A New Way to Allocate Villa Away Tickets and Club's Promise for Legia Warsaw Game
OK, let’s get this newsletter back up and running. Apologies for the long hiatus. I will catch up on several key Villa supporter matters in the coming week or so, but first a couple of recent updates to get us into the swing of things again…
Legia Warsaw Villa Park Plans & Improvement
Plans have been put in place for the arrival of the Legia Warsaw fans for the final Europa Conference League at Villa Park. Due to the reputation and behaviour of Legia Warsaw’s away fans - specifically at both the Leicester City Europa League game in 2021 and their recent trip to AZ Alkmaar - Aston Villa, UEFA and the West Midlands police, have been preparing an operation to try and ensure a safe and hassle free night for all.
As I’ve mentioned before on the My Old Man Said podcast, the policing of the game will resemble a Second City derby.
First of all, Legia Warsaw will be receiving a restricted allocation of away tickets of around 1000 tickets to hopefully mitigate any trouble. Normally, they would receive 5%, which would be 2,100,
While AZ Alkmaar were offered the full allocation of tickets, they didn’t take them up (there were around 1,200 AZ fans at Villa Park on the night). The demand would have been a lot greater amongst Polish fans, but many without tickets are still expected to come.
Ultimately though, the club want to make our Polish visitors as welcome as possible to Villa Park.
The club and police have been preparing for Legia Warsaw with dress rehearsals during the Luton Town league game and the AZ Alkmaar game.
One thing that evidently needs addressing from the trial runs is the rearranged exit from the North Stand side.
Anybody who left the AZ Alkmaar game at Villa Park from the North Stand side, were rerouted out of the car park exit behind the club shop. Several Villa supporters dropped me a line, saying it was crowded, poorly lit and a potential hazard with the uneven ground.
Villans on MOMS social media confirmed it potentially presented a dangerous situation, with many supporters describing leaving the AZ game, as unnerving and unsafe.
I raised this supporter feedback with the club and police, and the club took the comments into their debrief of the game.
I have since been told that it will be sorted for the Legia Warsaw game, so expect improvements.
It should be an entertaining evening, with both sides knowing that if they win the game, it should secure winning the group.
Having made the trip to Warsaw for the first game between the teams, the Legia fans were excellent and it is a shame they can’t have a full allocation to add to the atmosphere at Villa Park. However, it is understandable to be fair to the club.
New Away Ticket Allocation Method?
If there’s one perpetual issue that supporters are constantly not happy about and which causes the most frustration, it’s the allocation of away tickets for Aston Villa supporters. For many it is a closed shop.
There’s accusations of fans passing on tickets they don’t attend to preserve their booking history. There’s the problem of fans buying tickets for European games and then not going, thus preventing other supporters going. There’s also an issue of spare tickets not being offered to supporters, despite the last booking tier not taking them all up.
I’ve seen loads of examples of injustice and supporter frustration, and it would take too long to go through them all here.
The biggest problem though is the fact that away game tickets are considered a closed shop to even season ticket holders.
Instead, I’ve contributed to an idea that will hopefully try to create a fairer system and give more Villa supporters an opportunity to see Villa away from home, while safe guarding the so-called ‘Same Old Faces’.
There is no silver bullet to solve this issue. One thing is clear though, a ballot of 50 pairs of tickets (an increase on last season’s 25 pairs), which was in place to counter the notion of a ‘closed shop’, is inadequate and something of a gimmick.
Essentially, you need a method of distributing away tickets that both protects the loyal away fans with the top-end booking history, yet also opens it up to at least season ticket holders. After all, season ticket holders have suffered consecutive price increases, while having their benefits slowly stripped away.
MOMS member, Ben Redding, initially proposed to me the radical idea that circa 1500 tickets would be given to the Villa supporters that go to every away game, then the rest would be made available to season ticket holders.
That was a bit harsh to supporters who had say a 17+ booking history, but with a tweak, the idea had potential.
So, after further discussion, we settled on the notion of a 75/25 proposal for away allocations that are 3000+.
75% of such an allocation would go to cover the fans with the top booking histories, while 25% would be open to all season ticket holders.
For games with lesser allocations, it would revert to the usual booking history tiers. After all, if you’ve done the hard yards of following the club away throughout the season, you deserve to have a better chance at the smaller allocations like Bournemouth and Luton Town.
So, for example, a 3000 ticket allocation game, would have the following breakdown:
2250 tickets would be available for the top away booking history. So, the Same Old Faces would be sorted out (probably up to around a 16 or 17+ away game history) and their loyalty and effort continued to be rewarded.
750 tickets would be left for season ticket holders (no doubt there would be some lost to hospitality, as there currently is). Any seasoned away fan would probably be sharp enough to know the drill to still pick up a ticket, while all season tickets holders would have at least a realistic chance to get a ticket. The 100 tickets normally allocated to the ballot would be included in this amount.
Of course, you can’t please everybody, but at least the notion of the closed shop would be removed. It would be business as usual for the most regular away fans, while every season ticket holder wouldn’t feel alienated from having the possibility of following Villa away.
The idea was put to the club at the Away Working Group meeting earlier in the month, and to the credit of the club, was warmly received as a possibility for 2024.
Here is the official notes response to it:
Away Booking Criteria 2024
The club then invited the group to advise on what criteria we should consider for 2024.
Having viewed the data from 23/24 season, it was suggested that the club should rethink the tranche system to enable more opportunity for season ticket holders. The club should maintain protection for those on 19+, then consider 16+ but beyond this point, release the remaining allocation for all season ticket holders. We may wish to consider this for full allocations of 3,000 or more only and maintain a tranche system for lower allocations. It was felt that some season ticket holders would be happy being able to obtain tickets for 1 or 2 games, and that hose on 15+ to 11+ would not be impacted too much by the change.
On hearing this suggestion, other group members were invited to give their thoughts. The suggestion was warmly welcomed by the group.
Following this feedback, the club agreed to circulate two suggested criteria plans for 2024 to the group. One will follow the existing system with a tranche system based on 23/24 fixtures to date, and then a second one opening out for sales as per the suggestion from the group. The club will then seek further feedback from the group prior to deciding.
Any away FA Cup matches will be integrated into any criteria as had been agreed at previous meetings
Feel free to offer any constructive views on the idea or any suggestions in terms of tweaks in the comments below.
The overall ethos is to create more winners than losers, when it comes to away tickets.
Free Retro Manager Mobile Game
A bit of light relief from the serious matters above…
There’s a Retro Football Manager game for your mobile which is totally free to play, where you can take control of classic teams from memorable seasons.
In a Villa context, you could try and take Villa's 1980/81 squad and win the league like Ron Saunders. Or manage Villa's European Champions in 1982/1983 and continue the success, rather begin the decay that led to relegation shortly after. You could try and beat Brian Little's league finish of 4th in 1995/96, or even try and outdo Unai Emery with the current squad.
There’s a good selection of seasons and leagues, a real throwback to the old school simple game play of Championship Manager.
It does make you watch ads while playing it, which can be a pain, but at least you get paid £1 million for each ad, which helps with your squad building.
I've tried it on the 1982/83 season. I'm totally guilty of selling Peter Withe and Gary Shaw, then getting in a young Gary Lineker and Michael Laudrup to replace them, on a fraction of their wages.
Check it out here: Retro Football Manager
Until next time.
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