WITH the increasing concern over the price of football and ever-rising ticket prices in recent years, it is an unexpected breath of fresh air when a club has the decency to offer its fans an incredible incentive. It comes as even more of a surprise when that club is the chaotic and financially-mismanaged hellhole that is Leeds United.
The football club has offered, “as a clear statement of our intent to gain promotion”, a 25 per cent refund for season-ticket holders – who purchased their ticket before June -if they fail to reach at least the play-offs next season. As if that wasn’t enough, the club’s hierarchy are prepared to offer season-ticket holders a substantial 50 per cent refund if more than 15,000 fans purchase a season ticket by the end of July. This message is self-explanatory: Leeds United want a return to former glory. With recent crowds on average filling a dismal 23,000 of Elland Road’s 39,460 seats, it’s clear that reviving Leeds’ infamous 12th man is the first step in achieving this goal.
Having fallen from the Premier League in 2004 and last reaching the Championship play-offs in 2006, the distant memories of success have almost faded from recognition. The sketchy actions of the club’s President, Massimo Cellino, have been the only source of entertainment for the long-suffering fans since the club’s return to the Championship. Therefore not only does this allow the board to reconcile grievances with the fans, it also offers fans the opportunity to reconnect with the club. Whilst a team like Arsenal charge – at the very least – an extortionate £1035 for fans to watch their team slump to an inevitable fourth place every season, Leeds United will reward their fans for their continued support despite the lack of silverware. For season-ticket holders, the prospect of a 50 per cent refund is a lot of money to consider, and shows that, at some clubs, the fans come before the finances
Responses from fans and neutrals on Twitter have been overwhelmingly positive, with many praising the board for taking the fans’ views more seriously. Steve Evans, the current – for now – manager, says it will not add any more pressure to the club, who are already stumbling under the weight of expectation that they’ve endured for so many years.
Hopefully then, the club’s gutsy move will cause a trend amongst clubs that are continually disappointing their fans. Perhaps Aston Villa’s embarrassing surrender to relegation could have been made less bitter for fans – who paid between £335 and £615 – if they knew they would be getting some of their hard-earned money back. Manchester United could offer refunds for every game in which they fail to score more than one goal. Liverpool fans could receive a £10 gift voucher every time Simon Mignolet makes a howler, or Sunderland could enter their supporters into a £1000 cash raffle every time they sack another manager.
It is wishful thinking, but the amount of money ‘big’ clubs receive from their fans is excessive, and it’s about time they started rewarding their fans when they fail to provide their money’s worth.