Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview: Preston’s season ticket policy proves a bone of contention

The release of season ticket details by Preston North End for the 2020/21 campaign was always going to provoke a reaction.

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 5th September 2020, 12:30 pm

Never before have the club had to budget for trying to play through a pandemic, never before have the PNE supporters had to weigh up the cost of a season ticket to them in such a period of uncertainty.

The controversy and debate surrounding them hasn’t been as much down to the price, more so the refund policy – or the lack of a refund should football disappear behind closed doors again at some stage.

The possibility of not seeing all 21 home games from October and not being recompensed in the event of local lockdowns or a second wave of Covid-19, has seen some fans decide not to commit to a season ticket.

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Peter Ridsdale

Some making that decision have been season ticket holders for more years than they care to remember but simply can’t afford to gamble this campaign.

It’s a tough and uncertain time financially. In one way or another, people have taken a financial hit over the last few months.

Some have been on furlough, some subject to salary cuts.

A season ticket is often a lifestyle choice and this year other aspects of the family budget have to take priority.

No supporter should be criticised for making such a choice, it is not through any sense of disloyalty that they are having to knock a Saturday afternoon or Tuesday evening at Deepdale on the head.

Neither should those North End fans who have chosen to renew their season tickets have a ‘blindfaith’ tag stuck to them.

They want to see football, be back in the ground for the first time since early March, see a North End side try to build on last season’s ninth-place finish by challenging for the play-offs.

Many have renewed their season tickets this week, either online or in person at the ticket office.

On Tuesday when season tickets went on sale, there was a steady – and socially distanced queue – outside Deepdale.

North End, in the shape of Peter Ridsdale, have sought to justify the terms and conditions surrounding no refunds.

Ridsdale has argued that the terms and conditions of season ticket purchase have never included refunds.

The counter argument is that season tickets have never been sold during a pandemic of this nature before.

No one has a crystal ball over what will happen in the coming months, whether the winter will see a big increase in Covid-19 cases or things will generally continue to tail off – with outbreaks controlled at a local level.

That is where I do have a great deal of sympathy for any football club trying to budget for the winter and beyond.

Just as we are seeing the return of fans to grounds on the horizon, the talk has turned to what happens if the turnstiles stop clicking again.

In a couple of interviews, Ridsdale has touched upon the possibility of credit for the 2021/22 season should there be a disruption to this campaign at some stage.

That is a slight softening of stance from the statement put out with the season ticket details.

The ideal outcome for everyone – club and fans alike – is that we get through these next few months without drama and with fans at all the games from early October onwards.

What this week’s debate over season tickets and refunds has got me thinking, is the need for North End to have a properly organised supporters’ club again.

Social media these days gives fans a chance to air their views, but does it turn into an echo chamber at some point?

Communication between fans and the club could be so much better with a group in place.

In the past, North End had a strong supporters’ club.

Reading archive pages of the LEP from the 1970s for example, the supporters’ club was very active.

When I started watching PNE away games in the mid to late 1980s, much of my travelling was on the coaches organised by the supporters’ club – booked in the cabin on Lowthorpe Road.

Moving into the early 1990s, the Independent Supporters’ Association (ISA) was set up and quickly grew in prominence. Early meetings of it were held at the Princess Alice pub – I remember Colin Greenall and a couple of players coming down to address fans and share a few tales.

John Beck engaged with the ISA when he arrived, a major success story of that being home fans moving to the Town End in 1993.

In more recent years there has been the South Ribble Supporters’ Club the PNE Lancaster Supporters’ Club and the PSG.

They were brought together under the ‘Cast’ umbrella.

Social habits have changed, so too the manner in which we communicate, but I just think a supporters club would be so beneficial.

A chance for fans to get together on a monthly basis, to swap ideas, to approach the club hierarchy with concerns or ideas.

Granted, supporters’ clubs take a lot of work and time to run as organisers of some of the groups I’ve mentioned will vouch for.

On matters such as season tickets, the training ground, the proposed fans’ zone, it would be an ideal link between fans and club.

Just touching on the subject of the training ground, the purchase of Euxton went through on Tuesday morning, North End getting the keys to a plush site at a knockdown price.

Having such facilities for the players and being able to tempt potential signings with them, can only be looked on positively.

The saga of the proposed Ingol development will leave a bad taste with some and the final chapter of that has yet to be written with the land still in North End’s ownership.

Euxton though, is a big step forward and an exciting move for PNE.