Sheffield United: Clubs are urged to resurrect season ticket option
The Football Supporters' Federation has encouraged clubs including Sheffield United, who have been affected by the collapse of a scheme designed to enable fans to pay for season tickets in installments, to investigate alternative ways of allowing their followers to spread the cost of their purchase.
United, together with teams including Liverpool, Celtic and Championship rivals Millwall, confirmed last month that Zebra Finance was no longer able to provide staged payment plans after its lender, Raphaels bank, began to wind down its business.
Although loans processed before March 27 will continue to be honoured, the development means supporters yet to apply face the prospect of either being forced to hand over the money up front or decide against reserving a seat for the 2019/20 campaign. Many of those who used the facility did so because the were unable to find the funds in one lump sum.
"A season ticket is an important option for supporters but finding the money in one chunk can be difficult, especially in these straightened times," a spokesperson for the FSF told The Star. "It helps clubs to know that they have season ticket holders supporting them financially throughout the season and clubs should be looking at ways to help fans pay for their season tickets."
"The cost of collecting payments by direct debit can be offset against improved cash flow reductions in match by match cash or card handling fees," they added.
Developments surrounding Zebra could prove problematic for its clients because many of them use season ticket income to calculate budgets and transfer policies. Because supporters entered into a contract with the Derby based company directly, clubs received the price of their season ticket in advance.
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Although United's finances and recruitment strategy will not be adversely influenced, they have held discussions with Zebra and other potential providers since the problem came to light. The English Football League, despite being made aware of the issue, believes it is a matter for individual members rather than the governing body as a whole.
"We are working closely with Zebra Finance to secure an update for those supporters who have not yet had their payment plans approved," a statement, published by United on their official website, reads.
"Sheffield United are currently working on securing a new finance provider and will update supporters as soon as possible."
One of Britain's oldest banks, Raphaels is a subsidiary of Lenlyn Holdings who has been trying to sell its interest since 2015. Earlier this year, more than two weeks before clubs involved announced the withdrawal of their payment plan options, a national newspaper reported Raphaels was "winding down" after interest from prospective Russian and Chinese buyers "dried up".