England tickets

The allocation of tickets has caused more chaos and disruption than anything else, Mark Perryman explains how more needs to be done to ensure that England fans are catered for

The official FA ticket allocation for the match in Germany was around 6,000 seats, but a nightmare ensued for many hundreds who had snapped these places up only to head for Munich with no sign of their tickets. This was the first away match involving the relaunched supporters club, “englandfans”, run by the FA. All members sign an agreement which allows the FA to cross-reference applications against criminal records. This process undoubtedly contributed to the delay in issuing tickets.

A second hold-up was caused by the ballot for 30 per cent of the tickets among the 12,000 members of englandfans. There were still three weeks left to issue the tickets, but the depth of disorganisation began to become apparent ten days before the game, when fans began bombarding the FA with anxious calls asking where their tickets were. Here entered the third factor: as part of the reorganisation of the club, the role of selling and distributing tickets had been contracted out to Ticketmaster.

Ticketmaster had stated that tickets would be sent out Monday August 20, but by the Friday none had been posted. In the event, of the 6,000 tickets, around 1,600 were never posted. Fans had to make their way to Munich on the promise that their ticket would be waiting for them there. Not such a raw deal? Possibly, but this was a game fraught with public order issues, so why add to those  hundreds of anxious people trying to track down tickets? They were all issued, finally, but at the cost of squandering a huge amount of the goodwill.

Four days later the issue flared up again. The late surge in demand for tickets to England v Albania was blamed, but hundreds of people who had to queue for hours to pick up tickets at the game had booked their tickets as englandfans members almost four weeks previously. This time the cross-referencing against criminal records and ballot couldn’t be blamed – Ticketmaster had simply been overwhelmed by the Munich fiasco and hadn’t even started sending out the Albania tickets until two days before the game. There were long queues of very disgruntled supporters, many of whom didn’t get through the turnstiles until after kick-off.

Despite these problems and the bad press that resulted, Ticketmaster achieved an incredible turnaround for the next game, with Greece tickets being received within 48 hours of booking. That is in part due to a very active, and transparent, online forum on the englandfans website. Unlike in the old England Members Club, there is now a very public place for airing grievances. The sad thing is that all of this effort had to be put into righting an avoidable wrong. If the tickets arrive in time, the chances of a united effort behind a new, improved England, home and away, will be vastly greater.

From WSC 177 November 2001. What was happening this month