Today the club have made a proper 'official' statement about why the ticket arrangements for Friday's game have allowed many tickets to end up with fans that have shown a lot less loyalty and/or support than those that have not got one.
I have also heard that there a number of tickets available at well above their face value.
What a disaster? But could it have been avoided?
There has been a few blog posts about this subject, some that have been sympathetic from those that have tickets, and some that have been very agitated from those that haven't.
From my point of view the club should be looking to use these situations to reward those that they want to call upon in the future. Sure they should reward those that have been loyal to the Club. For example I have had a season ticket since 1989. If you read comments on Charlton Life, and elsewhere, you could be forgiven for believing that we've had thousands of season ticket holders since 1970. When I bought my season ticket we had (from memory) about 2,500 season ticket holders. Thus I should be in the top 2,000 for 'length of service' on the basis that some of those 2,500 will have died or just given up. So if you are going to reward long term support I should have been allocated a ticket for Swindon.
If, however, you are going to reward immediate support then the 500 five-year season ticket holders should have been first in the queue (especially as part of the deal was for preference for away games). The other 5,500 that have already committed for next season should have been next. Neither of these groups include me. Is that fair? A season ticket for 20 years or the promise of coming next year?
You could reward those that make the biggest financial contribution to the club. I guess I'm talking about Valley Gold. However if you are merely talking about pounds spent then presumably an East or West Stand ticket costing £475 has higher priority than one in the North stand that costs less. NB I don't know the price of the North Stand as I sit in the East Stand. Do you also reward those that pay for a car park? How about those that have access to one of the lounges? How about executive boxes? How about replica shirts? How about Programs?
You could try to reward like for like, and this was rather popular with some of those on Charlton Life. The "I've been to all the away games this season" comments must be heard and respected. However, you could make the point that Charlton make no money from fans attending away games, so from a purely commercial perspective you would have thought that attendance for the home JPT match with Barnet would make you a more rewarding fan than attending every single away game this season. I also have to question just how many fans have been to every away game this season as there have been restrictions for some games, and in fact we've had 2 games that have had less than 400 travelling Addicks. We've had 6 matches where we've taken less than a third of the 2,046 tickets that Swindon offered us for this game. In fact, out of 23 away League games, and including all three of our cup games, a total of 26, we have only managed to take more away fans on 5 occasions, and one of those was 2,066 - 20 more.
Out of interest those five games were Orient, Colchester (2,066) Gillingham, Southend and Millwall. None of these games are anywhere near as far as Swindon, for whom we only took 1,073 in February.
What does all this mean? I have no idea, but it does put into perspective the demand for weighting for away games.
There will, doubtless, be crossovers in some of those categories. For example there could be as many as 399 (the away attendance at Tranmere in August) five-year season ticket holders that have attended every away game, had a season ticket for, say 20 years, been paying into Valley Gold since it's inception and attended all the home cup games for, say, 10 years. Those 399 have every right to be fed up if they didn't get a ticket, but it is a bit rich if, like me, you have only attended half a dozen away games this season.
Should the club have had a priority system? Of course they should. Ask 10 fans how that priority should have been organised and you would probably get at least 8 different answers. You see, we all believe that we are the most loyal and deserving people in the world. I don't think this is limited to football tickets either, just look at the levels of consumer debt in this country and you can see that very few believe that they are not deserving of just about anything they want. Clearly a discussion for another day, but does highlight the problems the club had about how to sell these very, very limited number of tickets.
I'm in favour of a system like the FA use for England tickets. They award points (called Caps) for every game that one attends. The bonus with this system is that you know where you are in relation to everyone else. The problems with this, at Charlton, are, as mentioned above, how you award 'Caps'. For me I'd like the biggest weighting to be on how long you've had a season ticket - but I would wouldn't I? I'd probably come out near the top on that basis, but I have never been a member of Valley Gold and I don't attend many away games. The six I've managed this season (it would have been seven had Wallsall not been called off when we were less than an hour away) would probably put me way below the top 2,000 - Brighton being the only game I went to (861) that had less than 1,618 Charlton fans there, and three of my six had over 2,046.
The other problem with introducing such a scheme is that the club are probably not able to recall when fans started buying season tickets. If they really have databases that hold ticket information from the 1960s then I'd be questioning their administration.
So the distribution of the tickets was a disaster but could it have been avoided? Maybe, maybe not. The decision to allow two tickets for every season ticket was probably the worst error. My Dad went down to The Valley to buy our tickets in person, and he told me that there were some people in the queue with many season tickets buying two match tickets for each one. No wonder there are tickets available above face value. It should have been one per season ticket. I am inclined to suggest that anyone who doesn't have a season ticket (irrespective as to how many away games they've been to) should also have been excluded. Just my view!
However, in the club's defence, I would suggest that what ever system they had used there would have been a group of 'deserving' fans that failed to get a ticket. This is the basic economic problem, finite resources and infinite demands. There were just too few tickets for the number that wanted to go. There is an argument that says that, as we had more demand for this game than for some of the other fixtures that are as far away, some of those wanting to go are just 'Glory Boys'. We may well have been able to take in excess of 5,000 to this game, where as our largest away following this season has been 3,119.
The lack of infrastructure is probably genuine, but there is no reason as to why the club couldn't have pre-sold tickets for the away game in the same way they did the the home game. Irrespective as to who we were going to play we probably would have sold out our full allocation, so if the club had set up a priority sale they could have organised the criteria two weeks ago. Sure it was not known at the time if it was necessary, but it would have allowed for the current infrastructure to produce a result other than 'First come first served'.
My own thoughts, however, were that this was always going to happen. I spent much of the weekend playing with my new iPad and checking the official website at regular intervals to see when the tickets would go on sale. I suspected that they would have done exactly what they did, and they did. Unfortunately I had a meeting on Monday morning that I was unable to move, so my Dad went down to The Valley and queued. Even though I knew he was going to get there early (and he did) I was fearful that we would miss out. A total of 40 years ownership of a season ticket and the only way to secure a ticket was for a Pensioner to literally stand outside in a queue for two hours.
What makes that so disturbing is that when he got our tickets we felt lucky and excited.
Charlton Athletic, the Family Club, The Community Club. The club that allocates tickets for big games not to those that have had a long record of support, not to those that have been very dedicated in the current season, not to those that make regular donations in return for nothing more than a chance to win a small sum of money (Valley Gold), no. Charlton Athletic, the Family Club, The Community Club allocate tickets for big games to those that have a spare Pensioner able to queue outside for two hours.
Up The Addicks!