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Right to refund: fans still unhappy with refunds at some EFL clubs

Supporters at a handful of EFL clubs remain unhappy with how their clubs are handling the process of refunding games missed during the pandemic.

A number of individual FSA members have reported to us that their clubs are still not offering refunds for games lost, offering streaming passes in their place, or are not delivering refunds in a timely manner.

The FSA has sought legal advice from our partners at Gateley solicitors who confirmed that tickets sold for cancelled fixtures should be refunded in full for matchday tickets or on a pro-rata basis to season ticket holders.

Gateley said: “Most season ticket terms and conditions contain provisions to abandonments, cancellations and matches played behind closed doors.

“Generally, the effect of such provisions is that a refund is available in these circumstances.”

Gateley say that supporters will be able to recover a proportionate value of their season ticket costs to take account of matches that have been played behind closed doors or cancelled entirely.

Preston North End are one EFL club who have not offered fans a refund, instead offering their supporters streaming passes, which has drawn criticism on social media. Last month, Sunderland came in for severe criticism for attempting the same, but have since reversed their position and will be offering refunds over a staggered period. The FSA has also received complaints from individual supporters at Bristol City over the time taken to process refunds.

Last month The Athletic surveyed fans in the EFL and 51% said they wanted a pro-rata refund on their season tickets and would accept it as credit.

This dropped to 27% and 20% for League One and League Two respectively.

Gateley said: “We have seen that most clubs have effected refunds in accordance with the applicable terms and conditions, but not all clubs have been wholly forthcoming in this regard.”

Gateley advise supporters to carefully read the terms and conditions on their matchday and season tickets, and if they have provisions for unfulfilled fixtures, to contact their club for a refund if they wish. If supporters need any further advice on pursuing refunds, both the FSA and Gateley can be contacted for further support.

The potential for legal action against clubs was raised by The Athletic last month, who were told by consumer law experts that the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis was unlikely to be sufficient reason to deny supporters refunds.

Consumer lawyer Dean Dunham told The Athletic: “Consumer laws are very clear. If you don’t get what you pay for, you are entitled to a refund.

“If you buy a ticket and that is to attend the ground, enjoy the atmosphere, watch the game live — not through a television but with your own eyes — then that is what you paid for and what you should get.”

The FSA, together with fan representatives across our EFL network, will continue to monitor the state of refunds across the EFL’s three divisions.

FSA vice-chair Tom Greatrex said: “Clubs should clearly heed the advice from Gateley, but regardless of any legal necessity we would argue that clubs have a moral obligation to offer to pay back supporters for games they have not been able to attend.

“At many clubs where refunds have been offered, some supporters have been able to donate back to help keep clubs going or to charity and community activity – demonstrating that supporters are more than customers. Others simply can not make that financial commitment at this time.

“Ultimately, though, it’s in a club’s long term interest to keep supporters engaged – if even a tiny proportion of supporters turn their backs on a club for life, because of poor treatment during this period, then that club will lose a lot more revenue than a few games worth of refunds.”

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