I am writing this to outline the decision of moving 3 face-off times on Sundays from 6:00pm to 4:00pm.
First of all, the decision is 100% mine. I asked people around me, I asked the fan council during the season, I spoke with supporters and sponsors throughout the year and had probably a 50/50 split between people thinking it would be a good move and people thinking it was a bad one.
Before we start, let me explain that I am not addressing the 4pm face-off on New Year’s Day because that would have been 4pm regardless of any other 4pm face-offs. So, the information below refers to the 3 Sunday games that will be a 4pm face-off (Oct 21stV Fife, Jan 20thV Belfast & Mar 3rdV Sheffield).
Here is why I am sticking with my decision:
1) Part of my job as Managing Director of this club is to ensure we are sustainable for years to come, so as much as I always am focused on the task at hand each year, I always refer back to our long-term plan of owning and operating this team for the next 20 years, not for the next 2 or 3. A big part of that plan is our fanbase and finding ways to get more children interested in watching our games live. This has always been part of our focus and will continue to be each and every season.
2) I am well aware that a number of our fans work jobs that require them to work Sundays and they struggle to get to games if the face-off moves to 4pm. This is why there are 3 of them and not 5 or 6. I know that every individual’s situation is different, but if you do work in retail or in shift work and know when the early face-off times are, you have the opportunity to book that time off, or switch shifts. I know this isn’t the case for everyone affected by this, but certainly some of the people have the ability to book time off or switch days or hours. Don’t focus on this point too much because I am well aware that not everyone can change their shifts or working hours on a Sunday, but some of you probably can.
3) Just to put your mind at ease for future seasons, we will never want to play all our Sunday games at 4pm. The reasoning behind this is two-fold; 1) because we already have a great track record of big crowds on Sundays at 6pm; and 2) we have a very tough travel schedule and an additional 2 hours of rest is a benefit that I feel is helpful for getting the team better prepared for those Sunday games at home after a road trip the night before. Some of you will say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but this isn’t a case of fixing anything. It is a calculated plan to open up our games to more people, particularly families with young children.
4) Your season ticket covers 32 games, not 33 or 35 or ALL home games, it covers 32 games. Ideally, we would have known before the season tickets went on sale about the number of teams in the league (and the number of home games) so we could adjust the season ticket package accordingly but this wasn’t the case. This season with the league going from 12 to 11 teams, the amount of league games has increased, so we have 30 league games and 3 Challenge Cup qualifying games, which means at an absolute minimum, the Devils are playing 33 home games. So, at least 1 game is not going to be part of your season ticket, and the plan was always to take one of the Sunday at 4pm games as the game not included in your season ticket because we anticipated some people not being able to attend. Just to be clear - the Challenge Cup quarter-final (if we advance) and the semi-final (if we advance further) are also NOT part of your season ticket. The playoff quarter-final home game (if we advance) is also NOT part of your season ticket. So, of the 3 Sunday 4pm face-offs, 1 of them is not included in your season ticket anyways. So, now you are down to 2 games of the 32 included in your season ticket that you are unable to attend because of work or other Sunday afternoon commitments.
5) The game that will not be included is Sunday March 3rdV Sheffield. This game will have to be purchased by ALL season ticket holders, ideally when they pick up their season ticket in advance of the season but we will give you more information closer to the season. You will not be charged a service fee and you will pay a discounted amount off the normal price of a ticket, but it still has to be paid for. You can speculate why we chose this game, but I simply chose it because it is the last of the 4pm face-offs on the fixtures calendar.
6) A season ticket for the Devils is effectively equal to 5 free games, so if you missed 5 games, you would still be better off for a number of reasons like you get your same seat for the games, you don’t pay a service charge for booking tickets each week, you don’t have to worry about booking early when games are regularly selling out, you can spread your cost of your season ticket over 12 months.
7) My final point that I need to explain is probably the toughest thing to write to a fanbase that I love. But here it is. Some of the emails and direct messages I have received are quite frankly insulting. Long-time Devils fans telling me that I scammed them or lied to them or am stealing money from them is completely over the top. I hate to say this to you, but it’s 3 games. 3 games, of which 1 is not included in your season ticket package anyways, so really it is 2 games or 6% of the games you would be attending next season. People telling me they want to cancel their season ticket after 10 or 20 or 30 years, people calling me a liar, telling me that I have no clue what I am doing, that I never think about the fans, that I make these decisions out of nowhere and I have no idea how to run a team. I get the passion, I understand the anger, but I can’t accept the insults. I actually don’t care about the personal insults, but please never question this organisation or the group of owners that saved this great club from near extinction. I think we can safely say our track record speaks for itself.
I am genuinely shocked at any fan that has taken the time to message me insults or questioned my integrity so after the above explanation, if you still feel that 2 early face-offs are worth walking away from this club that you say you love, just email me directly – [email protected] - and I will be happy to refund your season ticket.