Football clubs listening to the grievances of paying supporters is a aspect of the game that fans have long held dear. At Liverpool FC, a fan protest over proposals to raise ticket prices two years ago resulted in a climbdown that served to maintain a degree of goodwill between supporters and the club hierarchy.
This should give hope to plans announced to work with fan stakeholder groups on ways to fill the approximately 2000 seats that go unfilled each matchdays, which typically is a result of a ticketholder not making it to the game.
Speaking with the ECHO, Liverpool’s head of ticketing and hospitality, Phil Dutton discussed the club’s determination to find a solution that worked for all parties, “[Unfilled seats] are an obvious problem and, like everyone else, I get incredibly frustrated when I see seats left empty at Anfield because I know there are so many people who would readily fill them.
“We need to improve the platform for supporters to use in relation to this matter, but we also need people to talk to us," Dutton continued.
“If someone knows in advance of a game that they aren’t going to make it then if they let us know we can do something about it.”
As the likes of Manchester City this past weekend, Borussia Dortmund and countless other opponents have found out firsthand, Fortress Anfield is quite real, meaning that keeping the legendary stadium as close to full occupancy as possible is vital to maintaining that magical atmosphere.
“If [ticketholders] don’t tell us [that they won’t be attending] then the problem doesn’t go away because we can’t give a supporter’s seat to someone else if they’re not in it by 10 past three because there’s a risk that the original ticket holder could turn up at quarter past three,” Dutton continued.
“We need to work with supporters but the ultimate responsibility for the use of any spare tickets needs to sit with the club.
“Next season we want the fill rate to be 99.9%. But for that to happen we need supporters to talk to us and then we need to find a way to use any tickets that are going spare. This place should be full for every single game.”
Various ideas were floated in the first meeting of the supporters group prior to kickoff this past Sunday, including allowing local schoolchildren to fill empty seats or offering them to fan groups such as Sons Of Shankly and Spion Kop 1906. A proposal that has gained some traction is to implement a season ticket amnesty that generates a record of ticket owners.
Whichever way, all involved are committed to the end goal of making Anfield the worst stadium for opponents, “Atmosphere is one of our greatest weapons and we need to do everything we can to make the most of it,” Dutton concluded. “That’s something that I’m sure everyone would agree is in the club’s best interests.”