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WSL away ticketing: Everton-Arsenal case shows work to be done

As the Women’s Super League (WSL) season comes to a close fans are excited – with Chelsea and Manchester City chasing the title with two games to go – but Arsenal’s trip to Everton this past Sunday once again highlighted problems with away ticketing policies in the division.

Last week with just four days’ notice, some Arsenal fans due to travel to Walton Park received an email to say that their tickets for the game had been cancelled – with no option to purchase another.

Demand for the fixture was high as Arsenal continue to emerge as one of the best supported clubs in the WSL, with high-profile Lionesses in the squad, and now have a burgeoning away following too.

The game was a sellout and was the first time Everton have filled Walton Park’s 2,134 capacity this season, accompanied by an Arsenal away section of 254 fans.

As is common in the women’s game, away fans and neutrals had purchased tickets around Walton Park ahead of the fixture by purchasing available via general admission.

The FSA understands around 60 supporter purchases totalling 100 tickets were cancelled – as the club attempted to juggle satisfying local supporters looking to see the game and a spike in demand for this particular fixture from further afield.

Deborah Dilworth, head of women’s football at the FSA, said the case highlighted how there is still much work to be done in ticketing in the women’s game.

“We know clubs are still learning, that infrastructure and resource are still a huge issue in the women’s game,” she said. “Unfortunately this does mean the experience of ticketing for women’s fans is still complicated – communication can be mistimed, the user journey confusing and things can be very inconsistent.

“We still have much work to do to get this right for supporters and we are working alongside colleagues at the league to make things better and enhance supporter experience.”

It was due to historic ticketing issues across women’s football that this season away ticketing guidance was introduced to the WSL and Championship. Those guidelines were introduced as a direct result of feedback from fans during supporter engagement meetings between supporter representatives and the FA.

The FSA and our Women’s Game Network continue to work with clubs and football authorities on improving the quality of away ticketing in the women’s game.

The aim of that work has not been to create strict away fan segregation seen in the men’s game but to increase the number of supporters travelling to away games; creating an away fan community and culture, and even support the growth of singing and atmosphere sections at women’s games.

Julie Makin from Everton Women Supporter Club said: “The ticketing needs to be looked at as whole from a WSL perspective so that fans have an easier journey in buying them and clubs send out consistent information across all fixtures. We are looking forward to working with our fellow supporter groups and the FSA to push this on.”

Our women’s game fan representatives repeatedly tell us, and the authorities, that supporters across women’s football want to see a home, away and neutral accommodation made available.

Despite Everton cancelling tickets, Arsenal were well supported on the day with a packed away end alongside other groups of Gooners dotted around Walton Park. Arsenal supporters, however, expressed their disappointment at the move and hoped the league learns from the incident.

“We are really disappointed with the decision made by Everton to cancel tickets,” said Rachael Major, president of Arsenal Women Supporters Club.

“The main reason this was particularly disappointing is the notice given for the cancellation – some of our members with cancelled tickets had rail travel, plane tickets and hotels booked and will lose out financially.

“The introduction of away allocations was never to segregate people, but to give the choice to sit or stand with fans from your club.

“We understand that a club has the right to change the way ticketing works, however that would be better executed at the beginning of the season or before the ticket is sold to someone. Not after a purchase has been made, travel arranged and within days of kick off.”

 

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