Ongoing ticket trauma at AFC Bournemouth
Tickets are great. They’re little mementos, instant transportation to a variety of memories, and - most importantly - get you into football grounds.
I look at my wall, which is plastered with these souvenirs, and a torrent of emotions wash over me. From joy (a 3-0 win at Charlton that saw us nab the Championship title in the last minute) to complete and utter ambivalence (a 0-0 League Cup game with Oxford United which we lost on penalties). Not sure why I have that last one to be honest.
There’s probably a ticket left in my coat in fact. After a quick check, indeed there is - I’d rather forget about that recent trip to the Etihad Stadium though really. That one certainly isn’t going on the wall.
Anyway, I have put together this possibly over-elaborate introduction for a reason - and it’s not just a way to facilitate a meaningless nostalgia trip. Honest. No, I bring up the topic of tickets because my club - AFC Bournemouth - aren’t very good at them.
Not the printing of them or anything - they’re all fairly presentable in that regard, with all the numbers and words in the right place - but the way they’re distributed leaves more than a little to be desired.
It’s no secret that AFC Bournemouth can seem a little out of place in the Premier League, and sometimes I still have to pinch myself that we’re in the top division of English football - despite this being our second campaign at the sport’s top table.
When it comes to matters on the pitch we clearly belong though, with a team that looks to play bright attacking football under one of the most promising managerial talents in the country.
Sadly if you look past this part of the club (it’s quite an important one admittedly!) everything starts to look a bit more like it should be in League One - and that’s probably a little offensive to many League One (and even Two) sides.
Despite the investment from Maxim Demin (and Peak6 Investments) several aspects of AFC Bournemouth are more than a little embarrassing - and sometimes it can seem like the people behind the club are torn between remaining the lovable community outlet it’s been for its entire history, or becoming a bit of a soulless faceless conglomerate goliath that just happens to be a football side as well. See Manchester City and Arsenal as examples of the latter.
There are a few issues with how the club is run at the moment, but the one that seems to keep rearing its ugly head again and again is the ticketing system. There have been problems with almost every aspect of this, from point allocations to buying tickets at the ground.
There was always a feeling the club was struggling to cope with the increased demand for tickets as a result of our rapid ascension into the top flight. It started with small things, such as season tickets not being ready at the beginning of last season – or an online service that allows you to book match but not coach tickets (if you want both you have to wait on a phone, always a pleasure).
Absolute cast-iron proof that not all was right in our ticketing department came in the form of our EFL Cup match against Preston North End last month though.
Hundreds of people who had booked tickets – or just wanted to buy on the day – were stuck in queues, with two booths not open for service for no discernible reason. Many didn’t get in until the 40 minute mark - and although this turned out to be a blessing as we were truly woeful in that part of the game, it doesn’t excuse this inexplicable rick. There were even rumours that some seats had been double and triple booked, with stewards having to shift people around like a hugely depressing game of musical chairs.
This would have been bad enough, but the club made no effort to reimburse these unfortunate punters – and even took a stance that could arguably be seen as blaming fans for not being well prepared for the match, stating that: “In the days leading up to the game the club made every effort to both advise supporters to pre-purchase and collect their tickets as far in advance of the match as possible and to arrive early to avoid queues.”
Telling fans that it’s advised they don’t try and buy tickets on the day of a match is, quite simply, shameful.
This incompetence has also resulted in problems for other clubs at times, with it becoming very clear that we would never sell our allocation for our trip to Manchester City last month for example - yet it was almost less than a week before our ticket office realised this and gave back a third of the allocation to the Premier League leaders, who subsequently sold the remaining seats at a discount to their fans. A very wise and well thought out move.
Our ticket office in comparison simply shifted our fans in the near unsold block to other seats they didn’t originally book, with a brief phone message to tell them this was the case.
This small case study shows that there isn’t just a gulf between my side and clubs like Manchester City on the pitch then, but off it too. Although I can accept the former to an extent, the latter can easily be avoided with some sound management and an organised team.
At the moment the club’s response to problems like the above seem to almost be purely reactive, and it all comes across as more than a bit embarrassing. Hopefully it can all be sorted out soon - because at the moment my club can often come across like a ten year old who’s pushed onto The Globe Theatre’s stage and being asked to recite the “Now is the winter of our discontent” soliloquy from Richard III. Out of their depth doesn’t quite cover it…