Football season tickets and unfair terms

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 beginning 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 buy 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.

The terms and conditions will be unilaterally agreed. This means 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.

Legislation

As is the case with all terms and conditions which are agreed unilaterally and which affect the rights of consumers, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (which replaced the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999) comes into play to protect the rights of consumers.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 protects consumers against unfair standard terms in contracts that they make with traders. The Act can protect consumers from terms that reduce their statutory or common law rights and that seek to impose unfair burdens on the consumer.

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

Case law

There have been cases where the OFT has taken action against Premier League football clubs in relation to their season ticket conditions which place consumers at an unfair advantage.

For example, a complaint was brought before the OFT by the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) because fans who had purchased season tickets were denied access to tickets to two high profile cup matches played at their home stadium.

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

The OFT investigated and identified a number of problems with Man United’s season ticket policy under consumer law.

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

  • every season ticket holder would be guaranteed a seat at every home league and cup game;
  • the club would provide clearer information about when a season ticket holder is likely to be moved from their seat for a cup match;
  • if a fan’s season ticket has been terminated for failure of credit card payments for cup games then they would receive a pro-rata refund of the money which they have already paid to the club;
  • where the original season ticket is either lost or stolen a duplicate season ticket would be issued by the club;
  • there would be a clearer appeal process in place to deal with disputes over cancellation of season tickets due to non-payment for cup matches.

Following the submissions by the OFT, the club also agreed to provide clear and upfront information to supporters before tickets are purchased which would 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.