It was a desperately tough week to be an Addick. The FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United shattered dreams; Chris Powell’s departure, and all that went with it, shattered hearts. Disillusionment wasn’t universally shared, but it was certainly rife.
Charlton fans needed an arm round them, or at least some reassurances in order to motivate themselves to follow the club with the same passion as they always have done.
Receiving a season-ticket form, most of which weren’t addressed to the correct individuals, which offered confusion was possibly the opposite of what was needed.
The club promoted the fact a section of The Valley would cost just £150 to sit in. Charlton fans, in a not unreasonable mood of cynicism, were largely uninterested. Instead, the focus was on not only how on earth eight different price categories would be managed and stewarded, but that those who sat in the first rows of the Upper North had seemingly been shafted.
That area of the Covered End would become an area for Crossbars season-ticket holders. Although there was a promise that those who already sat in those seats could purchase at the normal rate, they would eventually have to move or stump up the not inconsiderate extra cost. Simultaneously, the traditional section of the ground reserved for those most vocal was to be invaded by corporate types, surely impacting upon the atmosphere.
To make matters worse, some supporters who sat in those seats had received a call a day previously to explain this *might* be happening, and to get some feedback. It would appear the idea was already put in place before such feedback was taken.
Comments about throwing the season-ticket form straight in the bin were numerous.
However, seven months on and the Addicks have received all manner of praise following the publication of the results of BBC’s Price of Football survey. A season-ticket at The Valley, although only in Block A, is the cheapest in the Football League, while regularly match-day tickets are also among the less costly.
Of course, such headline grabbing figures will always attract the most attention. And it’s undoubtedly the case that such attention is deserved; offering season-tickets, however few, at such a price is something worthy of endless praise.
However, for me, it is not the £150 tickets themselves that have led to, ignoring the occasional Palace fan, unanimous praise. The decision to reverse the changes to Upper North’s structure has allowed the feeling that Charlton have done something very right with their season-tickets to spread through all Addicks.
It would have been very easy for the club to stand by their original decision. “Go sit in the cheap seats if you’re not happy” could have been a justifiable response.
Had that been the case, I would have seen the BBC’s report and felt nothing but cynicism. Yeah, those chaps in the cheap seats are alright, but what about me? The seat I’ve sat in all my Charlton supporting life is about to increase and lose value at the same time.
But, following almost complete resentment to the idea, the club listened and backed down. Of course, it could have been organised a lot better, such a situation should never have occurred to begin with, but the willingness those at the top of the club have to correct mistakes is refreshing. In fact, that’s arguably as noteworthy as the £150 prices.
My seat gained its value back, and I felt no resentment to those in the cheaper seats, or to those who hadn’t had their area of the ground modified.
Fellow member of the #CAFCBloggersUnion Hungry Ted makes a nice point about such resentment to those in the cheaper seats, with a particular focus on the phrase ‘we all have choices’.
I personally have no issue at all that some supporters are paying less than me because of the value of the choices I’ve made. I’d rather stay in the same seat, in the North Upper, than head anywhere else. That’s ‘home’, to me.
And with that in mind, you can argue the club have catered for all. Those cheap seats are of course newsworthy, but so are keeping the cost of season tickets to a reasonable level elsewhere around the ground. Those who want to pay more can; those who can’t afford aren’t completely priced out.
In fact, having had plenty of concerns and complaints back in March, I now only have two.
The first is that, as Ted points out in the above link, a sold out A Block often has spaces. Supporters, you would think, are moving to parts of the East Stand with better viewing positions.
It seems wrong to segregate a section of our own supporters from others, but it needs to be done in the interests of fairness. Stewarding of A Block seemingly remains something of an issue.
In addition, I had hoped that moving supporters to A Block, located right next to the away end, would increase the atmosphere at The Valley. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case; despite this season’s successes, noise levels in SE7 remain pretty low.
From the North Upper, I’m yet to really hear those in A Block chant and sing. They almost certainly do, and it’s not a criticism of them, it’s just that moving supporters there has had no positive impact on the atmosphere. A shame, rather than a really worry.
The Covered End, at least, remains vocal, and the decision to abandon the Crossbars season-ticket idea is part of that.
The current structure of the ground seems a good one; the praise for Block A can be equally shared around The Valley.