Loyalty – what’s the point?
How loyal are you? Board member Ian Clarke discusses a ticketing issue that rumbles on continually, and the debate around any changes that could possibly be made.
Been to every home game for the last 20 years? That sounds loyal. Every away game this season? Also, loyal. Sunderland away on a cold Wednesday night for a Cup replay? Well, that’s just bonkers, but loyal too.
As Fulham fans we take our loyalty very seriously, especially as once we’ve picked our team, it’s ours for life. And when it comes to getting a ticket for a crunch away game that loyalty really matters because Fulham, like many clubs, measures your loyalty by allocating Loyalty Points. But how loyal do you have to be to snag one of those sought-after tickets, and is your loyalty worth more or less than somebody else’s?
Let’s take a look at Fulham’s Loyalty Point scheme which has been running since 2010, see how it works and how it might be improved to better reflect our fan base in 2023.
BEFORE LOYALTY POINTS
Loyalty Points were introduced by Fulham in the summer of 2010, following our epic run to the Europa League final. Up until that point, the limited number of tickets for big away games in places like Turin, Wolfsburg and Hamburg (and Carlisle) were sold to season ticket holders on a first come, first served basis. This led to long queues down Stevenage Road, jammed phone lines and disappointed fans when the limited number of tickets sold out quickly. Nobody was particularly happy with that system, but everybody thought they deserved a ticket.
The idea behind Loyalty Points was to differentiate in some way between fans so that the difficult-to-get tickets found their way to those who were most loyal. The intention was and remains a good one – to get scarce tickets for important games into the hands of the “right” supporters in as “fair” a way as possible. The twin problems were then, and remain now, how to determine the “right” people and what constituted “fair”.
Here’s some key parts of the announcement from June 2010.
The Loyalty Points scheme will be a means of tracking supporters’ dedication to following Fulham to all their matches both home and away. Points will be awarded to fans who attend any matches both home and away.
As a Season Ticket Holder you will automatically receive all loyalty points for all Premier League Home matches. […] You will only receive points for home cup matches if you bought a ticket for the match under your client reference number and the match has been played.
When tickets go on sale for popular games or cup fixtures supporters with the most loyalty points will be able to purchase tickets first. Therefore attending more matches home and away means greater chance to attend the games with a limited allocation.
The ticket office will decide in advance how many points are required to apply, not all matches will be subject to a minimum point level it will depend on the anticipated demand.
Put simply, those who attend the most matches will get the best chance of a ticket for the popular games, typically important or local away fixtures with smallish allocations.
So far so good and most seasons since there haven’t been too many games that have fallen into this category. But there are always some, for example Brentford and Bournemouth away this season, Luton last season, and by definition they’re the games that bring the Loyalty Point debate back into focus.
HOW TO EARN LOYALTY POINTS
Each season since 2010, season ticket holders and members have been accumulating Loyalty Points at a rate determined by the ticket office by buying tickets and attending matches home and away. How many points, exactly?
In the early days, Loyalty Point allocations seemed a bit haphazard, with some pre-season friendlies attracting disproportionately high numbers compared with regular season games. However, once the system bedded in a more predictable points allocation method seemed to emerge. The Fulham ticketing team have confirmed that the current system is as follows:
At the beginning of every season, a seasonal points allocation is made to all season ticket holders and members:
|Season ticket holder||50|
On top of these allocations, points are allocated for match attendance, whether as a season ticket holder or match ticket buyer with a One Fulham account, as follows:
|Home matches||LPs||Away matches||LPs|
|League – Saturday||2||League – London||2|
|League – midweek||3||League – Midlands / South||3|
|League – televised||4||League – North||5|
|Cups – any day||2||Cups – any location||3|
Of course, there’s plenty of scope for argument as to whether going to, say, Chelsea at home (televised home game, 4 points) is more “loyal” than Leicester away (Tuesday night in the Midlands with no trains home, 3 points) or whether Sunderland away (Wednesday night in the Cup, 280 miles, 3 points) is worth the same as Crawley away (Tuesday night in the Cup, 40 miles, 3 points).
A lot will depend on your point of view. Loyalty to most fans will entail a degree of difficulty in attending (it’s certainly way harder, more expensive and time consuming to get to Sunderland than Crawley, unless you live in Sunderland) but the Club will gain more benefit from you buying a ticket for a home game that you could otherwise watch on TV.
What does this add up to?
Let’s do a simple calculation to see how many points a supporter might have accumulated by buying a season ticket every season since Loyalty Points began in 2010/11 and attending every home league match up until the World Cup Break this year.
For simplicity we’ll assume all the games were played on a Saturday and not televised, thus being awarded 2 LPs each under the current system. This is only an approximation, because of course there were many midweek and televised games in this period and historic Loyalty Point allocations were a little different. However, it helps us get to a baseline without checking back through 12 seasons of televised and midweek fixtures and, since Fulham changed their ticketing software provider to SecuTix from Ticketmaster, we no longer have a game-by-game Loyalty Point history.
|Seasonal allocations||12 seasons x 50 LPs||600|
|Complete Premier League seasons||5 seasons x 19 games x 2 LPs||190|
|Complete Championship seasons||5 seasons x 23 games x 2 LPs||230|
|Partial Premier League season (2022/23)||1 season x 8 games x 2 LPs||16|
|Partial Championship season (2019/20)||1 season x 19 games x 2 LPs||38|
All of this adds up to 1,074 LPs, even before we factor in midweek, televised or Cup games which would make the total higher.
Cross-checking this with supporters who have held their season tickets consistently for this period and mostly attended home games, it is a little high with the actual total nearer to 1,000 LPs which means that fewer points must have been allocated at some time in the past. Nonetheless it does indicate that to be in the top tier of Loyalty Points for a popular away game like Chelsea or Brentford, you don’t really need to have been to many away games in the last 12 years.
What does it look like per season?
All of the calculations above ignore away games. Let’s look at our last completed season (2021/22 in the Championship) to see how many Loyalty Points were on offer for that single season.
|Home matches||LPs||Away matches||LPs|
|League – Saturday||x7||14||League – London||x2||4|
|League – midweek||x6||18||League – Midlands / South||x12||36|
|League – televised||x10||40||League – North||x9||45|
|Cups – any day||x1||2||Cups – any location||x3||9|
So, 74 LPs for attending all competitive home games, 94 for away games and another 50 for a season ticket (25 for membership) makes a grand total of 218 LPs last season, excluding any friendlies. In other words, slightly under half of last season’s Loyalty Points were awarded for attending away fixtures despite the fact that the points are solely used to prioritise attendance at those popular away games.
HOW ARE LOYALTY POINTS USED?
As we’ve seen, there’s a reasonable amount of complexity behind the Loyalty Point system and the accumulation of points, but what’s it like to use them?
Despite the name perhaps implying a scheme similar to a supermarket “club card” with associated discounts and special offers, Loyalty Points have only ever been used to allocate away tickets, and only then a relatively small number of times per season for particularly popular games or low allocations. The ticket office decides on an appropriate allocation method for each fixture based on expected demand and away capacity, but the model doesn’t change very much.
Here’s the allocation scheme for Chelsea away, which had an away capacity of 2,986. Tickets were released on a one per person basis to season ticket holders according to Loyalty Points, starting at 1,000 and dropping by 100 each week-day of sale. Access to non-season ticket holders was only provided at the end of this process, subject to availability.
|Release date||Supporter Criteria|
|Mon 9th January||STH with 1,000 points or more|
|Tue 10th January||STH with 900 points or more|
|Wed 11th January||STH with 800 points or more|
|Thu 12th January||STH with 700 points or more|
|Fri 13th January||STH with 600 points or more|
|Mon 16th January||STH with 500 points or more|
|Tue 17th January||STH with 400 points or more|
|Wed 18th January||STH with 300 points or more|
|Thu 19th January||STH with 200 points or more|
|Fri 20th January||STH with 100 points or more|
|Mon 23rd January||All 2022/23 STH|
|Tue 24th January||All 2022/23 Members|
|Wed 25th January||Previous Booking History|
It’s a simple enough model on the face of it, but presents problems for some supporters.
Newer but regular home and away supporters are disadvantaged.
Anyone holding a season ticket since Loyalty Points were introduced in 2010/11 and attending only home games will already have in the region of 1,000 LPs, meaning that they will usually qualify for a popular away ticket on the first day of release. Conversely newer (often younger) fans attending every game home and away but perhaps only for three years would have significantly fewer than 600 LPs and be unable to buy until day six at the earliest. Chelsea tickets sold out early on day six (500 LPs or more) and so many would have missed out.
This problem is significantly worse for any games which have particularly small away allocations – Brentford and Bournemouth this season. These fixtures used the same Loyalty Points model as for Chelsea, starting at 1,000 Loyalty Points, but sold out early on day three (800 LPs or more) and day four (700 LPs) of sales respectively.
Difficult for families and groups to buy together
Many groups of supporters, particularly families, naturally want to buy tickets to sit together but have different numbers of Loyalty Points. This means that they either have to wait until the release day corresponding to the lowest number of Loyalty Points in the group, which means they risk missing out altogether if tickets sell out, or buy on different days and sit separately. This decision is particularly difficult because there is no information from day to day during the sale window to indicate how many tickets remain unsold and how many supporters will become eligible on subsequent days.
The ticket office has always been very helpful in trying to reallocate tickets after purchase to seat split families together, but this is not always possible at sold out away games.
Loyalty Points are not well supported by the ticketing system
With increasing numbers of sell-outs for away games, the days of “sit where you want” are largely over. This means that groups who want to sit together need to buy together which, as mentioned above, is tricky with different numbers of Loyalty Points. However, two aspects of the current ticketing system make this harder: the lack of information about the Loyalty Points held by ‘friends and family’ and the inability of a supporter who has already bought a ticket using their own allocation to buy additional tickets for friends and family on subsequent days. In this latter case, the ticketing system seems to indicate that the game is no longer on sale when that isn’t the case.
Members, especially lapsed season ticket holders, have low priority
Although the information about memberships states that one of the advantages is “Priority access to buy away league tickets”, it carries the rider “after Season Ticket Holders”. In the Chelsea example, this means that members don’t get access to tickets until day 12 of sale, just one day before those with only “previous booking history” and after season ticket holders with a handful of Loyalty Points. So, although this is a priority, it’s a very low one and, for example, members did not get a chance to buy Chelsea tickets as they were sold out by day six.
In some previous seasons, away sales have been handled differently, with tickets on sale at each Loyalty Point level being for season ticket holders and members. This allowed members who had built up substantial Loyalty Point totals over the years by previously holding a season ticket to buy at the same time as season ticket holders with similar totals.
HOW COULD THE FULHAM SYSTEM BE AMENDED?
It’s clear that no perfect solution exists to distribute limited away tickets when demand exceeds supply, particularly when the very definition of the word “loyalty” means different things to different people. Any changes made to the existing system are bound to be supported by those who benefit and rejected by those who lose out. That being said, there are a few modifications which could be made if the ticketing system can be configured to allow them. Here’s some suggestions which may not all be possible but which form a good basis for discussion and should alleviate some of the problems highlighted above.
Consider recent away attendance as well as Loyalty Points
Many newer, younger supporters just haven’t been attending for long enough to build up the same Loyalty Points balances as long-term supporters but still attend as many games as possible. By factoring in recent away attendance as well as long term Loyalty Points, these supporters have a better chance of obtaining tickets for games like Brentford and Bournemouth in particular.
The exact number of recent away games would need to be calculated based on a detailed look at the numbers, but a modification to the Chelsea example might make tickets available on day along the following lines
STH with 1000 points or more, or who have attended more than 45 of the previous 50 away games.
Using this kind of system, newer supporters who are very regular home and away attenders would be treated similarly to less frequent away attenders who have held a season ticket for many years.
Depreciate Loyalty Points over time
An alternative way to shift the balance away from supporters who have held a season ticket for a long time without attending many away games towards those who attend most away games is to depreciate Loyalty Points each season. Loyalty Point totals have been growing every season since 2010/11, but they could be modified to cover, say, just the previous five years. However, this would only be possible if the annual totals are available and we know that when the current SecuTix ticketing system was introduced at the start of the 2021/22 season the only Loyalty Point information migrated across was the total; annual accruals data were not transferred.
This means that by the end of this season, only two full seasons’ worth of detailed data will be available.
Modify the Loyalty Point accrual method
The maximum number of Loyalty Points available per match is five, for a long distance away league game, but a popular televised home game has the next highest number of points with four. Whilst everybody will have their own view on which games are most deserving of points, this does seem a little odd. It would make sense to review the accrual method, with a view to creating a bigger gap between long distance/evening away games and home matches.
Reduce number of Loyalty Point tiers, making full allocation available on first day
Although it will always be difficult for large groups with disparate numbers of Loyalty Points to buy together, the situation could be eased by making the day one ticket allocation as large as possible. If the day one Loyalty Point (and away attendance) level was set so that the total number of eligible supporters is equal or close to the maximum allocation, supporters would have the best opportunity to buy tickets together.
Put tickets on sale to members and season ticket holders simultaneously
There are probably not that many members with very high Loyalty Point totals, but there will be some, almost all of whom will have accumulated points through many seasons of holding a season ticket. Modifying the ticket allocation method to include members at every stage would give a better level of priority than at present, and is likely to improve membership sales for the Club. Although it can be argued that season ticket holders should continue to have priority over members, in effect they already do by receiving more Loyalty Points for a season ticket (50) than a membership (25).
Allow supporters to see Loyalty Point totals for all members of friends and family group
If the ticketing system made the Loyalty Point totals for all ‘friends and family’ visible, groups would be able to make better decisions about when to apply for away tickets. This would require a modification to the ticketing software.
Provide tickets sold and upcoming eligibility information during the sales process
Buying for groups would be made even easier if better information was available about tickets remaining and likely demand. For example, on day two of sale, if a message said “There are x remaining tickets with y supporters becoming eligible today” then fans would be able to make a sensible decision about when to make a group purchase.
Allow fans to buy for friends and family even after they have bought their own ticket
An additional aid to buying for friends and family would be to allow purchase for the wider group even after a supporter has used their own allocation. This would require a modification to the ticketing software.
Make a small number of away tickets available by ballot
Some clubs reserve a small number of away tickets for a ballot process. This gives supporters who ordinarily would never be able to attend an away game an opportunity to get a ticket. In reality, this is most useful for clubs who sell out every away game very quickly but may still be worth considering for some high-profile games.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Thanks for reading. If you’ve made it this far you must be very loyal and we’d reward you with a couple of Loyalty Points if we could. Hopefully you’ve found some food for thought.
In any area where demand exceeds supply, it’s very hard to find a system that everyone thinks is “fair”. We are all conditioned to want the best for ourselves, and when changes are implemented, there will be winners and losers.
Additionally, implementation and modification of schemes like the Loyalty Points system takes time and effort that needs to be proportionate with the benefit obtained by both Club and supporters.
The majority of the suggestions made above will have minimal adverse impact on most supporters and should be relatively easy to implement. It’s true that by increasing the ticket buying chances of some supporters, others will necessarily have their chances reduced. There’s no perfect answer, and you only have to look at the online message boards of other Premier League clubs to see that they have the same or similar challenges.
We would welcome your thoughts.