Crystal Palace's 17,800 season ticket holders have four options. The first is to direct refunds toward redevelopment of the south London club's youth academy. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Crystal Palace's 17,800 season ticket holders have four options. The first is to direct refunds toward redevelopment of the south London club's youth academy. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Soccer clubs eye bottom line with ticket refund options

By Ken Maguire Time of article published Jun 19, 2020

Share this article:

Soccer clubs are finding creative ways to stem revenue losses by offering season ticket holders alternatives to refunds for games being played in empty stadiums because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The restrictions have hit some balance sheets harder than others. Liverpool is simply refunding supporters, for example, while Scottish club Motherwell asked fans to “consider leaving your money with us.”

Supporters are often willing to help. Teams are offering live streams of matches, retail discounts, free tickets to cup games, and credit for 2020-21 season tickets in exchange for refunds.

Crystal Palace's 17,800 season ticket holders have four options. The first is to direct refunds toward redevelopment of the south London club's youth academy.

“I could afford to do so, and the academy is a massively important project for the club,” said Chris Waters, a member of the Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust who opted for the donation. “It's one of the keystones of our future. It's something tangible — bricks and mortar — and you can say, I played a small part in that getting built.”

Waters was due £110 ($137) for four remaining home matches. The investment is worthwhile, he said, because without an elite

Many clubs also give the option of sending refunds to a charity. Everton announced that fan donations from its season ticket holder and lounge member refund process raised close to £400,000 ($500,000) for a club charity helping community members impacted by Covid-19. The club's owners then matched that amount.

Leagues in Germany, Spain, Italy and England have returned to action under restrictions that include no fans in stadiums as the death toll from the virus in Europe has passed 180,000. France canceled its season.

Broadcasting and commercial revenue in the “Big five” leagues amounted to 86% of total revenue last season, according to accounting firm Deloitte. With the remaining 14% from matchday revenue under threat, Deloitte said clubs and leagues “must do everything they can” to strengthen relationships with fans and partners.

“There are substantial implications for the European football landscape over the coming seasons, including potentially significant and lasting impacts on the financial strength of the clubs and leagues,” Dan Jones, a partner in Deloitte's sports business group, said in the report published this month.

Swansea has dangled a 50% discount on the 2020-21 season ticket — if they are promoted to the Premier League — for current season ticket holders who leave their refunds with the club. They'll throw in the live streams, 70% off team gear and a thank you card signed by players.

Swansea chairman Trevor Birch last month estimated the potential cost of refunds and lost hospitality revenue for their four remaining home games at close to £1 million ($1.2 million).

Although it’s not clear when fans will be able to attend games, many clubs are hoping to lock down revenue for next season. For buying 2020-21 season tickets now, Motherwell is offering a free ticket to its first home Europa League match, if fans are permitted.

In a recent letter to fans, Motherwell chairman Jim McMahon said the club would lose more than £130,000 ($160,000) if every season ticket holder claimed their refund. He said refunds left with the club can be considered donations, which allows the club to seek potentially £22,000 ($27,500) in reclaimed VAT.

“For that reason, we ask you please to consider leaving your money with us," McMahon said in his letter. "We do not have a rich benefactor.”

In Spain, Real Betis has presented several options for five missed home games. So far, less than 10% of season ticket holders have requested a straight refund, according to consultant Marshall Glickman, the CEO of G2 Strategic who talks to clubs frequently.

Glickman, a former president of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, has encouraged Spanish teams to give fans a menu of options.

“When you empower your customer to decide, instead of imposing, I think you get a better result,” Glickman said in a phone interview from his home in Oregon.

Indeed, inflexibility can backfire. German club Schalke initially asked season ticket holders to demonstrate why they need a refund but relented when fans balked.

Meanwhile, Spanish clubs Getafe, Espanyol and Leganés went in the other direction. They announced that current season tickets will extend through next season free of charge, with a few exceptions like cup games.

Leganés took the extra step of

In England's second division, Luton said

“While the situation remains serious," the club said, "your generosity at this time will help to reduce the impact significantly as we continue to steer the club through these treacherous waters.”

AP

Share this article:

Related Articles