Last night, Nottingham Forest announced two new away membership packages following their return to the Premier League and it hasn’t gone down too well…
I want to start off by saying I am not the best Nottingham Forest fan. I love the club, I attend every home game and many away games, but to say I go week-in week-out would be a lie.
As someone who loves watching Forest on the road, I find the new system to sell away memberships a complete disgrace. For those of you who don’t know, someone at Nottingham Forest decided anyone who saw over 80% of away games last season will be offered a Priority Plus membership – a guaranteed ticket for every away game. Anyone without a season ticket is unable to get any away memberships, and everyone in-between (roughly 17,800 fans) have to fight it out over the remaining 2,500 Priority One memberships – a £40 membership which can’t guarantee you’ll actually attend any away games.
To put it simply, that means season ticket holders who attended 17 away games last season, season ticket holders who attended 40 away games over the past five years, and season ticket holders who have never seen Forest play outside of the City Ground will all have the chance to purchase a Priority One membership – doesn’t seem fair, does it?
I myself fall into the middle category, I’ve attended around 25 away games since 2017 and I’ve never had an away membership, because, well, I’ve never needed one. Before Steve Cooper arrived, if you had a season ticket and you wanted to go away, you went, because the demand for tickets wasn’t as high. Obviously, now that Cooper has turned the clubs’ fortune around, the demand for away tickets has increased and games like: Derby, Luton and Sheffield United away sold out before reaching the highest loyalty points bracket.
Like many other fans, I have spent hundreds (if not thousands) following Forest across the country. Forking out for match tickets, train fares, hotels and countless overpriced concourse beers, all whilst racking up my loyalty points. These loyalty points have previously been used to decide priority for big games, for example, the final game of last season (Hull away). I purchased my Hull tickets in the second release, just after away members, and they sold out shortly after. These so-called ‘loyalty points’ now mean nothing.
It has been reported that the club intends to scrap all loyalty points, whether you have 5, 15 or 50. Meaning that other than a few match tickets and a chunk of my overdraft missing, I have nothing to show for my efforts watching Forest up-and-down the country.
All Forest fans have dreamed of seeing the famous Garibaldi back in the Premier League, a dream that we will achieve in the coming weeks. But away games offer a different experience to your usual matchday – as normally the worst part of any away day, especially as a Forest fan, is the 90 minutes of football you have to watch. This experience could be completely taken away from loyal fans and given to those who only want to go away now the Reds are travelling to Arsenal and Manchester City.
I’ve spent 23 years waiting to see Forest back in the Premier League – actually, I wasn’t even alive the last time a Forest player kicked a ball in the top flight. 23 years, dreaming about travelling across the country to watch Joe Worrall pocket players on £500k a week and see Brennan Johnson make the worlds best defenders look like Sunday League benchwarmers. A dream that could be snatched away from myself and many other Forest fans out there.
Look, I could sit here all day and rant about how p*ssed off I am about this decision, but it’s worse for many more fans. I can tell you, there are some away members out there who attended 17 or 18 away games last season who will miss out on the new memberships. Fans who attended more games last season than most will in their entire lifetime will miss out, let that sink in.
The club won’t go back on their decision, and people will be saying “stop being entitled” or “We’re in the Premier League, what more do you want?”. I want what I deserve, what so many Forest fans deserve and that is to be treated fairly.
One of the lads I go to Forest with has being going home and away for as long as I can remember. He was there for the Fawaz protests and he’s still there now – next season when he should reap the rewards of his loyal support, he might instead have to settle for watching games from his living room. I haven’t had the luxury of having season ticket for as long as he has, but since 2017 we’ve travelled the country together watching Forest. Fans like him, who have consistently backed the team on their travels, with their stack of loyalty points shouldn’t have to risk missing out on Priority One memberships.
You’ll instead have fans buying these memberships to go to two or three away games all season, so the solution is easy: Distribute all memberships on a loyalty point basis. Those with the most points can get Priority Plus memberships, those with less get the option of Priority One and those who miss out did so because they haven’t attended enough games over the years.
Even if the club was to structure it this way I could still miss out, but at least I would know I missed out because I didn’t go to enough games – not because someone less deserving was ahead of me in the queue.
It’s not easy for people to attend away games. People have financial commitments, family commitments, work commitments, but the fact is simple – the fans who go away the most should get priority over those who don’t go as much. Away members who are eligible for Priority Plus have been rewarded for their loyalty, why exclude the rest of them?
Fans who: watched Martin O’Neill bring on a defensive midfielder when were 3-0 down at Sheffield Wednesday, or those who witnessed the Gil Dias Boxing Day catastrophe or those who got laughed at by Bolton fans when they beat us 3-2 to avoid relegation, should all be at the front of the queue for a £40 membership that doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually go to an away game – not someone who just wants to see Erling Haaland score a hattrick at the Etihad.
I’m not sure if anyone will read any of this, but I needed to get all of this of my chest. It’s unlikely, but the club needs to find a solution for the other deserving away members who could miss out – or at least they should explain their reasoning behind the new away packages. Loyal fans shouldn’t be treated like this – what a way to celebrate our return to the Premier League.