"Pricing out a generation": concessions fight at KCOM rumbles on

KCOM Stadium Photo Chelsea Debs

Goodwill goes a long way in maintaining and improving the relationship between a football club and its supporters – unfortunately it’s in short supply in East Yorkshire...

Hull City’s supporters, and away fans visiting the KCOM Stadium recently, have learnt this the hard way as all concessions for young and old were removed from the club’s pricing structure.

In some instances this led to a massive increase in children’s season tickets prices. Where previously children’s season tickets could cost as little as £64, the cheapest passes available now are £252. In some sections of the ground even more than £450.

Now Hull City fans want to see nation-wide action across the English Football League (EFL) to get guaranteed concessions into the competition’s rulebook.

“Concessions are almost taken for granted at football,” said Geoff Bielby, chair of Hull City Supporters’ Trust (HCST). “But at the moment it’s entirely down to the goodwill of the club.

“And most clubs have enough sense to offer concessions to encourage young and old along to the match.

“After all, we all started as kids. I was going to matches before I was ten – you go, enjoy it and keep going. You’re in it for life.”

The club’s removal of concessions has had a massive impact on attendances the Trust says, exacerbating the number of empty seats already at the KCOM.

“I know many, many supporters who are staying away because of the lack of concessions,” Geoff added. “If you’re a family who’ve got two or more children to take to the match it’s basically unaffordable, particularly as we’re in a one of the poorer areas of the country.

“We’re particularly concerned about the children, as they’re the next generation of supporters and we don’t want to see them being priced out.”

Supporters estimate that attendances at the 25,000-seater KCOM Stadium this season are as low as 14-15,000, with no sign of pick-up.

“The club have been insisting it’s not that low, and it’s not 14,000 but in fact 16,000,” Geoff said. “Which isn’t much of a success either.

“They’ve been accused of not knowing anything about the football business and this proves it.”

Recently, the Premier League found against the club for breaching its rules on concessionary pricing while in the division last season. Their investigation begun after Hull City Supporters’ Trust raised the issue directly with the Premier League as part of the competition’s commitment to structured dialogue with fans – led by the FSF.

If Hull City are to be promoted back to Premier League they will have to guarantee that 10% of tickets are available with a 10% concession. Now the problem for Hull City supporters is that they are outside of Premier League jurisdiction and back in the English Football League (EFL) where there is no competition-wide rule on concessions.

“We want to see supporters pressuring their clubs to get this into the EFL rulebook,” Geoff said. “Sadly it can’t be left to goodwill alone.”

The EFL told HCST that concerns around pricing should be discussed between supporters and clubs under the structured dialogue guidelines that came into force last season.

Fine if your club is happy to talk to supporters in a meaningful way, as many are, but problematic if those guidelines aren’t taken seriously.

The Trust are hoping the EFL will enforce the Structured Dialogue requirements more robustly. Currently the club has handpicked most of the fans involved in its consultations – something that the Trust argues is unrepresentative.

Geoff said: “With the help of the FSF we’ll be pressuring the EFL to demand meaningful dialogue at every club.

“Supporters at all clubs should be able to discuss anything in a serious manner.

“Nothing should be off the table – particularly on issues that have a significant impact on match-going fans like pricing and concessions.”

Thanks to Chelsea Debs for the image used in this article. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.