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As tickets for the last game of the season at Hartlepool go on sale via Customer Charter rules, we thought this would be a great opportunity to have another look at the various suggestions Beesotted put forward post-Chelsea, to review the way tickets are distributed for big matches in the future. These options, which appeared in full in Beesotted 101, are by no means the final solution, but we feel that thrashing out ideas and throwing them into the ether, will provides fans with a basis of debate and input before the club does the inevitable and changes the mechanism for buying tickets.

This is just one in a number of serious topics Beesotted aims to cover in the coming months with Marketing and Press & Public Relations likely to be our next feature after feedback from a number of supporters regarding these areas. But for the moment… back to the ticket situation.

Queuing in the snow, cups of tea, loyalty bonus points. BillytheBee looks at Brentford’s current ticketing system and highlights the various possible alternatives which could make life easier for both club and fans when buying tickets for future big matches

With the euphoria of the Chelsea game over, it’s back to reality with a hard bump. As much as we enjoyed our flirtation with the Champions of Europe, games against Walsall, Crawley and Scunthorpe are a reality pill as to where we really stand amongst the football elite. Our last cup run saw us sell arguably our best player at the time, DJ Campbell, leaving us woefully short on fire-power. This year the club has done everything within their capability to tie down the majority of our very talented squad for the foreseeable future and have even added to it.

With this new forward-thinking attitude encompassing the club, we would be gazing not to think that a few more ‘Chelsea days’ are on the horizon. However, as much as the war spirit that engulfed Bees fans prior to both Chelsea matches – with crowds queuing for up to six hours in the snow in hope of getting their hands on that golden ticket … being served tea by friendly Brentford staff – was heartwarming, there is no doubt that if are to go onto bigger things, Brentford are going to have to seriously update their systems on the ticket-distribution front.

Fans’ supporting habits are cyclic. Fans who may have fanatically supported the club home and away for years may find due to a number of reasons they are not able to get to so many matches now. Maybe that may be for family reasons, financial reasons, work reasons, illness etc. When I was setting up my company a number of years ago, I was out the country most weekends so it was impossible for me to attend matches week in and week out. Any time I was actually at home, it was important for me to be hanging out with my wife and new born kid. 8 years later, I’m doing more home and away matches than ever before but I understand how hard it can be.

People who regularly attend matches may say “I have spent £300 in match tickets more than these non-attending people so I have a right to be in the first 5,000” which is a fair point. The club has to work out how it can diplomatically address all these issues whilst moving forward. The difficult part of balancing all this up is ensuring that everyone is incentivised and feels they have some sort of opportunity, no matter how small it may be, to purchase a ticket for a big game.

Chatting to fans in and around ground and via the various forms of social media, there are a number of issues that have come up regarding how tickets are currently distributed. We look at these issues and suggest possible solutions in the wake of the Chelsea game.

The current system: The Brentford Charter
The current charter system sells initially to season ticket holders then onto members of BIAS, Bees Utd and Lifeline before moving onto folk with a history of buying previous tickets from the club then general sale.

The system works well enough under the circumstances and we estimate between 5k and 6k tickets could be sold via this route before the fans with a previous buying history get a chance to buy. With an average crowd of just over 5,500, there should be no worries here. Where the current system falls down is the jammed phone lines and inability to purchase tickets on-line.

The club very nobly and cleverly decided to reward season ticket holders with guaranteed tickets and relative ease of purchase. Interestingly, when there was more time to buy tickets there was less panic with queues being zero minutes by the third and fourth days of the season ticket holders sale. Fans in other categories however felt that the only way to secure tickets was to go down the ground and queue up.

After standing six hours in the snow, many fans will now consider the option of either buying a season ticket or at the very least, join the membership scheme (ie. Bias or Bees United). If the season ticket numbers jumped up by 1,000 and Bias and Bees United by a couple of thousand, Brentford could feasibly sell 10,000 tickets even BEFORE they go to those on the database and on general sale if they were available.

The other fault in the current system is that a number of true fans are still not actually on the database. Say one person buys four tickets for an away game, chances are only the person buying the tickets will get his name on the database – not the other three. So despite going to Scunthorpe away and fifteen other away games in the couple of years, because they are not in any of the ‘primary sale categories’, they will find themselves in a position of waiting for tickets in a general sale that will never happen. Cue panic. These fans will now be quick to ensure they subscribe to the database. That will see its numbers go up exponentially.

We should also point out, as both Chelsea matches were on TV, no one was going to be denied the opportunity to actually see the match and many, after struggling to get tickets, resigned to watching it on TV. However for a similar non-televised match, the pressure would be so much greater for loyal Bees fans to get their hand on that golden ticket.

So if we had another Chelsea away situation – with a healthy 6,000 tickets on sale what would be the fairest way to distribute these tickets? How do we address things such as singing areas and sitting with your friends and family? How can the club incentivise fans to turn up to unglamorous home matches for a chance to get tickets to the big game? These are all issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

1. First come first served

Many feel that this is the fairest option and is adequate for a club of our side. If someone is willing to queue up the night before for tickets, why shouldn’t he or she be rewarded? The club will always give season ticket holders priority so once they have bought theirs, the remaining tickets will go on sale on a first-come first-served basis similar to the current system. With increased membership numbers it will probably never get to the database sale so members of BIAS, Bees Utd and Lifeline could be fighting it out amongst themselves to secure less then 1k tickets depending on the allocation. This could not only generate chaos but it favours people who are able to take time out of their day to get down to the ground and queue.

Positives: Rewards fans who make the effort
Negatives: Potential chaos.
Unfair disadvantage for people unable to get down to the ground (live a long distance away/abroad, working hours don’t allow, family responsibilities may dictate etc)
Means that the club still hasn’t managed to update their ticketing system

2. Loyalty Membership system

Brentford CEO Mark Devlin hinted at not including the Bees Utd and BIAS membership as part of the forthcoming charter, bringing membership in-house. How does the club fairly deal with the situation where there are potentially more people in the frame than available tickets?

One idea being banded around is creating a loyalty membership system. To join could cost anything from nothing to £10 or £15 a year (the club will no doubt put any cost down to administration and getting the systems up and running) assigning loyalty points for all games attended – maybe one point per home match and two points per away. EnglandFans does exactly this – rewarding fans for purchase of both home and away England tickets with loyalty points or ‘caps’. If this system has any drawbacks it is that it creates a ‘closed shop’ with the majority of the membership simply being unable to get a look-in as all tickets would be snapped up by so called ‘top cappers’. However, that loophole can be addressed (see ballot section below).

With the club desperate to increase their database so that they can market to fans directly, I would have thought this approach was high on the club’s priority list. More people would be incentivised to purchase both home and away tickets in advance to accumulate the loyalty points. The club would then market the hell out of them.

For this system to be successful, the club would have to seriously update both it’s online ticketing system – allowing fans with different loyalty points to access the system to buy tickets at different times – as well as their phone system.

Positives: Rewards fans who have actually attended matches all through the season
Creates a stress free system for purchasing tickets with each of the earlier categories being guaranteed tickets
Assumes the new telephone system and online system are in place

Negatives: Immediately disadvantages people with difficult situations (struggling financially, family issues, working away or abroad, illness limits attendance)
Not every fan is able to attend a majority of matches. Could create a situation which disincentives fans as they feel they have no chance of getting into the ‘top bracket’
Membership of BIAS and Bees Utd will dramatically fall
Being bombarded with marketing spam from the club

3. The ballot

Otherwise known as the outside window of opportunity. If Brentford were to put some sort of loyalty system in place, there should always be an opportunity for every fan to get a ticket. Ticket sales strictly based on loyalty and attending previous matches will allow the same hard core set of fans to attend these matches and will dis incentivise a number of fans who may struggle to get themselves up the loyalty ladder for any reason. Leaving a small proportion of tickets for a ballot enables fans with no chance of getting tickets a smidgeon of hope.

The club could always use ballot tickets to try and drive up attendances for matches prior to big matches. If Brentford allocated say 5% of ticket allocation to a ballot that would have been 300 tickets for the Chelsea away game. Then maybe the qualifying criteria could be EITHER attending two of the last three matches OR having over a certain number of loyalty points to get you in the ballot (the club would have to come up with the fairest way of allocation).

Positives: It’s an inclusive way of giving all fans the opportunity of getting a ticket if they really want one
No one should feel hard done-by if they’re not successful
The club can use ballot tickets as an incentive to try and drive attendances prior to big games
It is a small percentage of the overall allocation but still gives all fans hope

Negatives: Someone may get a ticket for literally only attending two matches over someone who has been to 15 but just missed out due to not quite enough loyalty points
Some may argue that these tickets should go to fans who have built up points in the loyalty scheme

4. Latent Bees membership

Throwing all the options into a pot here for discussion, this scheme is a special membership for fans that struggle to make regular home and away matches for valid reasons (family, work, live abroad etc). But being true fans who may have attended Brentford regularly in their former years, they would like the option of purchasing tickets to big game matches and are willing to pay for that privelidge.

Regular fans spend hundreds of pounds per season watching the Bees and are rightfully are given the opportunity to buy tickets for big matches. There is an argument here that people who don’t spend the £300 plus pounds a year on matches are given the opportunity to make a decision on whether it is a worthwhile investment becoming a member of this scheme. The entry fee would be high (in excess of £150 p/a) and the club would have to control when this scheme was made available (eg. First six weeks of the season only), what point in the buying schedule these fans get to participate and how many tickets they get (probably 1). The club could lump in other benefits of course (free digital programme sent weekly etc)

The likelihood is very few people will actually take up this scheme. However, if it made available then no-one can moan they didn’t have the opportunity

Positives: Gives opportunity to genuine fans who are truly unable to regularly attend matches giving them an opportunity to purchase big match tickets at a price

Brings money into the club from fans who don’t regularly attend

Puts a value on the regular fans’ financial contribution for attending matches week in and week out

Negatives: Stinks a bit of ‘money buying your way up the queue’

Fans may feel hard done by if they purchase this membership and the season was a ‘no big game’ season

5. Reducing tickets to one per person

Some fans have been indicating two tickets per person was unfair and one ticket per person would give more people an opportunity to get tickets. Bearing in mind we get 5,500 fans at home, two tickets seems to cater adequately at the moment but may have to be reviewed if we were to increase our crowds significantly.

Positives: More people will have the opportunity of buying tickets

Negatives: The selling process would be extended even longer
May not sell out certain matches
Makes it even more of a logistical nightmare than it is already to sit with a mate
5,500 regular fans would feel that they should have the opportunity to invite a mate

6. Singing sections

This is a bone of contention for many fans which used to be addressed adequately back in the day (remember Norwich away). There is undoubtedly a section of Brentford support who are more lively than others. At these big away games you always get the less lively fans getting upset with the more lively fans. Having paid for your seat you have every right to sit all the way through a match and keep your lips tight if that’s what you want to do. So the idea of keeping the more lively and the more placid elements apart isn’t rocket science.

Creating a singing section where tickets are sold from the back and a more placid section where tickets are sold from the front makes complete sense. If a fan then purchases a ticket in the singing section, he or she then has less of a reason for moaning that folk all around him or her are getting too lively and vice versa.

Positives: Like-minded fans are congregated together. The current system sees pockets of fans positioned all over the away end
Generates an incredible atmosphere for games (Norwich away)
Separates lively fans from more placid fans. Everyone is happy
Should be a piece of cake once the new ticketing system is in place

Negatives: Can’t think of any

7. Flexible seating

Being fans used to terraces, we still find it really difficult when it comes to big away games not being able to buy tickets for a bulk of our mates so that we can sit together or near to each other. At Stamford Bridge I know one fan who had his wife sitting on the far left, he sat with his neighbours son far right, his son sat front row and his mates were dotted around the back due to tickets being bought at different times in the purchasing schedule. When you get to big matches like this, you want to share it with your mates and loved ones and if there is one downside to the premiership (and there are many trust me), this is one of them. Maybe there’s no way around that. Maybe it becomes an unwritten rule between Brentford fans that if your ticket is in a singing section, your take any random seat in that area and no one complains and people can then jiggle around to be with their families and mates. Or even better, non-allocated seats would be fantastic

A lot of food for thought here. The club could easily say “Well thats what happens when you move up the leagues. You just have to swallow it” with regards ticketing, singing areas and flexible seating. Our view is Brentford should be trying hard to maintain a unique position in the market place. We attract many floating fans by the very fact that were NOT like your Chelsea’s and Arsenals and we should try and maintain that position. One thing we tried to do in this article is think inclusively coming up with recommendations that would include the biggest number of fans – despite how often they may or may not go to games. Not all options will please everyone but at least they will provide a basis for debate prior to the inevitable changes.

It is important that the club hears the fans’ perspective before making any changes. If you want to air your view on any of the above, tweet us at @beesotted , email [email protected] or even better, add a comment to the bottom of this article


Brentford Chief Executive, Mark Devlin, has agreed to write something by way of a response to this piece in the next couple of weeks.