fans equally and fairly.”
The ASI fund came about in the first instance to address dwindling away attendances at Premier League games where the cost of tickets and travel is constantly rising. It is nothing to do with any sense of unfairness to people who choose not to travel to away games.
Ehab continued: “There is evidence that we have been very successful at this and I believe the other clubs have got it wrong by just subsidising the cost of away travel elsewhere. I think that is fundamentally flawed, fundamentally wrong and will come back to bite them because the more you give something away for free, the more people will want something for free. They have put themselves in a very difficult position going forwards.”
HCST understands that virtually all of the other 19 clubs have spent some, if not all, of their allocation on subsiding away ticket prices for their own fans. To suggest that these fans want something for nothing is a despicable claim. We would suggest it is Ehab Allam whose argument is fundamentally flawed as he appears to be the only person who does not understand the spirit with which ASI was intended – to make a small dent in addressing the ever rising cost of football.
However, given that Hull City have recently announced a 6% rise in season ticket prices – while lots of Premier League clubs are freezing or even lowering prices – this display of contempt should not surprise anyone.
@ben_smith1987: He won’t build an extension on a house that isn’t his own, but will spend £200k decorating the guest bedroom with Plasma TV’s. #hcafc
Mr. Allam’s last claim: “We’ve spent the money wisely and we’re bucking the national trend which is for dwindling away support because we have had a five per cent increase in away attendance at our games at the KC.”
Perhaps he hasn’t considered that the five percent increase in attendances is something to do with other clubs using their ASI money to subsidise their fans. Just as Chelsea did recently when they reduced the cost of our tickets by ten pounds.
Whatever measure the club are using to pat themselves on the back over this, it should be pointed out that the only publicity they’ve had on away support this season has been the furore surrounding the recent boycott by Liverpool fans and the subsequently very empty away end last Tuesday night. They obviously live by the motto “No publicity is bad publicity”. We wholeheartedly disagree.
Mark Gretton, HCST Chair, said, “We’re pleased we’ve at least forced the club into the open about their motivation, but bitterly disappointed that the club has once again treated its supporters in an utterly disdainful manner, a manner that, sadly, we are becoming used to. We do wonder, in passing, what the value of this ‘wonderful away fan experience’ is worth when we charge away fans so much that so many of them feel the need to stay away, as Liverpool fans did on Tuesday.”
We hope the club will learn from another disappointing episode and make use of the forum they have put in place to gauge fans’ opinions on such matters. We won’t be holding our breath.
Addenda: the Football Supporters’ Federation outlines how other PL clubs have used the ASI funding. The list is reproduced below. Every single club listed has financially supported its own fans.
Away Supporters Initiative deals:
- Arsenal supporters receive a £2.50 discount on every Premier League away ticket. The Gunners will also provide away supporters with a refreshments voucher worth £10 at an away fixture this Christmas.
- Aston Villa announce subsidised tickets to a minimum of five away games during 2014-15, including £5 off Chelsea away. AVFC will also put on five free coach trips for longer away days and midweek games (Crystal Palace, Hull City, Newcastle United, Sunderland, and Southampton).
- Chelsea offer £10 per person travel for every league game outside London and knock £10 off three away league fixtures after consultation with the Fans’ Forum.
- Everton introduce the “Road Trip” initiative at four games (Burnley, Southampton, Crystal Palace, QPR). Depending on number of away games attended in 13/14 the Road Trip offers free coach travel, food, matchday programmes and journeys accompanied by former players. Palace and QPR fans receive meal deals at Goodison Park. The club’s reciprocal deals against Newcastle United and Swansea City are also funded by the ASI.
- Leicester City discount £10 off tickets for Swansea City away (25th October). The Foxes say they will implement more deals through the season.
- Liverpool reduce ticket prices for their own travelling fans by £2-£4. The club says further benefits to improve the away supporters’ experience “are expected to be” announced during the season. The club also subsidise tickets by £10 for the trip to Old Trafford on Sunday 14th December.
- Manchester City knock 50% off ticket prices for Arsenal away reducing an adult ticket to £32 and offer half price tickets for Chelsea away.
- Manchester United reduce every away ticket for their fans by £5.
- Newcastle United reduce away match tickets for its supporters who travel to Spurs (Sunday 26th October) and Manchester United (Boxing Day) by £10. Reciprocal deals with Everton, Southampton, Spurs, Stoke City, Swansea City and WBA introduced.
- Queens Park Rangers offer free coach travel and reduced match tickets for the trip to Swansea City on Tuesday 2nd December. There’ll also be free coach travel to Merseyside for the R’s match against Everton on Monday 15th December.
- Sunderland offer discounted tickets for trips to Southampton (Saturday 18th October), Crystal Palace (Monday 3rd November), and Spurs (Saturday 17th January).
- Swansea City reciprocate Leicester City’s ticket deal so travelling fans save £10 when they make the return journey. The club say they will also reward fans attending away games with incentives including discounted tickets and travel. Supporters who went to on the opening day’s match get up to £15 off Manchester City away.
- Stoke City offer free coach travel to all away fans from the Britannia, at every single Premier League game, for the second successive season.
- Tottenham Hotspur will offer coach travel to all away games outside London at minimal cost and charter trains to up to four destinations out of Euston. There is also the possibility of food/programme vouchers for selected games.
- West Bromich Albion have informed us they will be offering free coach travel to one game this season (TBC), have organised reciprocal deals with Newcastle and Swansea, and ran ‘Kids for a Quid’ at the Burnley match.
- West Ham United commit to £10 off away fixtures (TBC) through the season. The club are also trying to set up a £20 reciprocal deal with a visiting team (TBC) and will announce six “Kids for a quid” fixtures for visiting fans.