Newcastle Falcons have issued the following Q&A in response to supporter feedback regarding the decision to move their Premiership game against Saracens to Philadelphia on Saturday September 16.
Q: Why were season ticket members not informed at the time of purchase that this game would be played away from Kingston Park Stadium?
A: When season ticket memberships went on sale in February the club were not aware that the game would be played away from Newcastle. This opportunity only arose within the last few weeks, and supporters were told on the day that the contract was signed. Had we known earlier that America was a viable option we would not have included this game in the season ticket membership package.
Q: What compensation will season ticket members receive?
A: We will contact season ticket members directly within the next week. They will be able to choose one of the following options, and we will be in touch with details of how to activate their choice. At this stage season ticket members do not need to contact the club, and the options are below.
Option 1: A pro-rata cash refund for the loss of this one home game, which will be 1/16 (6.25%) of the price you paid for your season ticket membership. We appreciate some supporters value a Premiership game as being worth more than a cup game, but the reality is that all games in all competitions have the same ticket prices and cost just as much to host from the club’s point of view.
Option 2: Season ticket members can choose two additional match tickets to watch Newcastle Falcons at home during the 2017-18 season. This can be either two extra tickets to one game of your choice, or one extra ticket to two games of your choice. Tickets will be in the equivalent area to where your season ticket is, and will be subject to availability.
Option 3: Season ticket members can choose a credit voucher worth 12.5% of the value of their season ticket. This credit can be used in the club shop, for Falcons home match tickets or against your 2018-19 season ticket membership.
Option 4: For those season ticket members able to make it to the game in Philadelphia, you will receive an equivalent ticket to the match.
Option 5: If supporters feel strongly enough that they want a full refund on their entire season ticket membership, this can be done via the club ticket office.
Additionally, all season ticket members will be invited to a free TV screening event at Kingston Park on September 16, with some food and drink laid on by the club. Full details will be circulated once the kick-off time is known, but this event will be in addition to the refund, voucher or additional ticket offers above.
Seasonal corporate clients will be contacted separately regarding their compensation options.
Q: Why are the Falcons moving this game overseas?
A: It represents a huge commercial opportunity for the club, and the additional revenue received will be considerable. The club want to move away from being a loss-making business to one that breaks even and is sustainable in every way.
We will not hide the fact that the money we make from this fixture will be around three times what we would have made by staging it in Newcastle. This enables us to fund the considerable investment we are putting into our playing squad and facilities. In addition to the funds we generate directly from moving the fixture it is also a fantastic opportunity to grow the club's brand in the world’s biggest emerging rugby market. NBC Sports are showing the game live in the USA as part of their growing partnership with the league and it will be a great occasion to be part of.
Q: Does this move demonstrate that the Falcons do not care about their supporters?
A: We as a club care passionately about our supporters, although we do appreciate and understand the disappointment felt by some with regards to this game being switched. We give the most tickets out of any rugby club in the country to our supporters for the England international ticket ballot, we have brought in initiatives like free curry after all of our home games and we continue to offer some of the best value season tickets in the league.
The club have funded the 1877 Bar, new big screen and re-vamped the entire stadium PA system. All this has been done to enhance the match-day experience. We host regular talk-ins with our supporters where the club's top decision makers take unvetted questions from the floor, and our supporters are absolutely central to our continued growth.