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Solving the problem of empty seats

West Ham faces a showdown in court this October in their attempt to increase the capacity at the London Stadium to over 57,000.

However, if the Hammers win their court case against E20 Stadium they still face the challenge of getting a safety certificate from Newham council and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority before they could make use of an increased capacity over 60,000.

The Newham led London Stadium Safety Advisory Board is concerned that the stewarding and systems have never been properly tested at 57,000 as real attendances have never reached that level in the first two seasons.  Although almost every game has sold out to the official 57,000 capacity since moving the former Olympic Stadium the real attendances are between 10% and 25% lower because of the large level of no-shows from season ticket holders.

Even the first ever Premier League game at the London Stadium against achieved just 52,000 through the turnstiles and a category A game against Arsenal in the first season achieved a real attendance of 51,000. At the Southampton game last season, this dropped to a real attendance of 43,000 although the average across the season is probably closer to 47,000.

No-shows are not a unique problem to West Ham with the Premier League average being around 10% but no-shows as high as 25% is unusual. The problem is most likely related to the board’s strategy on affordable football with 10,000 Under 16 tickets for £99 and 8,000 £289 season tickets.

At those prices, supporters feel they can pick and choose which games they go to and feel using ticket exchange is not worth it. A number of non-West Ham supporters have also bought season tickets just to watch Premier League football in the stadium again missing the smaller games.

If West Ham truly wants to tackle the empty seat problem they must address two areas, the first is to have a proper policy of use it or lose it if tickets aren’t being used during the season and the second is to make the ticket exchange more attractive to season ticket holders.

Last year West Ham updated season ticket terms and conditions which included a new clause in which the club could withdraw their season ticket if the holder does not attend seven or more Premier League matches. All season ticket holders are required to tick a box on renewal online to say they accept the new terms and conditions which say:“Failure to attend more than 7 Premier League games may result in the Club withdrawing your season ticket. Utilising the Official Ticket Exchange or Official Ticket Transfer will constitute as attending.”

To our knowledge, this clause has never been enforced and no season tickets have been withdrawn as a consequence of this clause. Some argue that the number of games should be as low as 4 or 5.

Second is the ticket exchange scheme, in reality, many fans in the cheap seats can’t be bothered to sell their tickets on ticket exchange as they think they don’t get much money back so think it is not worth the hassle.

Perhaps the club should be more generous on the ticket exchange scheme instead of offering just 90% of the season ticket allocation back in club cash to those selling back to the club instead they should offer 100% or even 110% considering they will sell at general admission prices is way above the ticket exchange refund value.
A completely radical alternative idea would be to enter a profit share deal with the season ticket holder if they sell their seat back to the club and the club sells it again they share the profit 50/50.  That could be a game changer for supporters and encourage re-sale of seats.

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About Sean Whetstone

I am Season Ticket Holder in West stand lower at the London Stadium and before that, I used to stand in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower Row R seat 159 in the Boleyn Ground and in the Eighties I stood on the terraces of the old South Bank. I am a presenter on the West Ham Podcast called MooreThanJustaPodcast.co.uk. A Blogger on WestHamTillIdie.com a member of the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board (SAB), Founder of a Youtube channel called Mr West Ham Football at http://www.youtube.com/MrWestHamFootball, I am also the associate editor here at Claret and Hugh. Life Long singer of bubbles! Come on you Irons! Follow me at @Westhamfootball on twitter

14 comments on “Solving the problem of empty seats

  1. The problem with above pro rata ticket sales is it would encourage touts to buy them and profit, we have among the lowest st prices in the league, use it or lose it should be enforced. 7 games is just over a third which shouldn’t be much to ask imho. Perhaps when big games are on tv they should sell tickets at lower prices to fill the spaces ?

    • But we live in a supply and demand world where touts already buy and sell West Ham tickets. So what if a few people make some money. They take a risk that the seats will sell.

      • In principle that’s ok Sean but when you look at every other club that does it, it punishes the secondary ticket buyer and imho it’s a very slippery slope. Look at the Spuds secondary ticketing if you want an example.

    • The same system used to exist under ViaGoGo at the Boleyn Ground. You could set your own price to sell at and ViaGoGo, the club and the season ticket holder shared the profit

  2. Of course the other option is to phase out the £99/£289 tickets, at least until the capacity of the stadium is increased. The logic being that buyers (are these people really fans?), would have less of an incentive to not use their seats for most of the season.

    It amazed me that with all the upheaval from the move from the Boleyn to the LS, gate receipts barely increased, which was largely down to the same policy.

    • My son is a £99 season ticket holder but cannot attend the numerous games played midweek because of school nor the sky fixture rearrangement that moves games to Monday or occasionally Friday. If the club had more Saturday 3pm games they would get more attendees. Preventing fans from going because fixture rearrangement for TV does not seem realistic or fair. He was devastated to miss 6 games last year. None were down to his choice to skip the games though.

    • there are a lot of fans who can only aford the band 5 tickets and thats not where most of the holes are the most embarising side is the lower west stand

  3. As already mentioned, the cheap season tickets has had a reverse effect of the attendances. Anyone who does not turn up for games should have their tickets taken away. I have had season tickets in the past and now I’m merely a member as work commitments mean I can’t get to every game which is why I won’t commit to a ticket. Therefore I use the members window or the ticket exchange and I tend to sit where I can get a seat. I haven’t been able to take family relatives because the website shows my seat is the only one available. I then get to the game and there are empty rows yet allegedly these seats are sold. It’s simply not fair on others to have that empty seat. The club also need to implement a family zone.

  4. £99 tickets are for kids. Kids who live far out and can’t make midweek matches because of living outside London ( can’t always make it to the game’s through sky and other tv networks messing with the Saturday’s games and moving them to midweek or a Monday or Friday???) They have to get home it’s always to late and have problems getting up for school next day ? Now there’s one of the many problems with empty seats and the parents don’t come either if they live a good hours drive or train journey away it’s easier to watch the game on tv without the hassle ? Unfortunately West hams fan base do not live around the corner of Upton park anymore or any where in Newham??? Thus empty seats midweek!!!!!!

  5. o/t are there any links to the Preston friendly please?

  6. I missed between 8 – 10 games last season. I listed every game when the facility was activated and never sold one ticket. There were also many empty seats around ours. People couldn’t be bothered to go when the players are not putting in the effort eg the Man City home games stroll about. Perhaps now, with a decent manager, decent players and some attractive football – we’ll have better attendances.

    • I am block 113 and when I put my kids tickets up for sale for the 8 games they couldn’t make geybaold each time mostly within an hour sometimes within minutes. The two times I listed my ticket it sold both times

  7. I’m in the 1966 area and put my ticket up on the exchange twice last year – once just the day before. Both sold – even at the inflated price and short notice. So the exchange can work; we just need to work out the best way. Separately, the seat next to mine was used by the holder about three times in the first season, although he did pass it random Italian fellas who left at half time to meet their mates elsewhere in the stadium – we’d see them outside. Last season it had a new name on it and the fella never showed. Not once, and no one else turned up either. So he paid his £1100 for nothing.

    Can’t work it out. Nice to have the space of an empty seat next to me though…

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