Hoos’ intentions are good – but execution flawed

Burnley fans invade the pitch after winning promotion to the Premier League
Burnley fans invade the pitch after winning promotion to the Premier League
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It’s an argument that shows no sign of dissipating, but it’s one that clearly has tempestuous emotion attached.

The season ticket proposals set in place by Lee Hoos for the 2014/15 campaign and beyond have certainly evoked debate, but is the Clarets chief executive deserving of such criticism? Or have fans rightfully unearthed the American’s naivety in a flawed and divisive scheme?

The response, or backlash, has been vehemently expressed. The reaction on social media sites ever since the announcement has produced a smouldering cauldron of disgust and discontent among supporters.

Has anything poisoned the atmosphere around Turf Moor like this since protests against former chairman Bob Lord in the ‘70s or since the opposition to Frank Teasdale’s tenure at the club a couple of decades ago?

Well, though thousands will argue otherwise, I agree in principal with the package that’s been formulated by Burnley Football Club.

Hoos, like joint-chairmen John Banaszkiewicz and Mike Garlick, and the remainder of the board of directors, is a businessman with a business brain.

While the unison between club and community is imperative, Hoos has to methodically structure for longevity in a bid to sustain and maximise profitability. And that’s exactly what he’s done.

The ‘early bird’ prices enticed a core of 12,000-plus fans that made a commitment to the club before promotion was verified.

That loyalty was subsequently rewarded with Premier League football at ‘Championship’ prices, while bypassing any additional retainer/voucher fee for forthcoming seasons.

So the controversy stems from those that didn’t renew before March 31st to benefit from the club’s generosity – with that cohort presumably waiting for a return to England’s top tier to be rubber-stamped.

But with Burnley 10 points clear of third place Derby County when the ‘early bird’ offer was coming to a close – was it not worth taking the gamble?

Surely there was the expectation that ticket prices would be hiked quite considerably once promotion was sealed?

Hoos has seemingly ostracised himself from the townspeople, with many questioning his motives and demanding the abolition of the ‘voucher’ fee. Many appeared genuinely insulted by the strategy, but the incentive and his intentions are wholly innocent.

As quoted, there were 5,030 people that bought season tickets for the 2009/10 Premier League term that haven’t returned since.

The idea of the ‘voucher’ is to encourage ‘fair-weather’ fans to commit regardless of what division the Clarets are competing in. And that £100 can be redeemed on ‘early bird’ prices for that following season.

I agree that £600-plus is excessive for a town of our economic standing, but those additional costs wouldn’t have been applicable had fans taken the earlier offer with the help of 12-month payment plans.

I do understand that the population is governed by contrasting circumstances, but not much could’ve changed between now and six weeks ago when the ‘early bird’ period expired.

If promotion had been confirmed prior to the deadline I very much doubt we’d be having this debate. The extra 3,000-plus season tickets would’ve diluted in next-to-no time.

Like I said previously – I agree with the principle. However, though it’s okay in essence it wasn’t in execution.

While legalities, allegedly, forced the rebranding from ‘retainer’ to ‘voucher’, the latter is also a relatively corrupt term in these circumstances. The description suggests an unpaid-for contribution, a gesture of good will, and a deduction without any obligatory commitment.

It can’t be categorised as a ‘voucher’ if you have to effectively purchase it to use it against a product you may not necessarily wish to buy at a later date.

It does seem unscrupulous, almost iniquitous. In effect the club is benefiting from an interest-free loan that is non-refundable to the individual parting with the money.

Then there’s the financial exploitation of groups, with a family of four expected to part with £400 for the pleasure of accruing a ‘voucher’.

The £300,000 wouldn’t even begin to cover the squad’s seasonal wage bill, so the club shouldn’t lose its morals in the pursuit of extra riches. We’re a club known for its integration with the local population. Our club, our town, our Turf they professed! It is understandable that the scheme was met with almost universal condemnation.

But, if you have made that financial pledge, think of it like this: A £499 season ticket in the lower tier of the Jimmy McIlroy Stand equates to £26 per Premier League fixture at Turf Moor – less than individual ‘walk on’ tickets for games in the Championship last term.

You’ll also qualify for the ‘early bird’ period for the 2015/16 campaign which, assuming prices are similar to the present freeze, could see you redeem a full season ticket for £229 with the £100 reduction.

Should the Clarets retain their status in the Premier League you could be watching Sean Dyche’s side host the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United for just £9.56 per game – obviously dependent on location.

Maybe then, after trusting that the club is capable of finishing outside the bottom three, this entire debacle can be forgotten about and a line drawn under it.

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