‘Your Loyalty Rewarded’ – this was the slogan in the 2010/11 season ticket brochure. The deal was that for every friend existing season ticket holders could persuade to sign up, they would receive 10% of the cost of their own season ticket back as a reward. This seemed like a great idea, and with the club sorely lacking in ideas in a commercial sense down the years, a breath of fresh air. In the end, promotion to the Premier League probably meant that no such incentives were necessary, with the full allocation of season tickets being snapped up in no time at all.
The small print in the brochure explained the following: “All reward refunds due will be paid by Wednesday 1 December 2010”. Sounds straightforward, right? At the time of writing it is now two weeks on from that date, and as yet no refunds appear to have been paid. No reason for this has been forthcoming from the club, and interestingly the local media have been silent on the issue too. This blog emailed the club but did not receive a response. The only tidbits of information have come via message board tittle-tattle, where one poster claimed to have received the following response from the ticket office:
We are just waiting for the chairman and the accounts dept to sort out how we will be refunding the money, either by cheque or on to a card. They will advertise it when everything is sorted and let people know.
Of course, there’s every possibility that this message did not come from the club, but given past experience of how the club operates, it would not at all be surprising. As this blog has written about in the past, Karl Oyston has a reputation for keeping a tight grip on control, and this appears to be another prime example of his micro-management. The worrying thing here is that the club should still be sorting out ‘how to refund the money’. The brochure clearly stated that all monies would be repaid by 1st December, so it’s only natural to expect that a plan of how they approach the refund process would have been in place way before the due date.
Season tickets went on sale in early May, which has given the club over half a year to formulate a plan. It’s fair to say of course that getting up to speed with life in the Premier League will have occupied the top level management at the club, but this issue being unresolved is a massive oversight. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that some people would have recommended 10 friends and thus be due a cash reward of approximately £360. In these austere times, and with Christmas just around the corner, the outstanding money would obviously have significantly helped a number of people. The club has let them down.
Cost to the club
So why has the club failed to meet their commitment? One possible reason is that the amount of refunds due was more than the club anticipated. To examine the potential numbers involved, let’s analyse season ticket uptake in 09/10 and 10/11. In 09/10 the number of season ticket holders was around the 5,000 mark with that figure rising to around 11,000 for ‘Pool’s Premier League debut season. These are crude numbers, but give a difference of 6,000. If all of those new season ticket holders were introduced by a friend, then the potential refund payout of £36 for each of the 6,000 introduced fans would be a surprisingly high £216,000.
It’s unlikely that all 6,000 new season ticket holders submitted their application citing a referral from a friend, but if even only half did, it leaves the club with a bill in excess of £100,000. While it is not acceptable, you can see why the club appear hesitant to pay out on their pledge. Going back to the rumours emanating from the club, I believe the key phrase in their supposed email is ‘how we will be refunding the money’. It’s not inconceivable to think that Karl Oyston may try to offer the refunds as a credit note against future purchases at the club, be it in the form of merchandise, match tickets or next year’s season ticket. This too would go against the original agreement however. The FAQ in the season ticket brochure clearly states ‘You will receive a 10 per cent cash back reward’.
All of this reinforces the mystery around the non-payment. The club set themselves a date to pay the refund – this was not met. The club stated how the refund would be paid – cash. So what’s the hold up? The clock is ticking and each day this situation goes on beyond the December 1st deadline makes the club look more neglectful towards its hardcore support. For now, all we have is silence from the club. If Blackpool are ever to be taken seriously at Premier League level, issues like this are an unwanted sideshow.