STRUGGLING Championship outfit Doncaster Rovers are set to let thousands of home supporters in for free for Good Friday’s crucial encounter with Crystal Palace.
Queues quickly formed outside the Keepmoat Stadium yesterday afternoon following the announcement and officials are believed to be offering 8,000 free tickets for the “must win” match.
But the decision has not met with universal approval, and a number of the club’s 6,000 season ticket holders are up in arms at the decision and threatening not to purchase a ticket for the 2011-12 campaign.
Not all season ticket holders share the same opinion, however. Bentley-based Claire Jowett told The Star that she supported the initiative and called upon unhappy fans to stop being negative.
“We need everyone to get behind the club with the situation they are in,” said the 36 year-old lifelong supporter.
“If giving away free tickets helps Rovers beat Crystal Palace on Friday, then I for one will think it will have been worth it.
“I’ve been a season ticket holder for the last two seasons and I’ll definitely be renewing mine next season but I think that there will be a lot of supporters who probably will not.”
A number of season ticket holders were already disgruntled due to Rovers offering several cut-price deals to boost attendances earlier in the season.
Victory for fifth-bottom Rovers, against the team immediately below them, would see them open up a five point cap on the Eagles with three games remaining and also prevent either Scunthorpe or Preston making further inroads to their five-point cushion.
“It would be a massive boost were we to pick up three points on Friday and, depending on other results, it might be enough,” said chairman John Ryan. “We might need another point but if we can pick up four points over the Easter break that should hopefully see us safe.”
Ryan told The Star that the club came up with the idea after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat against Hull City at the KC Stadium.
“We had to do something to try and lift us,” he said.
Ryan admits it will cost Rovers money on Friday, but argues: ”It will be nothing compared with the £3m plus if we were relegated to League One.
Ryan, who will join fellow directors in the Polypipe Stand during the game to help generate an ‘electric’ atmosphere, said he was aware of the rumblings of discontent amongst some season ticket holders.
But claimed: “I am sure that it is a small minority of people who are complaining. I’m confident that 90 per cent of the season ticket holders, who are supposed to be our most loyal fans, will support what we are doing.
“Despite the various initiatives we have introduced this season a season ticket still represents excellent value for money.
“I would urge those people who are moaning about us giving free tickets away to put the club first on this occasion and get behind the team on Friday.
“Surely they want us to retain our hard-earned Championship status.
“I remember all too well that the last time we dropped out of this division it took us 50 years to get back up.”
“I think its a great gesture from the club, we need all the support we can, but we need the fans to get behind the team vocally, said Supporters’ Club official Paul Mayfield.
“The gamble of giving the free tickets and us winning will be a drop in the ocean financially if we lose our Championship status.
“I know certain season tickets will not be to pleased that this is another promotion that eats into their season ticket, but this is unique.
“Who would they rather be watching Rovers play next season, teams Leeds or the likes of Bury and Rochdale?
“If this initiative does not fill the stadium, how do you think the directors and management will feel?
“Would they re-evaluate their involvement with the club? “It’s not worth thinking about.
“I plead to fans to get down to the ticket office before they run out and support the club.”
Said media manager Steve Uttley: “With tickets being free to all supporters, availability will be limited and available on a first come-first-served basis.
“Supporters must have a ticket in order to be admitted to the game.
“Tickets will be restricted to two per supporter, although tickets will be available for full families.
Fans are advised to collect tickets at the Keepmoat Stadium ticket office ahead of the game on Friday.
”We don’t want people’s money – we just want their support in a bid to help ensure that the team are playing second-tier football again next season,” added Uttley.
“We want people to get behind their club. It’s their town and their team.”