Time To Scrap The Letter Lottery

NOW the dust has settled it is time to think the unthinkable when it comes to season tickets and big match priority… it is time to scrap the glamour game monopoly of the S and T patron prefix.
And the rest of the letters must go too. It is time to move to a comprehensive and transparent loyalty points system that rewards season ticket holders but allows the younger home and away diehards with less years on the clock the chance to work their way to the front of the queue.


The rusting alphabet hierarchy is anachronistic. It can not cope with the changing demographics of the crowd as parents with S books sit with Demi-Leigh (a D) and young Josh (a white book) or groups of good friends sit together with a cluster of prefixs that look like an explosion in a constonant factory. Are they to be denied the chance ever to sit together at a final? Must they wait until the ageing S and T elite start to pop their clogs?
There are still 12,000 S and Ts. They make up half of the season ticket holders. Given that some season tickets are white books they are over half the Red Books. That is not an elite. It is the majority.
But even that is misleading. Within that group there are Boro Till I Die former Holgate Ender home and away types who have been to every UEFA game, to Nuneaton in the FA Cup and who still cherish tickets from the Anglo-Italian , ZDS and Simod Cups. Alongside them you have Riverside newbies whose only away games have been the Old Trafford semi and Cardiff. That is no bad thing, everyone has different circumstances and budgets, but it suggests a chasm between the extremes of what constitutes the elite.
There are also sub-groups within that 12,000 that maybe deserve an extra stripe. For instance, what of the estimated 4,000 people who held season tickets at Ayresome Park (estimated because the club destroyed all records in the Year Zero move to the Riverside)? When Boro say they will give priority to their longest serving season ticket holders why is unstinting service through the Dark Ages not considered?
So the system is inflexible, doesn’t account for degrees of commitment and, crucially, it dumps those who, through whatever quirk of circumstance didn’t have a season ticket that first year, into a permanent ghetto of second class citizenship. It doesn’t matter that they go to every match home and away, they can never make up the ground lost by missing out in 1995. They are an ever present alphabet underclass.
As shown by the UEFA Cup final – and the FA Cup semi-final before it – the prefix pecking order is too simplistic to be a practical method of determining allocations. Their were not enough Eindhoven tickets to satisfy all the S and T Red Book holders and if Boro had got to the FA Cup final they would have had 22,000 tickets so there would not have been enough of those to satisfy all the season ticket holders.
The chaotic and arbitrary system used to allocate the UEFA Cup tickets must never be used again. It lacks transparancy and logic and has left a bitter taste for many of the longest serving, most loyal fans.
The club could claw back some of the lost goodwill by moving towards a new fairer system that strives to iron out the anomolies. ‘Ah, but no system can be perfect’. Maybe not. But on the pitch we are always looking to bring in better than we already have. Why not off the pitch too.
The club should hold an inquiry into the ticketing system, methods of prioritising entitlement and ways of rewarding loyalty across all the patron numbers. They should examine best practice across the league and they should consult with fans representatives as to what criteria should be included.
Several clubs, like Manchester City, operate point systems that give long standing season ticket holders a head start but allow the stalwarts who travel away to Brentford in the third round of the League Cup – or Xanthi – to catch up.
It is simple. A base of say 100 points is given to each season ticket holder with maybe another ten for each year served. Then points are earned for other tickets bought so turning out to the Xanthi home game when so many S and Ts didn’t bother would boost a fan’s overall standing. As would away games. They could even be weighted so away at Nuneaton in the third round counted for more than home to Steaua in the semi-final.
Then, when tickets were limited – a UEFA Cup final say – it could be announced that those with 250 points had priority. That would give what would now be G prefix fan who had been to every away game as much chance as an S who had never hit the road. Fans could even check on-line where they stood in the pecking order and it may boost attendences in early rounds as people with an eye on the big one clock up their points.
The current situation can’t be allowed to drift on. It is no good hoping the next big match is at a 60,000 plus seater stadium. Boro must be pro-active and creative and must offer hope to those low letter Red Books that they too can share in the glory, that they are part of a community prepared for success.

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12 thoughts on “Time To Scrap The Letter Lottery

  1. The club could not manage to sell out the Villa Park semi, due to sheer incompetance and mismanagement.
    Many more people wanted to go but gave up with the difficulty of queing and misinformation. S and T holders that are close to me queued for five hours to get these tickets.
    Advertisements appeared in the Gazette appealing for tickets for this match, yet we did not sell out. No way could the present club administration cope with the complications of the scheme proposed by you.
    What is needed is a root and branch reform of ticketing side of the club so that service we expect from an organisation taking hundreds if not thousands of pounds off us annually reaches a standard some where above abysmal.

  2. i take it that you expect us to give up the right to have a ticket even if we go when others dont get real i think you talk rubbish

  3. Vickers is wrong,S and t season ticket holders should always get priority, otherwise whats the point in renweing your season year after year? like abny business the longest serving most loyal customers should get priority. what happened for the uefa cup is unique becasue it wa sucha small stadium. for the fa cup semi final theere were even tickets left for general sale so we couldnt sell out 18,000 tickets. why should a 40 year old who has had as season ticket get over looked because an 15 year old has had a seaosn ticket for only 2 years? Surely that is a farce and will encourage people not to want to renew year after year.

  4. Sounds like an excellent idea that would be much fairer than the current system, which has no regard for the fact that many fans who now travel everywhere could not have an S or T redbook because they were; a) a kid when we left Ayresome Park, b)Unemployed, c) Working away, or d)about a million other reasons.
    ‘kenny red’ – thanks for those words of wisdom – try making some sense next time.

  5. This current rule about S & T holders is like ‘dead mans shoes’. How is ANY other season ticket holder EVER going to be top of the list for a ticket even if he went to all home and away games other than by a different system.
    Like I have said before….lets see how much of an away following we get if we leave it to ONLY S & T’s. (Probably explains why we were out-sang by the Sevilla crowd – the majority of whom were under 50!)

  6. You are not taking into account those of us who live away from Teesside and find it impossible to attend the majority of midweek home games due to work and family considerations. It was difficult enough getting to all the league games this season with all the stupid kick-off times!

  7. The only change I would make is to make S&T a joinable group. Make it a ten year plus group, perhaps also having a 15 year and 5 year plus group. WIthin those groups, perhaps you could have some sort of priority for going to cups.
    But the likelihood of getting another situation like Eindhoven – biggest game in history in small ground, is boardering on inconceivable, so any new system would be an expensive waste of time.
    More transparency could help; the club didn’t say who was and wasn’t guarunteed a ticket for the semi, so as an S I applied by myself, when I could have safely waited for the next priority group with others.
    I have paid out for what will be the eleventh year for a ST this season. LIke most people, I would never have done this at Ayresome but was pushed into it when Juninho came and was faced with never seeing another game at home.
    However the value to the club that 12000 people have paid out in advance for 19 games many of which could end up being meaninlless, is enormous.
    If they stopped giving the most long term loyal fans absolute priority, many would not see the point in getting STs and a boring league season, ie like the past five apart from 04/05, could see attendences plummet.
    Giving a 20 year old who has a short term obsession with Boro, which we’ve all had, priority over a 65 year old long term season ticket holder who isn’t going to go Xanthi and Chelsea every year, would be wrong – and short sighted and that’s one thing the club ain’t!

  8. Difficult one,I miss 4-5 games a season because of shifts and I am an S prefix.Consequently miss cup games for the same reason.Wheres my incentive for renewal if its based on matches attened?.The trouble is the short time between tickets issed and the match date and the derisory amount the clubs get.The uefa/fa should stop giving less to the “football family” and more to the realfans.

  9. I’m 57 and have had a season ticket since 1965 apart from the early 80’s. I’ve renewed continually as have my family since 1988. Why should we be dumped into the ticket lottery for big games with fans who got season tickets in Robson’s first season, when the Riverside opened, and when Juninho joined just when things started to get exciting.
    Also for MFC staff to tell me that the S@T patron numbers were issued ‘arbitrarily’ in the first Riverside season, when I have old season ticket books from Ayresome Park displaying our low patron numbers, is nothing but an insult to my intelligence.

  10. Let’s face it, the club cocked it up again !
    How come a season ticket holder with the prefix C got a ticket off the club through the post for the UEFA Final!
    After 10 years I’m not renewing !

  11. I have had nearly 20 games this year and that is living in London, The majority of these games were away from home. I cant a. afford to get to a lot of home games B. work shift patterns etc.
    Does this make me any less of a fan that I dont have an S or a T season ticket. Of course it doesn`t. I managed to go to both the Semi final and the UEFA final. If you want it badly enough, you will do what you have to do to watch the Boro.

  12. As S & T season ticket holders, my son and I have benefited from this artifical status and have always got tickets to the big games. We have also travelled country and Europe wide and probably deserved to get tickets for that reason alone without the need for jumping the queue waving our Red Books in the air, but hey if you are given a VIP pass to a concert are you going to sit in the Stalls?
    Having said all that, I agree that it is about time that the fans who do not hold a “golden” ticket are rewarded for their loyalty by the introduction of a reward scheme, based on points for games.
    The technology already exists at MFC to log and record every ticket transaction. So like many companies and organisations do today, there is no reason why a database cannot be developed, where everyone who wishes too, is given an account at the club, something that you can check on line or by calling/writing to the ticket office to ascertain your individual status.
    The BA scheme is a typical example, when you fly with BA you get points, as the points mount up you elevate up the scale, collecting additional benefits on the way.
    Existing season ticket holders could be given a starter number of points, but it is then up to them to keep it up by buying tickets for games that qualify for points. If they don’t then they would slip down the pecking order.
    Those fans who didn’t start with a balance on their account would eventually get their reward, so long as they keep buying tickets. The caveat of course is that you may need to be a season ticket holder to enter into the reward scheme, much the same as having to buy a qualifying flight in order to apply for a BA Executive Club card.
    I suspect however that MFC do not have the resource to manage a scheme of this size at the club, or indeed may not have the will to put it in place.

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