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Opinion

It is all about the Newcastle United fans loyalty (points…)

4 months ago
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Let me tell you a little story: it’s the year 2000 and I’m at university in York, which is a decent base for nashing to any away games my meagre student income will allow.

Newcastle United fans have an upcoming match at Southampton and one of my mates has a girlfriend at Southampton uni. We hatch a plan where I’ll drive down and get to the game, while he has a bit time with his lass.

She’s in a house that can accommodate us both so it’s just the cost of petrol. Brilliant, win all round.

A few days later the ticket drops through my door and with comedy timing that Les Dennis would be proud of, the nation lurches into a petrol crisis at exactly the same time. Not a drop at the gas stations, people stranded everywhere. Driving to the south coast is out and my mate doesn’t fancy the train fares…but says his lass can still offer me a spare room. So I think b.llocks, and stick the cheapest train ride I can find on the credit card. Cheap because it involves changing all over the shop to arrive in Southampton the night before the game.

The next day I head off, on my billy jack jones, to the quaint and characteristic surrounding of The Dell, to see United lose 2-0 to a pair of Marian Pahars goals (ask yer da). With the game sewn up and the final whistle approaching, the home fans start singing “What a waste of petrol!”

You have to laugh eh?

Fast forward 22 years and I’m away to Leeds on Saturday, having comfortably met the loyalty criteria for a ticket, through points accumulated via various misadventures like the one above to undesirable places, long distances and lost causes. Leeds tickets sold out at 80 loyalty points and have swiftly been followed up by Brentford tickets going on sale initially at a whopping 180 loyalty points, and the whole usual kick off is occurring about whether the away system is fair, which it fundamentally, absolutely is and luckily for you I’m here to refute any argument against it, so read the next few lines before you spit out the word “but” please.

A prominent point raised is that maybe around 5-10% of the allowance should be held back and sold at 0 points to give younger or less regular travellers a look in. I might hold some truck with this if it wasn’t for the fact that a decent proportion of games do drop to 0 points and therein lies your answer.

If you are one of the young Newcastle United fans starting out on your travels, get yourself to Southampton during a petrol crisis, or if this attractive proposition does not exist, try a televised kick off in London, or get a bus to Everton midweek. Maybe don’t choose to start your away supporting journey with games within an hour of Newcastle, or those with an exclusively small allocation.

There’s then the idea that the points should drop off on a rolling basis, maybe every five years. Again, this is flawed. Other than the fact that people shouldn’t have to start from scratch if life events such as illness or the birth of kids reduces their attendance in the short term, you’re going to get even more of a closed shop, as folk will buy tickets and sell them on to preserve a higher points tally.

This leads naturally to point number three, that Newcastle United fans with high points totals are lending their ticket out to mates when they can’t go, thus bucking the system. This is what is called “networking” and is a valuable life lesson to learn. If you are in and around the fan base enough you should make the contacts to maybe avail yourself of this kind of opportunity. If you are disgusted at the malpractice of it all, unfortunately that is true of any system, but the alternative is the kind of strict policing that was popular in early 40s Europe, where showing your papers at every opportunity is the only way to be certain. This is not a viable option.

This may not go down well, but if you’re huffed you couldn’t get into Elland Road, it’s because you’re feeling entitled. You can address this by going to less attractive games over the coming years and the same applies to everybody, but you don’t like it because you are on the wrong end of it in this instance.

Having said this, I do think there are a couple of things the club could do to mitigate the carry-on that comes with in-demand games. I think a very visible, easy to understand table should be in a prominent place on the website, which lists all opponents in the current division and details of the last three trips there, showing what the allocation was and what the required points dropped to on each of the recent trips.

This would not only give an indication of whether to expect to get a ticket, but the perused could easily see how many matches had indeed fallen to zero points that they could have chosen to attend instead, and maybe an alternative trip can be swiftly planned?

Secondly, I think communication could be more up front about allocation, including detailing if the home club has reduced the allowance for any reason and if there is scope for NUFC to go back and ask for more. This could be made available way in advance to assist anyone looking to book hotels, trains or other non-refundables.

Some people might take this harshly, as I am in a decent position to view this, but I would hasten to remind everyone that we are currently a club marauding towards the Championship. There’s a very real chance in 3-4 years that we may be the type of club that attracts huge quantities of day trippers from around the globe whose affiliation is with the success on offer, not the club or city. Ask yourself how enthusiastic you’d feel for an open playing field then?

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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