NEW TICKETING ARRANGEMENTS
TUST wrote to the club the day after the first home friendly against Truro to raise members’ concerns about this issue. We wrote:
‘There is a growing unrest about the club’s decisions regarding its ticketing arrangements for entry into the stadium. Whilst this may only affect a minority, nevertheless it is important that you are made aware because putting off supporters from attending cannot be in the club’s interest.
Seeing the new system in operation last night we feel we should draw your attention to these observations and comments from a number of supporters who were at the ground.
These are two examples:
One with learning difficulties, but independent, arrived after 6.45pm and was dismayed to find he couldn’t gain admittance. He was advised to go to the ticket office where he queued, eventually being allowed to buy a ticket.
A second person, an elderly season ticket holder, also arrived after 6.45pm unaware of the new policy and again was allowed to purchase a ticket after being directed to the ticket office.
Whilst acknowledging both were eventually able to watch the match, having problems doing so were surely not the image the club would want.
The club should also be concerned that a number of people, some holiday makers and supporters, were seen walking away on hearing there were no more ticket sales after the 6.45 pm deadline.
We applaud the club’s stance on supporters’ safe return to Plainmoor with its comprehensive Code of Conduct and whilst accepting contactless payments are a sign of the times, we ask, on behalf of our members, the club reconsiders its ticket policy.
We ask the club to reconsider the ‘ one hour before kick off’ deadline - there is a National League club which has a late entry policy allowing admittance even after half-time.
Could not some turnstile operators have hand held card readers? For those who only have cash can they still buy a ticket?
For a number their match day experience was spoilt by the confusion and difficulty in obtaining entry when the club’s purpose is engaging with its fan base and being the hub of the community.
It may be too late for Saturday’s visit of Plymouth Argyle but there are likely to be more turning up who will be unaware they will not be able to gain entry.
There has been much to praise the club for in recent times on and off the pitch but on this ticketing issue we do hope you will have another look.’
TUST has now received the following response from the club’s directors:
‘The health and safety of all our players, staff, supporters and community is the most important thing for the Board. TUST members have acknowledged that during COVID-19 Plainmoor was a safe place to be at. The Club has worked very closely with Torbay Council and the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) to ensure every stakeholder of the Club is safe, and this approach will not be compromised, which I am sure you will be in full agreement with.
Last season we invested in a new online ticketing system platform, to enable details for track and trace to be obtained, tickets had to be purchased online, or over the phone for all the games, with the turnstiles being cashless. This was in the interests of the Club, the staff, the supporters and the community. This ensured that there was not long queues at turnstiles, as supporters just showed their QR code, and were scanned into the ground, so it improved their matchday experience. We received great feedback from Council representatives, supporters and TUST for providing a safe environment during COVID-19. A Pandemic that has not disappeared.
Due to the positive feedback we had, and in the interests of public health, the Club in consultation with the Safety Advisory Group, made the decision to remain with cashless turnstiles in the best interests of all stakeholders. Tickets are available online, or over the phone, or on the day from the ticket office up to an hour before kick-off, so there is no discrimination.
We believe that this decision does not deter casual supporters, as on the day supporters can order tickets online, or in person at the ticket office, up to an hour before kick-off, if a supporter wants to go and only decides on the day then they can purchase tickets. Therefore, if someone is in a hotel in the town centre, they can purchase a ticket online and then come to the ground 10 minutes before kick-off. The majority of hotels in the bay, are booked online, and it is very pleasing to see that the majority are full. When booking a hotel or restaurant or going to an event, the majority plan and book in advance, in order to avoid disappointment, demonstrating that online booking is the new way
We have invested in infrastructure around all turnstiles, in order to provide the most efficient and safest environment for entering the ground. To be able to purchase a ticket by cash or by credit card at the turnstiles does not allow the Club to obtain the information they require for track and trace, therefore, putting at risk our staff, are valued supporters and the community. It also reduces the risk of close contact in queuing in the last hour, as well as reducing any likelihood of crowd disturbance.
The Safety Advisory Group, as you know includes the local emergency services, and we work together in order to protect and look after our local community. During the past 12 months, the Club had been under pressure by our supporters to relax COVID-19 measures in the ground, such as the mandatory wearing of face coverings, however, we stuck to our agreed protocols in the best interest of all concerned and the Torbay community, all the decisions made by the Club in consultation with SAG are in the best interests of the Torbay community, not ourselves, and we don’t believe this approach should be compromised.
I trust this explains the match day ticket protocols we have put in place.’
Whilst TUST welcomes and fully supports the Club’s commitment to the health and safety of all concerned, it is disappointing that it is unwilling to reconsider the one hour cut off for ticket office sales. Even at today's match against Chippenham we were aware of a number of supporters who were disappointed to be turned away after 2pm. We have visited many clubs in the past where supporters are required to buy a ticket at a remote office rather than on the turnstiles but this option has always been available right up to kick off.
We welcome the modernisation of the Club’s customer services but remain concerned that the ticketing policy may exclude those who do not use the internet or social media. These include some of United’s oldest and longest standing supporters.