THE GREAT TICKET DEBATE

13/06/19

City's launch of a new membership scheme has been the talk of the county since it's launch 24 hours ago. We received a number of responses to it, so here are two considered responses from the pens of ACN regulars Duncan Edwards and Stephen Curnow

Duncan Edwards

Well that didn't take long.

The fixtures weren't even out - in fact, even our pre-season itinerary is yet to be fully published. But here we are. Whether it's Kings Lynn, Cromer or Catton under 12's, the club have blown a championship winning season of love and goodwill so emphatically that it might well be Sky's follow up to Chernobyl.

Or so you'd think.

Look, the ins and outs and ups and downs of the new Membership 'deal' have been given the full 'Brexit' on social media.

I get it. It's far from perfect.

With an away season ticket the fortunate few that could make such a commitment we're not only guaranteed their tickets, they didn't have to lift a finger after they made that commitment. Tickets would (almost) routinely fall through the letterboxes of the most committed and loyal.

That's no longer the case. Now those folks are going to have to set aside extra time in order to obtain the tickets that allow them to fulfil that loyalty and commitment.

People work. People have other commitments. People make sacrifices that allow them to give up that precious time each and every weekend to follow the Canaries. More often than not, that devotion has been repaid with indifference and in some cases, depression. I've been there. I think I did 17 of Worthington's Winless Wanderings. The devotion became a burden. Just like the umpteen trips to Craven Cottage. That trudge of trepidation has almost become a badge of honour.

Undoubtedly, those that have made such blind pledges of allegiance over the years feel that their unwavering masochism is deserving of some recognition. I'd agree.

However, and this is difficult for me to say because I've been a beneficiary for a long time, the previous method of determination of the allocation of away tickets was also deeply flawed.

There is absolutely no doubt that home season ticket holders being given a 1,000 point headstart was a ludicrous notion. Why on earth should a commitment to attend home games entitle someone to a 20-stub advantage (in a 12 month period) over people that cannot make that pledge?

It's nonsensical.

What about the fans that can't afford a season ticket? The fans that don't live in Norwich? The fans that have weekend work commitments? The fans that follow their team but aren't in a position fortunate enough or affluent enough to lay down a commitment to attend every away game?

Is it right that those in a position to pay every bloody week are deemed superior to a fan that might only scrape enough money together to do a handful of away games a season? Is it? Is that where we're at?

Of course, the lb50 is a chunk of change in itself but the ability to pay it via Direct Debit will help some people out and perhaps it will enable some different fans to experience an away atmosphere.

I wholeheartedly understand the concept that some die-hard away fans feel they are being compromised, but the club have ring-fenced a priority group for those fans (around 750 I believe) even if they now have to make a concerted effort to obtain a ticket.

Those dedicated followers of Farkeball will still get their tickets and deservedly so.

However, this new policy, while flawed, will in some way go towards broadening the faces of those that go away. It will potentially remove the elitism related with away travel. It might even ease the tension over 'saved seats' on Club Cabbage.

Away attendance shouldn't ever be a closed shop for those most fortunate and popping 10 minutes down the road to the Carra on a Saturday shouldn't give you an advantage for a 500 mile round trip on a Tuesday.

12 months ago people were falling over themselves to justify their non-renewal of a home season ticket. Here we are with people going full-on flaccid fella flapping over away tickets before anyone has even seen the policy in action.

It's only 9 months since the 'loyal' away fans were chanting for Farke to 'sort it out' away at Ipswich. It's only 9 months since motions were being made towards a Farke Out movement and the Webberlution was being widely dismissed as a busted flush of Balls' behest.

Now, I know damned well that it wasn't all away fans that took that fork in the road but there were plenty that did. Where was their 'loyalty' then?

If we're being frank, this panic is unlikely to last long. It's only a concern now because we've been winning. The 750 I mentioned earlier will still be there at the end of the season; the umptytwentyteen thousand will soon pack up after a few thumpings; it's not as much fun.

The real test of loyalty will come at Carrow Road. If we're still all cheering, all dancing, all flag waving when we're down 0-4 against some Sheikh backed charlatans...that's the real test.

Don't let this spoil what we, as a collective, have built because, you know what? If you really want a ticket and coach travel to Burnley for an 8pm kick off on a Monday night; I reckon you'll get one.

Stephen Curnow

For years we've been looking forward to the day that Norwich City return to the Premier League.

At some point over the next few days we will each go through the calendar and plot our lives against games against each of the best and most glamourous teams in the country.

But these are the best of times, and these are the worst of times, as which of us will actually be attending those games has suddenly become a moot point.

We all know by now that Norwich City have announced a revamp of the membership system in advance of the new season. You get the feeling that the club knew that this was going to be a proverbial lead balloon. That Zimbo was wheeled out as the face of it was telling, he having rightly emerged as a man of the people, not just for his obvious effort and tackling with his head, but refusing to leave the ground until he's personally been round and thanked everyone. Interestingly, Ben Kensell had already defended the unpopularity of the scheme before the day was out, getting the club's retaliation in first it seemed.

Let's have a look at some fundamental facets of the new system. On the back of the greatest season in living memory we have become so used to the club getting everything right both on and off the field. Not since Yanic walked through the door have we had that strange sinking feeling that the club have fucked up. So, to the detail:

1 - Home prices: The lb30 cap on away tickets has been a rare beacon of social conscience amongst the ever-increasing greed of the Premier League in recent years. That the club should wish to standardise this across the ground by extending it to home casual tickets makes perfect sense.We would all in principle support the notion of making casual football more affordable to more people. More people through the gates is obviously good for the club in lots of ways, and ultimately the pleasures of supporting your team are not to be kept to yourself, but to be shared with anyone who is willing. However, although nobody wants to see a race to the bottom between different tranches of supporters, but a ticket in the Lower Barclay works out at just under lb27 per game. Of course, STH's have the comfort of knowing their seat is guaranteed for the whole season, and demand is likely to dictate that most casual purchasers will be disappointed more often than not this season. But if you practically need the Duckworth-Lewis Method to establish a worthwhile commodity in the tickets bought by the supporters who commit to every game and often pay well in advance, then the intrinsic value is evidently questionable.

Furthermore, a season ticket has become a ticket purely for home games, with little or no value for buying away tickets, it being effectively in the fourth priority group of five. This is in some contrast to the previous system which deemed it to be worth a hefty 1,000 away points, enough to get you a solid start up the priority order. A few away games was enough to virtually see you into the top bracket. This has the effect of virtually eliminating the cohort of season ticket holders who wish to attend a handful of away games, especially if the wish for some of those games to be those of greater demand. As with every budget, there is a squeezed middle, and this is ours.

2 - Priority:It is admittedly a thankless task to try and establish what "loyalty" constitutes. The truth is it comes in many forms: longevity of support, financial commitment, effort in attending games. All are laudable merits between which it is impossible to objectively distinguish. The club acknowledge this, stating in the press release that "it is important to reward loyalty." However, this is where there most obvious technical misjudgement would appear to lie. The new priority system has greater potential to bypass loyalty, whatever it may constitute, rather than reward it. Nobody would dispute that those who attend the majority of away games should come uppermost in any priority list, and they will continue to do so in the "priority" window. But these hardy few were already well-catered for under the old scheme as away season ticket holders. It's not entirely clear to me but they may now face an additional one-off cost of lb40 as well as the added administrational task of ordering their tickets. However, as they were already the prioritised few and still remain so, the devil is in the detail of whichever group comes next. As the next group, tellingly named "Premier," is a direct access group with no concession to previous purchasing (other than a temporary lb10 discount) or existing memberships or season ticket status, is surely a misjudgement on the club's part. It means that the anti-christ in this whole debate, the supporter who has never been to fucking Yeovil away or any other game in his whole life, can now roll up, buy himself a Premier and look forward to getting half-and-half scarves galore.

It's a shame that we are having this debate of course. There is so much to look forward to. Perhaps moaning about insignificant things shows that we have finally arrived amongst the self-serving grandiosity of the Premier League.

Small clubs in the bottom half of the football league, Ipswich for example, would give their hind teeth to have this in their in-tray.

Also, for the first time in many years we genuinely appear to have a team that could not only survive, but excel, at this level, and enjoy doing it.

The ultimate bottom line that the apex between the appeal of watching our team and the availability of tickets at our ground and in various away ends has just become so acute that someone is going to get hurt.

But the real shame is this: Last season was the fifth time we've been promoted in 15 years, but the first time that we had done it with such unity between the players, the manager and the supporters.

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