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Why Fulham’s season ticket renewal news still points to an uncomfortable future

Written by Farrell Monk on 7th May 2024

Craven Cottage
© Adam Farquharson 2024

With safety in the Premier League once again assured, the attentions of Fulham fans and club execs alike turned to next season. For most other fans that would be the transfer rumours, contract negotiations, looking at the new teams in the division. You know, the usual stuff. But sadly, that’s not the first thing you think of if you’re a Fulham fan – not after recent years.

I must admit, I felt uneasy heading towards the close season, anxious to find out how much the club would decide to test our loyalty again. Agonising over what my upper threshold would be in the hope I wasn’t being priced out, something that’s becoming a very real prospect. Season ticket price hikes of 33% over two years have been a gut punch to the loyal fanbase and it felt like the club were lining up the knockout blow.

How did we get here?

FFC CEO Alastair Mackintosh has been saying the quiet parts out loud over the past year, and his made his views on Fulham supporters public. Pooh-poohing a visible matchday protest covered extensively in the press saying that it didn’t represent the fans; issuing statements on national television to say the club were “satisfied” with a huge drop in attendance for a FA Cup fifth round tie against a Premier League rival – and this time there wasn’t even an organised boycott. Above all, when fans were surveyed by the FST, and issued damning indictment on the club’s ticketing policy, instead of listening to fans, Mackintosh attacked the integrity of the survey itself. There have definitely been some echoes of Trump.

Around a fortnight ago, the renewal packages finally came. I braced myself. The arm of the club hurtled towards me – but this time it was a handshake. A 4% rise; relatively smaller in comparison to recent years, albeit still above inflation for the year. It’s palatable, but not amazing. Given what has happened, I certainly have no inclination to praise senior management. This is what they were supposed to do previously. Like Bernd Leno successfully taking a goal-kick. However, it still represents a 25% increase in just three seasons. Ticket prices are frozen for juniors, young adults and over-65s, though. The devil is certainly in the detail.

Loyalty discount or a fan tax?

The 4% rise applies to whatever you paid for the 2023/24 season. If you bought a new season ticket in H5 in 2023/24 you would have paid 4% increase on £830, instead of the renewal price 4% increase on £650. How long will newer fans be content with paying a 30% (£187) premium on the same seat? This can either be seen as a tax on newer season ticket holders or a discount for loyalty. In principle, a loyalty discount for multiple renewals sounds like a good thing, but I doubt that Fulham would ever do this as a reward – it’s just a way to get more money out of new season ticket holders. This is all also without knowing what brand-new season ticket holders might be paying.

The season ticket holder squeeze

“Loyal fans are not really part of the roadmap,”Sammy mentioned on the Thursday Club following the announcement. The Riverside Stand is to fully open next year, putting the full capacity of Craven Cottage at roughly 30,000, plus a swimming pool. It is wild to me that Fulham made it public that despite increasing the number of seats in the stadium they intend to reduce the amount of season ticket holders to 15,000 of the total capacity. Previously the club stated they had aimed for 17,000 season tickets holders. Are they expecting a drop off (or a price-out) of 11%, or are they going to refuse people to renew? This is of course so the club can prioritise those lucrative one-off ticket purchasers. Compare that to West Ham, where they announced season ticket holders make up 88% of the London Stadium’s 62,500 capacity. You can see from the table below how Fulham measures up to the rest of London and it doesn’t make for great reading.

*Based off official announcements and estimates from reputable sources.

This means more tickets will be available match-by-match, but we’ve regularly seen Hammersmith End tickets go on sale for £70+ and I certainly don’t think Fulham are going to change that policy. There are plenty of supporters, who for many reasons cannot get a season ticket and rely on being able to afford the odd game over the year to make their pilgrimage to see the football club they love. More worryingly, the club are making it more difficult to become a Fulham fan. You want to come? That’s expensive. You want a season ticket? There aren’t any available. It doesn’t make Fulham appear to be the welcoming inclusive family club we used to brag to our friends about (and that the club still insists it is).

Loads of love lost

When the #AffordableFulham campaign was launched this time last year, it was with the aim of freezing all prices across the stadium for the following season. This is therefore only a partial success for the prices, but a significant one. Fulham will never admit it, but this is a change of policy and testament of the hard work of the Fulham Supporters Trust. It gives you a sense how the senior management operate when they tell supporters that there is no problem, protests are unhelpful and that the views of the fans do not matter to then decide to suddenly implement elements of what the Trust have been campaigning for.

However, given everything that has happened over the past few years, more acutely in the last 12 months, the senior management have irrefutably and unnecessarily damaged the relationship between the fans and the club. No more is this felt coming towards season ticket renewal date, once a time of year that I felt the love for the club the most, now only comes with anxiety. Despite the relatively small price increase, there’s so much more must done to get that feeling back.

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