On Thursday 5 October, we held the first ESTC Fans Forum at Wembley. Thank you to the ESTC members who took part and apologies to those who weren't selected on this occasion - we will be organising fan forums again in the future. The main topics of discussion can be found below, together with the responses from Travel Club staff.
Present ESTC staff: Harpreet Robertson (HR), Richard Weekes (RW),
Present ESTC members: Charlotte Gardner, Daniel Smith, Stephen Cartwright, Raj Karia, David Walkington, John Bentley, Chris O’Hara, Paul Dennis, Howard Price, David Airey
Absent – None
Home Season Tickets (HST)
HR advised that this had previously been discussed and voted on a few years ago with little interest shown then by members. The downside is that a home season ticket will require a non-refundable upfront payment of £360-£800 to cover the cost of a ticket without knowing all of our opponents, dates or kick-off times. The members opting for this would also miss out on any further ticket discounts which are usually offered in advance of a match sale. It would also restrict members to sitting with the same people for the next two years when the reality is that members attend each match with different people. However, if the view now is that this is something that appeals to a large number of the membership then we can look at it again. It should be worth noting that Club Wembley effectively offers a season ticket, albeit at a higher price than standard tickets.
Confirmation of match dates
The FA advised that they could not confirm the Germany or Brazil matches sooner due to the fact that both England and Germany had not yet qualified for the World Cup. If either of these teams did not end up qualifying it could have potentially altered the proposed friendlies. The FA will not confirm a fixture until it can be 100% secured as going ahead. The issues of non-family friendly weekday fixtures and late kick off times were raised, however HR advised that the FA does not set the dates and times of International fixtures - these are done by UEFA /FIFA.
Benefits for ESTC members Vs. ESC/Non-Members
HR acknowledged that these offers had led to a number of complaints from ESTC members and that it was raised internally by ESTC staff. It was also stressed that ESTC will always ensure (over the course of the two year membership) that Travel Club members end up getting the better deal overall. Following feedback from members, HR advised that it has been agreed by the business to re-introduce the ESTC only ticket sale for home matches. During this time period (likely to be 4-7 days) ESTC members will only be able to buy tickets for other ESTC members. This will then be followed by an ESTC/ESC sale period which will allow members to buy for non-members.
Selecting your exact seat for home games/having an ‘ESTC only’ section
HR highlighted that you can select your exact seat if you book via Ticketmaster. Being able to have this as an option for 70,000 seats online raises issues with the functionality of the website and can significantly slow down the ordering system and so for that reason cannot be offered. It was asked whether it would be possible to have the option to select your seat online in the Home End only. This suggestion will be looked into by ESTC.
It was asked if members could have an ‘ESTC only’ area in the Home End. HR advised that this may not be practical as many ESTC members go to home games with non-members. However, the re-introduction of the ESTC sale period will in effect allow for the creation of an ESTC only area if members choose to buy in the Home End during their sale.
HR stated that we will always endeavour to secure the highest ticket allocation possible at the lowest price. A registration process will run for those matches where either the allocation is still unknown or we anticipate that there may not be enough tickets to meet demand. For information, the number of cancellations received (following the sales period) for each away match is currently between 7-10%. The FA has to commit to the number of tickets it wishes to buy in advance. For this reason we are unable to offer a refund less than 21 days before the match date unless the ticket can be reallocated.
Second Chance Sale (SCS) & Waiting List
This topic was debated as to why it was open to all ESTC members and not just those who registered but were unsuccessful. HR explained that very few members who did not initially register end up purchasing tickets in the SCS. Also, if the system was changed this may lead to an increase in the number of supporters registering initially, leading to a higher caps cut-off (and therefore more members having to purchase in the SCS). HR reminded members that if they miss out on both sales they should email to be placed on the waiting list. HR highlighted that everyone who contacted the FA to be placed on the waiting list for Lithuania was offered a ticket.
100% Ticket Collection
HR advised that it’s unlikely that this policy will change in the short term as it has proven successful in ensuring away tickets are not passed to non-members and helps reduce ticket touting. Turin in 2015 was highlighted as an example of when tickets were last posted out leading to a high number of non-members accessing members tickets. This led to issues with supporter behaviour in the city plus many non-members were turned away at the turnstiles. This system ensures that only ESTC members who wish to attend a match can access these tickets and has seen an improvement in supporter behaviour.
Ticket Collection Point (TCP) Locations
HR explained TCP’s are chosen based on a number of key factors, e.g. meeting room availability, separate entrance, central location, local authority advice and a hotel willing to have 000’s of supporters come through their hotel. FA Staff travel to the host city in the months before the game to establish the best location available. As soon as the contract is signed the TCP will be announced, usually 2-4 weeks before the match. TCP’s at the stadium are usually common place however not always possible. A recent example included Malta whereby the security perimeters meant a TCP at the ground was impossible.
2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
ESTC have held a preliminary meeting with FIFA. The key issue identified will be the mechanic for choosing the price category of ticket as FIFA will ask you to select a price category and then you may check a box to explain that you will accept one category lower. Unlike the UEFA system it will not allow you to opt for a higher category should the one you initially selected not be available. FIFA have advised that we will receive the category splits by match (date TBC). As a result of this, we will encourage members wishing to apply to do so as early as possible. This will give ESTC time to review the applications and advise the membership if it looks likely that a specific category will be oversubscribed.
All the information gathered was explained in a recent news story here - https://englandsupporters.thefa.com/b/news/archive/2017/09/15/2018-fifa-world-cup-ticket-update
RW highlighted that there is currently a group of Travel Club members who have been in touch with The FA about improving the visual and vocal atmosphere at Wembley. The FA has an open dialogue with this group and works with them to set-up banners in the home-end . The banners seen at the recent Wembley games were all designed by this group of fans.
Will fan forums be a regular thing now?
Yes, the intention is to run these on a regular basis if the interest is there from members to attend. Ultimately, we would like to set up a ‘Fans’ Council’ to help feedback members’ concerns and shape the membership going forward.
Will there be more games on the road?
Wembley will be used for most games as it is the national stadium and the biggest ground so allowing the most fans to watch England. However, there will more than likely be games taking place ‘on the road’ in the future; this decision is not down to ESTC but we can certainly feedback the views of the membership.
What do you put down to the dip in membership?
Factors include further away/expensive/less attractive locations in recent tournaments (e.g Brazil, South Africa, Ukraine, Russia). However, despite the fall in membership numbers we tend to always sell out the away allocations as the core travelling support remains the same.
Are Wembley Stadium stewards here to stay for away games?
The presence of Wembley stewards at away games is a recent addition. They offer great help with supporter’s flags, disabled supporters, TCP’s and host stewards. There has been lots of positive feedback received from supporters and so we will continue to work with them for the foreseeable future.
Thank you for the update....
"FA does not set the dates and times of International fixtures - these are done by UEFA /FIFA" that surely can't be true of the friendlies. I understand the competitive fixtures are dictated to us - and we were informed over 2 years ago the dates of the WCQs. However I cannot believe either FIFA or UEFA dictate the friendlies - as far as I am aware these are decided between the parties. A Friday and a Tuesday isn't exactly family friendly. It works out generally children outside of London can attend every 2 to 3 years - that's ridiculous!
Well said, Amber. There should be NO Friday-night friendlies. They should ALL be Saturdays (~5:30pm kickoffs during the season, 3pm kickoffs out of season).
And I'm sorry but it's absolute rubbish to claim that a stadium TCP at Malta was not possible. Fair enough, with the stadium being so close to the city centre in Vilnius a stadium TCP was absolutely not necessary there, but the furthest security perimeter from the stadium in Malta was still very, very close to the turnstiles and they could easily have found somewhere to have distributed tickets from. Failing that, everyone would have had to have flown in, so why not set something up at the airport? To make everyone travel to St Julian's was well out of town.
Also, I beg to differ that "you can select your exact seat if you book via Ticketmaster". When booking for the Germany game I was categorically told by Ticketmaster's advisor that he could not even choose a specific block for me, let alone a specific row or seats!
At least they've agreed to reinstate a TC-only window though. Well done to The FA for finally listening on that one.
HR acknowledged that these offers had led to a number of complaints from ESTC members and that it was raised internally by ESTC staff. It was also stressed that ESTC will always ensure (over the course of the two year membership) that Travel Club members end up getting the better deal overall.
Following feedback from members, HR advised that it has been agreed by the business to re-introduce the ESTC only ticket sale for home matches. During this time period (likely to be 4-7 days) ESTC members will only be able to buy tickets for other ESTC members. This will then be followed by an ESTC/ESC sale period which will allow members to buy for non-members.
Do we assume then that the discounts available will still be available in the second stage ESTC/ESC period because if it's not then as in my circumstance where I always buy a ticket for my grandson, who is not a ESTC member but a ESC member, then I'm effectively paying more to be able to attend with him.... Currently we buy family area tickets in the first stage before the general sale and of course utilise the discounts available.
Another exercise in paying lip service to the membership. Nothing to see ladies and gents, move along please.
I regularly travel to Wembley games with a ESC member. As a Travel Club member I do not want to wait 4-7 days to buy our tickets just so that we can sit together.