Saturday, 13 February 2010

Just the ticket?

Back in the day, (well, about 8 years ago) I went to a lot of football matches. Unfortunately, a socially unaccommodating weekend work schedule and geographical inaccessibility to the old hunting ground have restricted visits in recent times, but my support, I hope, remains as ardent as ever.

The team's recent resurgence, following the combined arrival of an inspirational manager, and - still more importantly - a chairman who doesn't dress like an extra from a fettish movie, has been most welcome. However, the excitement is laced with bitter heartache. Following many years of playing some of the most excruciatingly dull football imaginable, the revolution has unsurprisingly proved popular, and tickets for a forthcoming final at the majestic new Wembley Stadium have been selling like hot-cakes which have been endorsed by Posh Spice.

Cauldron of sound/prawn sandwiches
And what a ground the New Wembley Stadium is. Despite the monumental complications surrounding its construction, the end result has been universally applauded. Having been lucky enough to attend a Championship playoff final at the national headquarters, this is something to which I can testify first-hand. Also having attended the last FA cup final in the old stadium, the prospect of my team walking out for its first appearance in this worthiest of successors is mouth-watering, and naturally I have been pricing up my granny's false teeth in pursuit of a ticket.

Modern transaction using e-dentures

Unfortunately they know that.

Now, at this stage, I could pursue one of a number of avenues of frustration. I could bemoan the fact that only 31,000 tickets have been made available to either sets of supporters, despite the new ground holding 90,000. I could also curse my luck for having failed to register my ticket to the epic semi final in my own name, thus removing any fleeting hopes of securing sufficient points on the loyalty ranking system. I could even rehearse the usual platitudes about rising ticket prices, and removal of opportunities to watch football from the 'real' people. 

I shan't. Instead, as I sit languishing amid the dawning realisation that there will be less chance of final tickets reaching general sale than of "Being Jordan" winning the Booker Prize, I just idly tapped "cup final tickets" into Google. As the results populated, I was amazed at the number of websites offering me an immediate ticket to the final, for anything between £250 and £700.

The touts have gone cyber

With my web-cynic specs on, I did a couple of cross-references on WorldTicketShop, a Dutch company which ranked highly among the results. I confidently expected a host of warnings about spelling mistakes, no-shows and tickets printed on toilet roll, but no. In fact, the organisation has a buyer protection programme, and in 2009 was even honoured at an award ceremony for quickly growing businesses. 

It would be so, so so so easy. All I would have to do would be quickly tap in my credit card details, wave goodbye to a three-figure sum I'd never held in my hand anyhow, and begin to salivate over a repetition of that glorious cup final atmosphere I had tasted a decade earlier. The natural suspicions one might feel when buying from a shifty tout lurking near Wembley Park tube station are a long distance from this world of reassuring icons, secure card payments, and guarantees which seem to check out.

And now seems the appropriate moment for a footballing cliche:
Oooh... go on then:

At the end of the day, when all's said and done, after a game of two halves,  what is the difference between the swarthy leather jacket-clad geezer and the slick website though? If the tickets are real, they have probably been sourced from an unwanted corporate package, Club Wembley members with no interest in the game, or even naive YTS players with a penchant for social networkings sites
This is a double tragedy. Firstly, that people with little or no interest in a game of football have secured tickets from the lubrication of a business deal or suchlike, and secondly, that when they can't be bothered to attend, the tickets - instead of being returned to the clubs for sale to those 'real' fans I mentioned earlier - are passed on to extortionist websites like WorldTicketShop.

So, on cup final day, a good part of the ground will quite rightly be filled with supporters who have gained their tickets through the most democratic and fair avenues possible in such circumstances, but there will also be disappointment for many - myself included. If the FA is to begin to rescue football from the financial soup into which it is becoming liquidised, they could do a lot worse than start off with such grass-roots issues, and shut down such resale sites as WorldTicketShop. It can't be that hard.

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