Malcolm Dawson writes…..in my introduction to Sixer’s Soapbox, where Pete Sixsmith reported on our victory over Carlisle United the morning after the first game of this season’s Checkatrade trophy, I wrote…

I am otherwise engaged in the wilds of West Lancashire this week, or I would have made it last night to bulk up the crowd and get another loyalty point on my season card. I’m betting there’ll be more than 7,800 Sunderland followers looking for Wembley tickets, should last night prove to be the beginning of a great adventure and we make it all the way to the final.”

At first this was misinterpreted by some as a criticism of the size of the crowd, which traditionally is low at all clubs for this competition, but what I intended was simply to comment that while the majority of fans show by voting with their feet, that this was not a competition that provokes a lot of interest in the early rounds, if we made it all the way to the final there would be thousands demanding tickets. Those thousands would include many who had not been to many games if any at all, never mind those in the Checkatrade trophy.

Crowds did improve after that, helped by a mini derby with the NUFC Bairns, but were always well below our regular gate.

View from my seat at Morecambe

I subsequently made every other game in the competition, including those at Morecambe and Bristol Rovers and having a season card was confident I would get a ticket for Wembley, but I have to admit to a little paranoia about Wembley tickets as I still feel aggrieved about not being able to secure one for the Charlton play off game. Twenty years on and it still rankles.

Despite having made 43 games that season, regularly making 340 mile round trips for midweek home games when I was living and working in the Midlands, I was unable to secure a ticket. Working as I did as a Primary school teacher there was no way I could get up to queue at the ticket office when it opened on a Friday morning and in no position to leave my class to spend time ringing the ticket office on constant redial. I resigned myself to having to watch the game at home on TV.

Heartache for me and Mickey Gray – pic courtesy of SAFC.com

However, I was aggrieved (justifiably I believe) to hear my brother talking in the days afterwards, about the two lasses he knew who’d never been to a match before and yet had tickets for the play off. Especially galling was the fact that they had only got one each but could have had two. If only I’d known before, instead of after the event.

The situation last week proved my concerns about Wembley were well founded.

The demand for tickets as soon as they went on sale and complaints and misunderstandings about the way they were being allocated surfaced almost as soon as the match finished on Tuesday. Suddenly it seemed the whole world and his dog, with even the slightest connection with Sunderland, wanted to get down to Covent Garden and experience cheesy chips on Wembley way.

I had stayed down in the West Country after the Bristol Rovers game but my internet connection was dodgy and I seemed to have trouble registering my account with Ticket Master. The fact the club have chosen to go down this route has angered many, not least those in the Supporters’ Association Branches, many of whom who have built up a rapport with individuals within the ticket office, but I suppose that after subsequent relegations and the staff redundancies that followed handling Wembley tickets on top of the remaining league programme, would have placed an unfair workload on the staff who remained. Perhaps! 

I knew the club was planning to introduce a new ticketing system next season, which would supplement existing arrangements by allowing people with smart phones to gain entry via an app. It is now possible to board planes and travel by bus and plane with a barcode on a handheld device and I understand entry to the SoL will soon also have this facility but while I’m sure everyone at the club is delighted we are in the final, this was perhaps not the ideal occasion to discover the teething problems of linking up with a new ticket provider.

I did eventually get an e-mail confirming I was indeed registered with Ticketmaster, thus averting the first of my fears and promises that season card holders were assured a ticket helped too. But those teething troubles did little to assuage my worries or lower my blood pressure. On Friday morning, armed with Pete Sixsmith’s customer number and those of two others, I attempted to secure four seats together, as we had been told was possible.

The first difficulty was finding four seats together. The tickets seemed to be being released in blocks and every time I looked at a section virtually all the seats had gone. When I did eventually find four together and tried to reserve the first I was told not to leave a single seat vacant, despite the fact that wasn’t my intention. I persevered, constantly refreshing and looking at other sections and price bands and after twenty minutes or so of frustration I was finally able to secure four together.

But then no sooner was one problem seemingly resolved when another spanner was thrown into the works. It appeared that despite having all the customer numbers one of our quartet had not registered on the system so I spent another frustrating half hour trying to get the relevant details to register for him, all the time watching the clock counting down telling me how long I had to complete my purchase until eventually, like on Countdown, the di di di di diddly duh sounded and I was timed out. I gave up on the idea of registering our fourth friend and started again, this time looking for only three tickets.

After going through the whole rigmarole again, all the time letting my tea go cold and failing to make my porridge, I found three together but was still unable to process the order. This might have been because the third member of our triumvirate had not reached the age where he was entitled to a concession and I was trying to get him a half price ticket, but it was only after logging off again and texting Pete to say that I was giving up trying to get seats together and would just get one on my own, that I realised this could have been the cause.

So I’ve got my ticket and Pete has got his, but we are probably miles apart. My £42 ticket actually cost me £46.90 thanks to the booking fee and excessive postage costs. All I can say is that they must use pretty expensive envelopes at Ticketmaster and don’t get me started on the London-centric attitude of the establishment who fail to take into account the expense that those of us from the provinces are subjected to, when compared to clubs in the Home Counties and the capital.

I am staying with friends near Nottingham on the Saturday and Sunday, but even without accommodation to pay for, with petrol to the Midlands, a return train ticket to Kings Cross and onto Wembley then food and drink I can see the total cost for this one day being around £180.

I sympathise with those who wish to go but haven’t managed to get a ticket, especially anyone who has been to loads of games this season but paid on the gate. I sympathise with my friends at the Heart of England and other supporters in outlying branches who get to games when they can but can’t justify having a season card because of the difficulties of getting to home games, especially midweek.

I have less sympathy for those who hardly ever go to games but claim to be die hard fans because they watch in the pub and simply fancy a day out in London, but with over 40,000 for a home fixture on Boxing Day, there must be many disappointed supporters who have been to loads of games this season and missed out.

Jake says “Ha’way the Lads”

The whole ticketing issue has been difficult for the club but they haven’t been helped by the F.A. or Portsmouth who asked for and received more tickets than we did, then allowed each of their season card holders to apply for up to six tickets each, but who as yet have only sold about two thirds of their allocation. The rest are soon to go on general sale. I already know of one Mackem who will be sitting in a section of Wembley stadium where the Pompey chimes are meant to be sounding. What are the odds he won’t be the only one?

I’m not complaining. The club were in a difficult situation and I believe have tried their best to allocate the tickets fairly but I understand there will be many who are feeling aggrieved at this point. Should those who bought a ticket for Carlisle or Stoke U21s, even if they only ever bought the cut price tickets for those fixtures, be given preferential treatment over those who might have been to league games but treated the Checkatrade as an inferior competition? Should a fan who lives in Penzance and makes two home games a season and a handful of away fixtures have a greater chance of a ticket than one who lives in Penshaw and only gets to half a dozen home games? What if that person living in Penshaw works shifts and gets to all the games they can?

There is no ideal system. I am grateful I got my ticket this year and unlike the majority of supporters I speak to I wouldn’t swap a Wembley victory for promotion. Of course I want both. Don’t we all? But in my lifetime apart from a few promotions I have yet to personally see us lift any silverware, having watched the 73 final from the Student Union common room at the City of London Poly.

I’d like to be there in the flesh, just once when we do.

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Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.

12 Responses to “SAFC v Portsmouth: Ticketing issues, issuing tickets.” Subscribe

  1. JohnM March 14, 2019 at 10:28 pm #

    Ticket allocation is always going to be contentious. Season ticket holders should always get a ticket, but, after that, no system is going to please everyone.
    I think there should be a points system for non-season tickets holders.
    What is clear is that have a lot of fans in total, many who go when they can , dependent on cost, travel, ticket availability etc. Many of these , like myself, go to more away games than home.

  2. Mel Bond March 14, 2019 at 11:23 pm #

    As Malcolm states yes down here Pompey season ticket holders have been allowed to apply and receive up to six tickets without any questions and the local radio and press are extatic at the number they have sold to date a reported 29,000 insisted to get mine as I have always watched us play down here and also watched the local derbies Southampton/Bournemouth/Brighton and having a local postcode , although obviously have to sit with the home support wish I could help some others with tickets but unfortunately I was only allowed to apply for a single ticket . At the present time it looks like they are not going to sell their allocation and had we had our semi first think we would have had the lion’s share of the allocation. No doubt the way they have sold the tickets will mean that there can be no segrigation divide between us and therefore any unsold tickets may not be responsible allocated to us unless the compress their supporters together no foresight whatsoever

    • Rob March 18, 2019 at 9:31 pm #

      All this garbage about Pompey not being able to sell their ticket allocation. Anyone with brains would have realised that Pompey tickets were not on sale to anyone other than season ticket holders until today and surprise suprise – all sold out the same day they go on general release. Plenty of red Sunderland faces this evening.

      • salutsunderland March 18, 2019 at 10:49 pm #

        I think the point, Bob, was that Pompey season ticket holders were allowed to buy six each – or so it was reported – which was rather different. I never doubted both clubs would sell out their allocations and said as much here.

      • malcolm March 18, 2019 at 11:10 pm #

        No red face here. I never suggested Pompey wouldn’t sell all their allocation, but our average home gate is almost double that at Fratton Park yet we got fewer tickets and our season ticket holders get one each while yours could get 6 each. SAFC sold out before they went on general sale so we have a lot of disappointed supporters who have been to plenty of matches but won’t get a ticket.

        Neither am I resentful of the fact there will be a full house and am looking forward to both sets of fans enjoying the occasion. I’m pleased the ground will be packed with people who follow the teams, rather than those who have connections, megabucks or enjoying a jolly in corporate hospitality with little interest in the game.

        But I still don’t understand why Portsmouth get more tickets than us rather than roughly the same. Hope you’ve got yours and enjoy the day, though obviously are disappointed with the result.

        • malcolm March 18, 2019 at 11:14 pm #

          PS I have spoken to half a dozen Sunderland fans already who were confident they would be at Wembley, but in the wrong end.

  3. YSYL March 15, 2019 at 12:27 am #

    Your Ticketmaster experience is an almost replica of mine. Took time out of work & spent a fruitless hour trying to access a crashing or frozen website. I eventually ran out of time. My second hour was equally frustrating, it just wouldn’t let me choose my seat, it even allocated me a similar seat but then threw me out with all kinds of weird excuses. Eventually I settled for a seat in the Gods. AND BEST OF ALL TICKETMASTER CHARGED ME A BOOKING FEE. FOR WHAT??? They should reimburse all the supporters for the cost of their time, electricity and mental torture. Rant over.
    At least I saved 20 quid over the price of the seat I wanted to buy.

  4. John Mac March 15, 2019 at 8:44 am #

    https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/sport/football/pompey/portsmouth-answer-fans-grievances-after-checkatrade-trophy-final-ticket-struggles-1-8844144

    I also believe some of the additional charges originate with Wembley plc or the FA, or similar, and clubs have to pass them on

  5. Jake March 15, 2019 at 11:12 am #

    Wait a minute! “…Portsmouth who asked for and received more tickets than we did:::”? Why? I thought that the tickets for this competition would be split 50/50 with none reserved for the usual hangers on you get at FA Cup finals.

    Anyway Malcolm I share your pain re the Charlton play off. I did get a ticket for that match but despite 100% attendance during the 73 cup winning season I was unsuccessful in the “raffle” for Wembley tickets. A lad in my class at school who regularly mocked me and other regulars at Roker Park somehow got a ticket for the final. It was definitely his first time watching the Lads, and as far as I know his last. Forty six years on and it still rankles!

    As I grumpily settled down on my sofa to watch the all day coverage on the BBC, the cameras went to some kind of celebrity lounge at Wembley. There they interviewed, amongst others, glam popsters The Sweet, and lovable miniature Russian gymnast Olga Korbut. My rankling only intensified as I saw these bandwagon jumpers sipping champagne and having a ticket that was rightly mine!

    MATRON!!

  6. wrinkly pete March 15, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

    As John so accurately says above, NO system is going to please everyone, especially when demand greatly exceeds supply.

  7. YSYL March 15, 2019 at 1:29 pm #

    I guess that’s the case, no system will please all the supporters, you just hoped modern technology could cope better.

    73; My Dad had a season ticket for decades until he couldn’t abide Alan Brown anymore for 72/73. We still ended up going to most of the games but couldn’t get a ticket for the semi or the final.

    Ironically our relatives in Leeds ran a prosperous business and when visiting that summer they nonchalantly advised, tickets we could have got them no problem. Maybe it was for the best as we couldn’t have sat quietly amongst Leeds fans when Porterfield scored.

  8. Eric012 March 16, 2019 at 7:20 pm #

    I can claim to be extremely fortunate in obtaining a ticket for my self and my son way up in the gods. I have only been to two away games this season (Charlton and Wycombe) although I would have attended many more had tickets been available. I very rarely attend home games as my son works night shifts and he is my designated driver (my diabetes renders me unable to drive safely). I had the devils job with Ticketmaster on Priority 3 and pray that we do not have to go through it all again via the playoff route. As many of you will know I can see the Wembley Arch as I stroll around my neighbourhood, so will leave home 90 or so minutes before kick off. If you have a ticket please enjoy the whole experience, if you haven’t then please try to do the same HA’WAY THE LADS.

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