Football Season Tickets and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations

Football Season Ticket

What is a football season ticket?

A football season ticket is a ticket which is purchased to enable a supporter to attend the home matches of a particular club throughout the entire season. Payment will be made up front at the begging of the season and the holder will also be granted rights to apply for other matches such as away fixtures and cup finals.

Will I be required to sign a contract to purchase a season ticket?

As is customary for many consumer purchases when you purchase a football season ticket you will be required to accept the terms and conditions of sale. If you purchase the ticket in person you will be required to acknowledge the terms and conditions by signature or if you purchase them over the internet you will be required to accept the terms and conditions by ticking a specific box before your purchase.

Unilateral terms and conditions

The terms and conditions will be unilaterally agreed. This means that they will be the standard terms and conditions of sale of which that business operates on and you will not be able to alter any of the terms. If you do not agree with the terms and conditions of sale then you will not be able to purchase the season ticket.

Is there any legislation which relates to the terms and conditions of a football season ticket?

As is the case with all terms and conditions which are agreed unilaterally and which affect the rights of consumers the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 will come into play to protect the rights of consumers.

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations

What are the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations?

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations protect consumers against unfair standard terms in contracts that they make with traders.

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations can protect consumers from terms that reduce their statutory or common law rights and that seek to impose unfair burdens on the consumer.

Who can take legal action to prevent these terms?

The Office of Fair Trading along with certain other bodies can take legal action to prevent the use of such terms which are seen as unfair under the Regulations.

Application of the Regulations

Have these Regulations ever been applied to the terms for football season tickets?

There have been two strong cases whereby the Office of Fair Trading has taken action against Premier League football clubs in relation to their season ticket conditions placing the consumer at an unfair advantage.

Access to tickets for high profile matches

For example in one high profile case a complaint was brought before the OFT by a powerful supporters trust as fans who had purchased season tickets were denied access to tickets to two very important and high profile cup matches played at their home stadium.

Different seats provided

Some season ticket holders were still able to attend the cup matches but had been moved to a different seat of lesser value to accommodate the travelling support, corporate customers and European delegates. 

Claim brought by the Office of Fair Trading

The OFT brought a claim against the particular football club under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations.

What response did the club make in this case?

The club responded and agreed to make the following amendments to the season ticket conditions for the 2009/10 season:

  • Each and every season ticket holder will now be guaranteed a seat at every home league and cup game
  • The club will provide clearer information about when a season ticket holder is likely to be moved from their seat for a cup match  
  • If a fans season ticket has been terminated for failure of credit card payments for cup games then they will receive a pro-rata refund of the money which they have already paid to the club
  • In the case of the original season ticket being either lost or stolen a duplicate season ticket will be issued by the club
  • There will be a clearer appeal process in place in order to deal with disputes over cancellation of season tickets due to non-payment for cup matches

Clear and upfront information

Following the submissions by the OFT the club also agreed to provide clear and upfront information to supporters before tickets are purchased which will enable them to calculate the maximum total cost for a holder based on the club reaching the final stage of all competitions, in addition to an indication of the number of home cup games in the previous campaign.

At no point did the club state that they felt their previous conditions were unfair but following the challenge from the OFT they agreed to make the above changes.

What is the case if I lose my ticket or if I wish to get a refund?

If a holder of a season ticket loses it or if it is stolen then the club must issue a duplicate season ticket. This will only be denied if the club reasonably believes that a ticket holder is, or has been acting in a fraudulent or illegal manner of in breach of any of the tickets’ terms and conditions.

Will this only apply to the clubs who have been approached by the OFT?

In December 2009 theOFT wrote to the Football Associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland calling on clubs to ensure that they are compliant with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations.