Retainers, Vouchers, and downright stubbornness

No less a person than David Conn picked up on it. Other club’s websites and message boards are discussing it in astonishment, and then there’s twitter almost exploding.

On Clarets Mad there was Tony Scholes’ impassioned article and then Richard Oldroyd’s superb piece.

And it wasn’t just Clarets Mad, and that must be made crystal clear to Burnley Football Club. It was The Longside, it was No Nay Never, it was all the social networks, and if there had been magazines due out, it would have been When the Ball Moves and The London Clarets Mag.

NO BFC, this isn’t just grumpy old Clarets Mad, this was a widespread, united, almost universal condemnation of the £100 added to the normal Season Ticket price. This is what Lee Hoos HAS to understand, but I fear he doesn’t. 

And hence the clarification of confusion (his word) appeared on the club site. Hey guys it isn’t a retainer, it’s a voucher. And another deep hole was dug.

And it’s now that I AM confused because a voucher you normally get for nothing as an enticement.  Mrs T is showered with them by Marks and Spencer, £5, £10, 10%, 20%, sometimes I feel we live there.

I go to Kalkan every September and the steep, cobbled street that leads down to the harbour is lined with restaurants and the hosts stand outside handing out vouchers to get you in. They GIVE them. Lee, they don’t say: hey guys if you pay me 25lira I’ll give you a voucher for a meal. They say, hey use this voucher to get 25% off the meal, no strings attached.

But there was no initial confusion anyway. There was no misunderstanding. It was quite clear, and always was, that an extra £100 has been added to the normal and acceptable ticket price rise under the guise of encouraging loyalty and the return of customers.

And what a cockamamy way to do that: I was trying to explain to Mrs T and when I said let’s suppose we go to a restaurant and before we sit down they say: hey guys we’re gonna add £25 to the normal bill but if you come again we’ll knock it off the next meal, it became crystal clear.

If I went into a restaurant and they said that I’d reply: hey guys you can forget that, I’m off.

If I went to my local car dealer and they suddenly added an arbitrary £100 to the repair bill and said, but hey guys you can have it back if you come again, they’d hear just two short words from me.

And all this for the sake of just 3,000 tickets that in the great scheme of things generate no great income when set against the incredible £120million heading the club’s way.

So let’s now clarify the clarification: the word reward seems to have been airbrushed because maybe that is one penny (or £100) that has dropped. It never was a reward. It was an advance and a down payment.  And now it’s a voucher, but it’s not a free one. And if you don’t renew you don’t get your money back. You are buying the voucher. I wonder if David Conn would describe it as a con.

What a huge opportunity has been missed.  And this is the second huge disappointment.  £120million is heading the club’s way, riches beyond even the most hard-hearted accountant’s imagination bent over his desk glued to his calculator, scratching his pen like old Scrooge by candlelight.

Say it, repeat it, roll it round the tongue, imagine it, dream about it, £120 f*****g million. And Lee Hoos and thereby the club, is scrabbling to make a few extra bucks with a plan that somehow is supposed to encourage loyalty.

What a chance lost: a chance to have said hey guys, we’re in the money, dance around the desk, light a ceegar, sing the song… we’re in the money, we’re in the money, and then think how we can share this windfall with our supporters, reward them, not fleece them. 

He was on the radio clearing up the confusion (I guess) and cited the example of a family of four and said that once they’d paid the extra £100, if they came back the next season it would only cost them peanuts. Yep folks, it was his word, peanuts, his word. My mouth dropped. My eyes came out on stilts.

In the early-bird period I bought 4 season tickets. I can tell the club now that had I faced paying an extra £400, if I’d missed the early-bird, I would NOT have renewed. Where the hell do I find an extra £400, a pensioner for God’s sake? And that’s me: 50 years a supporter, ST holder for the last 9 of them; I’d have said that’s it, enough’s enough, I’ll go up to the pub and watch it.  

And there are so many people who actually ARE saying that.  We can all cite our own anecdotal evidence of that. I certainly know a family of three who are not glory hunters, not part time supporters, who will not be renewing. They are angry. And that’s why the whole thing is so sad, and just plain wrong.

So far I’ve sent 3 emails to Lee Hoos and copied in the two co-chairmen.  One mail remains unanswered as I write, in which I asked:

Was it his idea decision and solely his; or was it his in consultation with the club’s upper management committee; were the directors consulted and did they approve it; was the supporters advisory/consultative group consulted?

I keep coming back to this picture in my head of £120million, the club financially safe for another 5 years.  

So then I think: here’s what could have been said.

Hey guys, we’re in the money and here’s what we’re gonna do because we want to share our good fortune. If you have already bought an early bird ticket, or buy one before the new season starts, we will freeze your season ticket price for a minimum of two years. At the end of those two years we will review it. AND guys, we know it’s not much, but we will be issuing you with a voucher for £10 to spend in the refreshment kiosks or in the club shop on a matchday. Yep I know £10 isn’t much but it’s just a token of our appreciation and in fact will set the club back 160,000 bucks. But, without you, where would we be? This club and the town are so intertwined; the club is the heartbeat of the town. The way you turned out to cheer the team when it processed from Town Hall to Turf Moor was just heart-warming. That’s when we thought hey guys; we gotta do something for these great people. We’re in this together and always will be. There used to be a slogan at the club – the Club for its People. We’d like to think it’s still true.

Sadly no: nobody said that.

But: It is NOT too late to repair the damage or to stop the laughter, for laughter is what followed the change of words from retainer to voucher.

It is NOT too late to say hey guys, sorry we got this wrong.

And WRONG is the only word to describe what is in fact a fiasco (a barrister’s word not mine), and makes Burnley Football Club, the club so often described as a model of football management, into something almost grubby and insensitive.

The club could have got it so right. But this is just so utterly, utterly wrong.