Leicester City accused of 'insult' over controversial issue as dispute rages on

Leicester City supporters groups remain opposed to the club's stance on physical cards
Leicester City supporters groups remain opposed to the club's stance on physical cards -Credit:Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Leicester City supporters groups have declared the club’s announcement on season-ticket changes an “insult” and remain disappointed by their stance on the £25 charge.

A joint-statement has been issued by three leading fan groups on the controversial matter after the club made tweaks to their plan on Thursday morning. Following a backlash, the club have said the £25 fee for a physical season ticket will now go to charity via the Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Foundation, but that they are keeping the charge in place in order to encourage a take-up of mobile ticketing.

Representatives from Foxes Trust, Union FS, and Leicester City Supporters Club twice met the club over the matter, including on Wednesday night, after the initial charge was met with anger from fans who deemed it a tax on loyalty. With the club keeping the charge in place, a fresh statement has been released, with the fan groups explaining why they are still opposed to the charge.

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The statement reads: “Following a further meeting with the club on Wednesday, May 1, Foxes Trust, Leicester City Supporters Club and Union FS release this statement with huge disappointment in what should be a glorious week for Leicester City Football Club. The club have released their own update which disappointingly ignores most of the points discussed last night. The club’s statement refers to ‘responding to your feedback’ which considering they have ignored everything that fan groups discussed and pushed for in the meeting last night, is an insult to say the least.

“As stated in previous statements, Foxes Trust, Leicester City Supporters Club and Union FS remain concerned at the implementation of a £25 charge for retaining a physical season ticket. Despite a huge backlash from the fanbase and two meetings with representatives from fan groups where strong arguments against the charge were made, the club have decided to maintain the £25 penalty charge for those fans who want to keep a physical card.

“Instead the club are seeking to play on the goodwill of fans by converting the charge into a charitable donation to the VS Foundation. This makes it quite evident that the club never intended to incentivise those who chose to go digital but to instead penalise those who want to possess a physical season card.

“The club have conceded to not charging U18s for a physical card (previously U12s). As much as this is only a very small concession from the club, it nonetheless shows that when fan groups are consulted, better solutions are a result. It goes without saying that as much as this is one step in the right direction, we are still disappointed with the overall stance from the club on the penalty charge.

“Whilst we recognise the good that the VS Foundation do for our local community, this change does not go far enough and Foxes Trust, Leicester City Supporters Club and Union FS remain opposed to the charge for the following reasons: Leicester City Supporters Club collected information on competing Premier League clubs to find out what they charge their fans for a physical season card. By the point of the second meeting, responses from 14 clubs had been gathered. Of those, only one charges for a physical season card. That charge is £10.

“As part of the above research, it was evident that the other clubs have phased in digital tickets much more effectively including working with fans to run trials and assess data. It has also been noted that a few clubs, especially those going for the big bang approach, have experienced teething problems and issues.

“This charge remains a tax on loyalty or a disguised price increase whether it is directed to charity or not. A donation to charity should be the choice of each individual, not something that is enforced. This is a poor judgement from the club and further insult to the fanbase.

“This change does nothing to alleviate the valid concerns of fans that digital tickets are unreliable, amongst other things creating additional queuing time at turnstiles. The club gave no evidence to suggest that digital tickets are more efficient, as they have stated. Fans’ experience at games this season have suggested the precise opposite.

“A far better approach would be to phase in digital tickets, using trials to collect data on the benefits and drawbacks and to work out what level of resourcing is required on matchdays to make the system work. It is unfair to penalise fans for picking an option they not only prefer but is at present demonstrably better. The club used the word ‘incentive’ for this £25 penalty. This is a penalty charge for having a physical season card, not an incentive.

“The club also raised points about environmental benefits and tackling touting/anti-social behaviour. Physical cards are already in possession of the majority of fans, so these can simply be reloaded if environmental concerns are really a factor. Touting and anti-social behaviour cannot be blamed on physical season cards and to think a £25 charge will materially reduce these is not convincing.

“Consultation with fan groups should not come after the event. We deserve to have a voice and should have been consulted right from the outset. At a point where increased fan consultation should be on the club’s agenda, in particular with the Premier League’s Fan Engagement Standards, this feels like a step backwards.

“As fans, we still have work to do, but the (albeit insufficient) change in club’s stance on this – together with other examples such as the general sale issue earlier this season – show the good that can come from supporters uniting to protect their rights and enjoyment of the game. We thank all LCFC fans for their continued support on this and other matters and encourage you all to remain united on this issue.”

To help with the adaptation of mobile ticketing, the club are planning to run drop-in sessions ahead of the new season so that fans can trial the technology. The club also say they will increase the number of staff on matchdays to help supporters through any issues they may have at the turnstiles.

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