Tens of thousands of Premier League fans are in line for cheaper tickets if they go to watch their team play Southampton FC at home this season courtesy of Virgin Media.
The media business has partnered with the Footballer Supporters’ Federation (FSF) for the charm offensive that is set to become a core part of its sponsorship of the football club for the 2016/17 season. It means that visiting fans to all 19 of Southampton FC’s home games can do so for £20 after Virgin Media agreed to subside £10 for all away tickets to the club's St Mary's Stadium.
Starting this weekend (13 August), all of Watford’s travelling supporters will receive a £10 refund on tickets purchased as they go through the turnstiles. Other brands like Capital One have subsidised travel for away football fans in the past but Virgin Media’s latest effort is one of the biggest gestures from a Premier League sponsor to date.
Kerris Bright, chief marketing officer at Virgin Media, said: “Football only exists because of the fans and we believe that fans should be at the heart of football. We hope by taking this step we set a good example in football for other clubs and sponsors to follow. Importantly, capping tickets at £20 to St Mary’s makes it affordable for fans travelling to support their team away from home. We are helping to enact change for the good of fans so they can get a fairer deal.”
Virgin Media will be hoping the ticket push complements its status as Southampton’s shirt sponsor, coming just months after fans rallied against Premier League clubs to curb rising ticket prices. In February, the FSF urged is members to pile pressure on clubs, which in turn led to an agreement between all the teams to cap away tickets at £30 for the next three seasons.
Kevin Miles, chief executive of the FSF, alluded to last season’s tension when discussing why Virgin Media’s campaign will go some way to winning over football fans across the league.
"Premier League football is immensely popular across the globe and the contribution of fans is central to that. Nobody wants to watch a game played out in front of empty stands. Away fans in particular bring noise and colour to grounds, adding to the spectacle immeasurably. But following your side on the road can be expensive and, despite football being wealthy we believe very little of it is used to reduce costs for match-goers,” he added.
"Our partnership with Virgin Media shows this doesn't have to be the case - there are innovative ways for sponsors to engage and support match-going fans and Virgin Media are at the forefront of this. Tens of thousands of the most loyal fans will receive cheaper tickets next season thanks to this partnership which will also serve to highlight the obstacles facing travelling fans and reinforce the message that 'Twenty's Plenty'."