See Tickets and die

Cod Almighty | Article

by Mark Dillerstone

12 May 2015

With the club admitting ticket sales for the play-off final have so far been disappointing, Mark Dillerstone warns that the FA cannot get away with treating fans as a cash cow for much longer.

Wembley play-off final ticket

I was delighted when Town confirmed their place at Wembley for the Vanarama Conference Promotion Final. So delighted in fact that I didn't really care what its official name is. I just wanted to know when I could get hold of a ticket and visit Wembley, that venue of legends, the home of football, et cetera.

This would be the fifth time since that historic April day in 1998, the day Wayne Burnett flicked us into the history books and I cried at a football match. I'd cried at a football match before but that was because my dad made me stand with him and his mates on a snow-covered Imperial Corner on the coldest day in christendom. I was six and was in actual physical pain from the cold. At least Captain Scott had a tent. I had bugger all.

Anyway I digress. Back to Wembley, that venue of... oh yeah, I've done that bit. This is where it all starts to go a bit, well, for want of a better word, shit.

The plan was to queue up for hours with other excited Mariners, have a chat about who Hurst will pick up front, where to park, and the other general chit-chat that's usual when you are in a big long queue for tickets. But no! Hold the front page: the club can't sell the tickets. Oh no, no, no, no, no.

You see, the FA – guardians of the game and owners of Wembley Stadium, venue of legends – they don't want that. After all, the clubs might bugger it up and sell tickets in the wrong section or something. What the FA wants is for you/us to purchase your/our tickets through an intermediary. That intermediary being See Tickets. OK, fair enough. There is more though. See Tickets wants to charge a booking fee, per ticket. If you buy five tickets, you've got to pay five lots of booking fees.

My worst anger is reserved for when we're being ripped off by the very people I expect to look after our interests At this point I'm getting rather angry. OK, I get angry a lot and sometimes burst out into fits of bad language and general sweariness. This is usually confined to things that I have a rational dislike of – such as Tory politicians or people who do racist monkey chants at Boston United's keeper.

It gets far worse when I have an irrational dislike of something. The very worst is reserved for when I think something is unfair or unjust or that a group of people are being ripped off and taken for granted by the very people they are expecting to look after their interests. Oh, and also when David Burns of Radio Humberside says he's been talking to Garry Birtles, and names his former clubs, except Town. For fuck's sake Burns. See what I mean?

Anyway, See Tickets wants to charge a booking fee of £3 per ticket. It also wants to charge you/us £2.35 for first-class postage – which is odd, because last time I went to the post office, first class postage was 63p. So that's £5.35 so far. The option is open for you to collect your ticket at Wembley and save on the £2.35 postage, but you'll only save 40p because See Tickets will charge you £1.95 to pick up your ticket yourself.

Now, to book a ticket you have to go on the internet or phone up, where you will almost certainly be put on hold because all of their agents are busy, they value your custom and will be with you as soon as possible, and meanwhile listen to some classical music or, if you're really lucky, the hits of Harry Belafonte. After all, it's only costing you 6p a minute.

So far, then, there's the booking fee for something that you have to book through them because they won't let the clubs sell the tickets. And there's the postage for something that you were prepared to go and pick up yourself from Blundell Park but you can't. If that doesn't make you as angry as a football fan who is being ripped off, we come to the price of the actual tickets for a non-League football match at the national stadium, owned and run for the benefit of the game of football in this country, by the FA.

The price is – wait for it – £41, with no concessions, for a category one ticket. You could save a fiver and get a category two ticket, although this probably means that you have to sit with some boring twit from Lincoln who bought his ticket as part of the Vanarama Big Day Out thing thinking that Lincoln actually had a chance at the play-offs.

So there you have it. £46.35 for a ticket you booked yourself online, saving the 6p per minute phone call, and then had posted to you by the world's most expensive postal system.

Once the fans stop going to games it's over. TV will not be interested in showing games played in empty stadiums

How does the FA justify this price? When will something be done about the price of watching football in this country? The FA can't possibly do anything because it is as guilty as the clubs – if not more so – of milking the cash cow commonly known as fans. Liverpool and Arsenal fans have both complained recently about prices at Hull City. I seem to remember QPR charging Burnley fans something like £55. The cheapest ticket at Chelsea is £41, and if you're not a member at Arsenal and want to watch a category A match, it's £65.50.

Forget about the working class being priced out of the game. The way things are at the minute, all fans are being priced out of the game. This has to stop for the good of the game. Once the fans stop going to games it's over. TV will not be interested in showing games played in empty stadiums. The appeal of the English game around the world isn't the quality of the football. Far from it. It's the atmosphere and passion generated by those who turn up at matches, by the hundreds or even thousands who travel to watch their team.

Would the atmosphere at Blundell Park in the play-off semi-final been as good without that brilliant set of Eastleigh fans? Would the game have seemed as good? And that's fifth-tier football. This doesn't happen anywhere else in the world. Pundits may tell us how passionate fans are in South America. Maybe they are, but not like the English fan.

And how does the body that looks after English football look after its prize asset? It just keeps on squeezing.

It says something that after 35 years of watching Town, I seriously contemplated not going to this match. In the end I knew I couldn't miss it, but for the first time I had to think about it and that is all down to the FA. For shame.

Fed up of being turnstile fodder? Or is it what being a loyal supporter means? Tell us.