All posts by David Chidgey

Time for UEFA to take action on managing the Champions League and Europa League finals

The fan experience at UEFA finals must be improved, say fan groups of last year’s four finalists.

Ahead of tomorrow’s draw in Monaco for the Champions League and Europa League 2019/20 tournaments, supporters of last season’s four finalists are calling for changes in how UEFA manage the finals. ​

A joint statement by Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, Spirit of Shankly and Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust reads:

Reaching a UEFA Champions League or Europa League final should be a wonderful experience for a club’s supporters. Instead, they can face a struggle just to attend the match. ​Problems range from inadequate numbers of tickets being awarded to the finalists through to all-but-impossible travel arrangements. Too often fans who had supported their clubs in every round up to the final were left out of pocket or not able to attend the final at all. 

We have drawn up a six-point action plan to improve the supporter experience. It has been referred to the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) and Football Supporters Europe (FSE). We now call on UEFA to engage in meaningful dialogue with supporters and address these points.

1. Allocation: 80% of tickets should be made available to the two competing finalists. with the remaining 20% for sponsors, the football family, key stakeholders and small general sale.
 
2. Capacity: only stadiums with large capacities should be selected to ensure maximum ticket availability. We suggest 60,000 or greater for the Europa League final; 75,000 for the Champions League final.
 
3. Affordability: ticket pricing for the final to be fair and affordable. There should be a stretch pricing policy allowing choice for fans. 
 
4. Accessibility: the final venue must have the highest standards for accessibility for people with disabilities, including travel access to the stadium; sufficient food, drink and washroom facilities; and have not been subject to a UEFA charge for the treatment of fans for at least 24 months prior to the final.
 
5. Infrastructure: the location of the final venue to be a city with excellent transport links, including the capacity to deal with additional charter flights, and ideally good rail links to nearby cities and airports; bed-space capacity to deal with the large number of visitors.
 
6. Equality: the host country must abide by a human-rights and equality policy that ensures no discrimination or denial of right of entry is applied to any player or supporter travelling to the final.

Tomorrow’s much hyped draw will involve everybody from the football family except the very people without whom there would be no European Football – its supporters. We call upon UEFA to strengthen its dialogue with fans and request that they start by engaging with groups like ourselves to discuss the proposals we have put forward to improve arrangements for fans at the final stage of the Champions and Europa Leagues.

Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust
Arsenal Supporters’ Trust
Chelsea Supporters’ Trust
Spirit of Shankly, Liverpool Supporters’ Trust 

The Europa League Final in Baku

The Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal on May 29th is presenting unprecedented challenges to supporters who wish to be there in the hope of witnessing Chelsea winning another European trophy.

It is clear that, whilst a pleasant place to visit for a group stage match, Baku is a totally unsuitable location for a major European final. The combination of cost, complexity in regard to travel arrangements and time off work has massively reduced the travelling support, including those who loyally and ordinarily go to all home, away and European matches.

None of this is the fault of the people of Baku. The blame lies predominantly with UEFA who, yet again, re-affirm their contempt for match going supporters.

Due to UEFA’s choice of Baku, the supporters who do manage to make the trip face a late finish of the game (potentially after 01.30 if it goes to extra-time and penalties) causing potential problems for travelling supporters returning to hotels or travel hubs. But before supporters get this far, the issues faced in actually getting there are insurmountable for many.

These issues are exacerbated by the inadequacy of airports in terms of handling large numbers of extra flights, the lack of direct flights and high cost of indirect ones and the complexity of journeys from Tbilisi or Kiev by overnight train or minibus for example.

With the difficulties supporters face in getting to Baku, it might not seem unreasonable that UEFA have only allocated 6,000 tickets to both Chelsea and Arsenal out of a capacity of 68,000. However, this is potentially a worrying trend for future seasons. UEFA notoriously provide an inadequate allocation for supporters in finals, instead favouring the ‘UEFA family’ and may use the understandable but likely unsold allocation by both clubs as a barometer for future allocations.

In addition, the political situation between Azerbaijan and Armenia means that Arsenal player and Armenia Captain, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, feels unsafe to visit the country and now misses out on the chance to play in the biggest game of his career. There have also been reported cases of supporters of Armenian extraction who have been refused a visa to enter Azerbaijan. Choosing a location where there are issues with political conflicts and human rights abuses makes a mockery of UEFA’s claims of inclusivity.

On the subject of inclusivity, UEFA and the stadium’s provision of facilities for disabled supporters is inadequate. The sightlines for some of the wheelchair spaces in the stadium are compromised by poor pitch visibility. In Baku itself, there is limited accommodation and infrastructure accessible to disabled supporters. Awarding a final to a City and Stadium which cannot adequately provide for disabled supporters due to poor views and inaccessibility is a damning indictment of UEFA’s #equalgame campaign.  

Rather than arrogantly pushing back on recent criticism, once both English clubs had reached the Quarter Finals, surely a round table discussion between UEFA, Azerbaijan and the two clubs on details, logistics and airline capacity should have taken place. Better still, a fall-back venue could and should have been identified.

We are extremely disappointed that Chelsea FC have been unable or unwilling to help Chelsea supporters overcome the travel, expense and logistics in order for them to support the team in a European final. This, in spite of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust’s suggestions as to how the club could offer material help to supporters wishing to go to Baku.

We suggested providing a subsidy for travelling supporters, having calculated the negligible financial impact on the club given the revenue earned from the competition this season. This is pertinent when considering that Chelsea FC’s travel partner, Thomas Cook, is charging an extortionate £979 for the official package for the day trip to Baku. Furthermore, the late notice of the UK airport to be used for both departure and return means it is hard for travellers to plan.

The price for Thomas Cook’s package is more expensive than most season tickets, and again it is disappointing that the club did not feel they could offer supporters an extension for season ticket renewals, as they have done before when Chelsea supporters faced additional expense due to the club’s participation in a European final. Tottenham Hotspur for example have extended their season ticket renewals to help supporters cash flow.

Chelsea is the only club of the four English European finalists insisting all of their supporters collect their tickets from a designated ticket pick-up location, even though tickets are clearly freely available. To compound things, supporters cannot take advantage of the free travel in Baku until they have their match ticket. Surely Chelsea could have re-thought their policy in lieu of the exceptional circumstances of the trip to Baku?

The lack of a statement from Chelsea FC is also disappointing. Arsenal FC, issued a statement expressing frustration and disappointment on behalf of their supporters; acknowledging the unsuitability of the venue, the challenges faced by supporters travelling to Baku and the need to ensure more care by UEFA in future venue selection. While this may not make any difference to UEFA’s immediate decision making, at the very least it sent out a message to their supporters that they were concerned about the difficulties they face and were on their side.

A similar statement from Chelsea would have engendered some much-needed goodwill from the supporters.

And, given the large numbers of Chelsea supporters who are extremely disappointed in not being able to get to Baku to support the team, we believe that Chelsea FC have missed a great opportunity to benefit from another gesture of goodwill by facilitating a ‘live broadcast’ or ‘beam back’ of the match, at Stamford Bridge or another suitable venue.  

This would have been very well received and while never able to replace the experience of being in Baku, it might have mitigated some of the disappointment.

No Charges Against Chelsea Supporter Accused Of Racially Abusing Raheem Sterling

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust notes that the Chelsea supporter who was vilified by the media for allegedly racially abusing Raheem Sterling when Chelsea played Man City last December, will not be prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service due to a lack of evidence of any racial abuse.

We are clearly very disappointed that the speed with which both the club and the media pre-judged the supporter led to his season ticket being withdrawn and in addition, the loss of his job due to the ensuing media frenzy based on unproven allegations.

We will be lobbying the club to ask for the reinstatement of the supporter’s season ticket as well as the three other supporters whose season tickets were withdrawn at that time.

Statement on Chelsea Ticket Prices Announcement

Chelsea have announced their ticket prices for next season covering season ticket prices, concessions, general ticket prices and prices for cup competitions.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust welcome Chelsea FC freezing season ticket prices (remaining at 2011/12 prices and meaning that prices have not risen for 12 out of the past 14 seasons) and also maintaining the discounted prices for Cup competitions.

However, we are very disappointed with the price increases for members and general admission in all adult categories for Premier League games. This will see an increase from £47 to £50 for members for a Category B match in the Shed or Matthew Harding Lower (cheapest tickets) and an increase from £56 to £60 for Category AA matches. 

Similarly prices for general admission tickets will increase from  from £52 to £55  for a Category B match in the Shed or Matthew Harding Lower (cheapest tickets) and an increase from £61 to £65 for Category AA matches. This represents an increase of between 5.5% to 7%. 

The price increases for match day tickets for members and general admission appears to be particularly unfair on supporters who are unable to afford the financial commitment that a season ticket entails, especially at a time when personal finances may be constrained due to the wider economic conditions.

Since credit and debit card surcharges were banned in January 2018, we presume that the £2 fee being charged for each transaction is to cover booking or admin fees for all forms of payment. However, we will seek clarification from the Club as to what this fee covers as it does seem unduly excessive.

The Club’s commitment to offer subsidised travel and continued support for the away ticket price cap, as per the Premier League guidelines is also very welcome, especially considering the expense and difficulty with travel costs often as a result of rescheduled kick off times faced by our away support.

However, any price increase must be viewed as disappointing when considering the vast amount of revenue received by Chelsea from the lucrative Broadcast deals negotiated by the Premier League. This is particularly irritating when considering the huge amount of inconvenience placed upon match going supporters due to the constant rescheduling and movement of matches to unpopular time slots.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust is currently conducting it’s annual survey of Chelsea supporters and it includes a section on Ticket Pricing and Kick Off times. If you would like to express your view on any issues regarding ticket prices we urge you to complete the survey here

The results of the survey are presented to the Club.

 

 

Statement on FA Cup Late Kick Off Time

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust is extremely disappointed to hear that the 4th Round FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday or Luton Town has been scheduled for 18.00 on Sunday 27th January, due to the match being televised live by the BBC.

While the FA Cup may be losing its appeal among some clubs and supporters, this is definitely not the case at Chelsea where FA Cup matches sell out match after match, year after year.

However, we wonder how long this exceptional support will continue when the FA, in thrall to the Broadcasters, has sold the soul of football’s most prestigious tournament and in doing so shows nothing but contempt for supporters with inconvenient kick off times and the inherent transport difficulties and costs that ensue.

A 6.00 pm kick-off on a Sunday evening will be particularly hard on Sheffield Wednesday supporters, should they beat Luton Town in the replay, with travel back up to Yorkshire late on a Sunday night especially difficult. But it’s not just the away supporters who will find it difficult, whether from Sheffield or Luton.

Many Chelsea supporters also travel long distances to watch Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge. For reasonably priced FA Cup ties, many supporters take their young children, possibly for their first match.  With a kick off time of 6.00 pm those plans may now change and many kids will now be disappointed. At a time when the clubs and the game should be doing everything they can to encourage the next generation to attend football matches, it seems obtuse to deny access through a late kick off time to the very same people.

Presumably they’ll be able to watch it on TV, which is where the game seems to be heading; a game no longer for supporters watching in stadiums, but for those in the comfort of their armchair.

Supporters have already expressed frustration and anger at the lack of traditional 3.00 pm kick off times and the number of early, late or Friday night kick offs, due to broadcast demands in this season’s FA Cup. This follows on from the extortionate ticket prices charged by the FA for the Semi-Finals and FA Cup Final last season, a point we made vociferously at the time.

If the FA Cup wishes to retain its pre-eminence as the most loved tournament in football, then the FA would do well to heed the concerns of the very people who make it what it is and ultimately who it serves: The Supporters.

 

 

 

 

 

Experiencing Anti-Semitism at Stamford Bridge

The issue of anti-Semitic chanting at Chelsea matches has received widespread coverage in the media recently. The Club and the Trust have both publicly condemned such chanting. While it is true that the majority of Chelsea supporters do not behave in a racist and anti-Semitic manner, a minority continue to chant words that are offensive to Jewish Chelsea supporters and indeed our owner, Roman Abramovich.

What is often overlooked is the impact this has on those who hear it in and around the stadium on a match day. We were contacted by a mother and son who experienced this at first hand and gave us permission to share their experience of anti-Semitism at Stamford Bridge. The following account exemplifies what it means to our own Jewish supporters who hear anti-Semitic chanting during matches.

Mother and son Karen and Jack are lifelong Chelsea supporters. On Saturday 22 December, they attended the Chelsea v Leicester match at Stamford Bridge. (Names have been changed).

Karen: My Dad was born in Worlds End, Chelsea. He lived in Parsons Green, and had a season ticket. His father was a supporter when they created the club in 1905. So my family have been supporting Chelsea since the very beginning.

I’ve been going since the late 70s. So when my kids were born there was no question about who they would support. We are all members – that’s how we buy tickets. Alternatively we sometimes use friends’ season tickets when they can’t go.

For the game against Leicester, we sat in the Matthew Harding Lower – on the East Stand side. It was a friend’s season tickets. The majority of the people who sit around those seats are really friendly.

Chelsea is a big part of my family’s life. We’re British, and we’re also Jewish. But we are very much a Chelsea family and ethnicity should not be relevant to our love and support of our beloved Chelsea.

 Jack: I’m at university in the Midlands, and I try and get tickets for games nearby. I went to the Wolves game recently – I was in the home end! So I had to remain quiet the whole game.

I went to West Brom when we won the league. Even though it was impossible to get tickets we went to a Chelsea pub close to the ground to soak up the atmosphere. It was a great night.

But there were people in that pub – Chelsea fans – singing about Spurs fans, and how they don’t have foreskins. People from my age into their 50s. That’s out of order. There is ignorance there, but why would you make a statement like that?

Karen: Against Leicester there was somebody behind me and Jack, and he was chanting a lot. He was really loud: one of those people that want to try and get everyone singing.

He started chanting ‘we hate Tottenham’.

And then he suddenly shouted ‘We hate Y-ds’. It was a white guy in his 40s. His mate told him: “Be careful” and he stopped.

Jack: It happened about five or six times. He was screaming it – him on his own. I was close to turning around, but I just felt that I didn’t really want that confrontation. My whole mood changed after that. You’re at a game of football, and you don’t expect to hear any of this. I was so disappointed. I just thought: ‘Why on earth is that relevant to a game of football?’

Karen: I thought: ‘These are not my seats. I’m sat next to someone who I don’t really know, and I wasn’t sure how they might react if I made an issue of it. Later, when I mentioned it, they said: ‘I would have reported him’.

I just felt really uncomfortable. Disturbed, I would say. I was so disappointed. I just thought: ‘Why on earth is that relevant to a game of football?’

I know this happens, but it was so close by. It felt like an assault.

I don’t like what Tottenham call themselves. I find it uncomfortable, and it certainly isn’t helpful. It is meant to be an offensive term. But whatever Tottenham call themselves, it doesn’t ever excuse people shouting about hatred for Jews.

I was left feeling: ‘What have I done to him? Why would that man, or anyone, not like us – simply because we are Jewish?’ They don’t know me or Jack.

Jack: It has definitely got worse in recent seasons. I think social media has a bit of a role to play in it. It is a bit stupid and short-sighted though, especially as our owner, Roman Abramovich, is Jewish. It is ridiculous that it is that aspect, with Tottenham or whoever, that someone would pick on.

Karen: Should anyone not understand: the word is a derogatory word about Jewish people. Whoever you might be directing it at: if Jewish people are present, then it us who are hurt by it.

But what I don’t understand is this… If you know that ‘Y-d’ is a bad word, but you don’t know what it means, then how could you possibly think it acceptable to shout it out in public?

There has been so much in the media about this, and about stopping it, and people are surely well aware that it’s not acceptable. There is maybe some testing of the boundaries going on here.

Jack: There are a million things you can sing about football. You don’t have to bring in race, religion, whatever. It’s not relevant to sport at all. It is really upsetting for anyone – for any race or religion – to receive targeted abuse. Even if it is not calculated to directly hate those people.

Karen: As I said, I’m British, and I’m Jewish. But I’m proud to be British, even though there are times when it just makes me ashamed of some people who are the same nationality. Like a lot of Jews, I do have a family link with the Holocaust – relatives who escaped and some who were exterminated.

If you said back then, in the 1930s, that things would end up as they did – then a lot of people would have been insistent that it couldn’t happen. It did happen.

Little things have the potential to become terrible things. Shouting abuse about any race or religion is dangerous.

Jack: I think the club’s Campaign against Anti-Semitism is brilliant. I think they should try to educate and reform people. Teaching people about why this is a problem, for us as Jews, is important. I think there needs to be a wide understanding of that.

 

 

FOODBANK COLLECTION AT FOREST GAME

 
 
 
 

Items that they urgently need are :
• Juice (long life)
• Long life sponge puddings
• Long life milk
• Tinned vegetables
• Tinned meat
• Rice pudding
• Coffee
• Toilet roll (and other toiletries

Please note they already have plenty of beans, tea and pasta

Thank you for your generous support.
For further information about Hammersmith and Fulham Food bank, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Chelsea FC Statement by Bruce Buck

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust welcomes the clear and unambiguous open letter published by Bruce Buck, Chairman of Chelsea FC, today.

The Trust wholeheartedly supports the club’s stance and confirms its commitment to working with Chelsea FC to promote inclusion and eradicate all forms of discrimination.

The full statement by Bruce Buck can be read here

Chelsea v Man City – Chelsea Supporters’ Trust Statement

Chelsea Supporters Trust logoThe Chelsea Supporters’ Trust notes that the Club and the Metropolitan Police are investigating a specific incident that occurred during Saturday’s match against Manchester City.

The Trust condemns all racist abuse whether it is aimed at players or supporters. There is no place for it in the game.

Clearly due process needs to be followed and we will comment further after the conclusion of the investigation in to the incident.

Chelsea Supporters’ Trust meets with the Premier League

Supporter representatives from every top-flight club, including the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust recently met with Premier League executives to discuss a range of issues impacting match-going fans.

The meeting took place under the auspices of the Football Supporters Federation on 11th October and was attended by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore and other league officials.

Fan representatives from every Premier League club attended the meeting, drawn from the FSF’s network of democratically structured trusts and supporter groups, as well as some fanzines and activists. Supporters Direct also attended.

This was the fifth meeting between fan organisations and the Premier League which followed Government recommendations on fan engagement. The first took place in July 2016.

Future meetings will take place on a bi-annual basis with the next one due to take place in Spring 2019.