The Independent Football Ombudsman (IFO) in England has ruled a fan should be refunded after a bad experience at a match between English Football League (EFL) teams Bristol City and Forest Green Rovers.
The Bristol City fan had complained about the standards in which he watched an EFL Cup away match at the Fully Charged New Lawn stadium in August last year. Chris McEvoy had complained that the away section of the ground was overcrowded, and that upon leaving to buy food, was unable to rejoin his son.
However, while the IFO found that Forest Green had not done anything wrong in terms of crowd management, the Gloucestershire-based club was made to refund McEvoy’s ticket as a gesture of goodwill and because the club was late in responding to the original complaint. The IFO called this delay “unsatisfactory”.
Forest Green also conducted its own review into the crowd situation through its Safety Advisory Group, according to Bristol World, and denied the allegations of overcrowding.
The stand in question was the ground’s West Stand, which is reserved for away supporters. It is licensed to hold 1,224 supporters and is made up of 100 seats, 180 terrace spaces in front of the seats and a further 944 standing spaces.
Following the match, which Forest Green won on penalties, owner Dale Vince told Bristol Live: “The feedback from Bristol City fans visiting the Fully Charged New Lawn has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We are aware of a handful of tweets from unhappy visitors – but that’s often the way in football. Our away stand was not at full capacity – tickets were sold by the visiting club, and a small number of Bristol City’s allocation were returned to us.”
In its response to the fan, the IFO’s Professor Derek Fraser said: “I am satisfied from the full report of the Safety Officer, supported by the Safety Advisory Group inspector assessment, that there was no overcrowding in the away section, that the capacity was not exceeded and that there was no disorder or threat to the safety of either home or away supporters.”
Professor Fraser added: “Nevertheless, you were deprived of seeing the match. I also agree that there was an inordinate delay in responding to your complaint. You wrote to the Club on 12 August but did not receive a substantive reply until 3 October. This is unsatisfactory.
“While I find no shortcomings in the crowd management on the night, I do feel that you are entitled to some recompense for your experience both at the ground and in submitting your complaint. I therefore recommend that you be awarded a good will gesture payment of £25 ($33.94/€29.95).”