Much has been written over the passage of time about the ability of Swansea City to process tickets for any big game. We have always stated that things will have to improve at the new stadium. Well, this week I experienced match tickets at a Premiership ground and I have to say, give me Swansea City any day.
It all started on Monday morning. Business commitments were taking me to Liverpool between Tuesday and Thursday and a check on the fixture list showed a Carling Cup semi final against Watford on the calendar at Anfield on Tuesday night. A check on the Liverpool web site promoted a call to their ticket office as tickets were on general sale.
A non-scouse gentleman was more than happy to help me order 2 tickets (for myself and a colleague) over the phone (handling charge of 50p per ticket) and it all seemed so simple when he stated 'just call at the ticket office on Tuesday to pick them up with the card you have just used to pay" Five rows back from the famous Anfield turf in the Lower Centenary Stand and almost within touching distance of the Kop.
As we ordered a taxi to take us to Anfield at the hotel, aiming to be at the ground for quarter to seven we had no idea of the mayhem that was about to face us - after all everything was a marked improvement on the way that little old Swansea City work things anyway.
We arrive, dropped off outside the Kop end and greeted by a mass of bodies queuing at one of the 18 (yes, eighteen!) ticket office windows. Windows 11-18 seemed to have no queuing system just a mass of people (I would estimate 500+) whilst window 1 (and possibly 2) had a sign above stating "Supporters Groups Only" - Windows 3-10 had much smaller masses of people in front of them so we start our queuing at ten to seven in that general mass of people. 70 minutes to kick off, time to pick up tickets, have some Scouse food (what is Scouse pie?), quick pint and take the seats for the game. Easy really. You would think!
Fifteen minutes into the queuing process and we have moved marginally less than one inch. The people that were at the windows in the general area in front of us were still there albeit they did seem to be being served. But the fun was just about to begin.
Out comes the power mad steward (the one in the orange coat!) and in best scouse accent says "Windows 3-10 are for buying tickets for tonight if you have pre-ordered and are here to collect then it is window 11-18 - please ensure you are in the queue that matches the first letter of your surname" I look at my work colleague and ask the simple question "How do you know which window is which there is no sign?" to which Orange coat pipes up "Aye mate, they're on each window" We don't bother asking how we are supposed to know that when 500 people stand between us and the window but he assures us they are there.
Having a surname beginning with S we assume we will be more towards 18 then 11 so make our way to the mass that stands roughly around there. Tannoy announcement tells us that anyone without a ticket can pay on the gate which begs the question why they need 8 windows to sell tickets for the same game for which you can pay on the gate but we don't ask.
Couple of questions and we find a scouse in the queue with the surname Smith. Well, if he is standing there then so are we. So we do. "Like this every matchday he tells us - worse if it's the Blues or even United but don't even go there!" so we stand. Fifty five minutes to kick off, all these people have paid, it's got to be quick from here hasn't it. You would think!
Fifteen minutes later and still no movement our friend Scouse starts to get annoyed "Mine were supposed to arrive by post but they never did, I'm going to have great fun when I get there trying to get a duplicate - make sure you stay in front of me lads!"
It's now 40 minutes to kick off and we start to inch forward before the two police horses arrive along with more orange coats. Now the fun really starts. "I know it's difficult folks but can you get in orderly queues - Corresponding with your letters of the alphabet please. " Orange Coat Number 1 starts to ask people of their surnames and helpfully tells us that Window 18 is W-Z - basically handy for Williams and Wilkes but feel sorry for us - Gate 16 is P-S. Peters, Roberts, Perkins, Smith - I start to wish my name was Phil Zaccariah! Halfway down the queue he helpefully tells one fan that he is in the wrong queue and he needs to get to the back of Window 15 which, as we turn around is now at least 100 deep behind us, you'd have been happy at that wouldn't you.
Endless tannoy announcements tell us that we can pay on the gate which is really helpful when your card has already been debited. Shall we pay twice or shall we queue? The police horse drops a few from his arse at the side of the queue just to put a smell into the air of annoyance around us.
Quarter to eight comes and goes and we are inching forward - I can almost see the signs now that confirms orange coat was right. Yellow coats move up and down the queues and ensure that we don't get too close to the queue either side of us as a family of six move forward and now we have no more than half dozen in front of us. Ten minutes to go, been queuing for an hour will we make kick off?
Orange coat asks someone in Window 14 queue to move to the back of 13 as he is at the wrong window. I'd have gone home at that point or better still the pub, Sky Sports could have beckoned - there must now be 150 behind us - we know they won't make kick off.
A call is made for six more orange coats to get to the ticket office - probably need to tell a few more that they are in the wrong queue and the first half will be heard but not seen for them. I offer a silent prayer that they don't change the window number for the S Surnames!
Finally we are at the window. It's eight o'clock and we know the teams have just entered the playing area. Either that or the Kop above us are celebrating the fact that we are at the ticket window! It has taken the best part of an hour to move about 50 places in the queue max. Thats OK Phil, give them the credit card they'll swipe it again out will come the tickets and away you go. Oh no. You show the credit card, they ask for your address. I don't know why he bothered it was clear from the look on his face he had no idea what the Welsh address was that I muttered to him and he turns to his right where he finds a box. Not any box, it has four dividers - one marked P, one Q, one R and the magic S I want. No doubt at half past six all the envelopes inside them were in perfect alphabetical order. By this stage they are in no order at all and it takes ticket scouse five minutes to give me the envelope.
We rush round and into the ground and arrive in Lower Centenary stand with just over ten minutes on the electronic scoreboard. As fifteen scouse get out of their seats to let us pass I mutter a few "Sorry mate, ticket office" and they all nod at me in sympathy probably thinking "Stupid non local most of us know better"
As we take our seats we think in pity of the 150 people still standing in Queue 16 and wonder if they ever did see the game. And this is Liverpool, home of the former champions of Europe. It makes you wonder really.
They have some good ideas. The endless stream of the electronic messages above the ticket office tells us that you can only get tickets at the moment for the Man Utd game if you saw both Fulham and Birmingham this season. You can buy now for St Mary's if you saw 5 away games last season. What they fail to tell you is that you can book, but it really is a lottery as to whether you get those tickets.
Remind me never to moan about Myra again!
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