Review Of The Arrangements For The Sale Of Play Off Final Tickets The following report reveals the findings of the review held by the club into the policy and procedures put in place to distribute our allocation of tickets for the Play-Off Final against Doncaster on the 25th May 2008. Objective The objective of the review was to analyse the arrangements that were put in place and establish if they worked as we had intended, and identify the opportunities available to us to improve on those arrangements if we are faced with such a fixture again. Advance notice to fans of the arrangements Following criticism levelled at the club following our Play-Off appearance at Cardiff against Watford in 2006, we felt that any fan who wanted to know how to obtain tickets for the game was given plenty of notice through all available media channels but primarily from www.leedsunited.com. We also believe that we were successful in explaining the category of fans who would be guaranteed a ticket for the fixture so as not to cause panic among season ticket holders/ members when tickets first went on sale, and that the number of options available to fans as to how to purchase the tickets made it as easy as possible. Methods of application The number of options given to fans to apply for tickets was as varied as we were able to administer and, in the case of the online application, gave fans an option not to come down in person to the ticket office in full knowledge that the application had been received. Other options included downloading an application form to send through the post or to apply by fax. Fans could visit the ticket office in person. However, no telephone bookings were accepted. In view of the short period of time available to sell the tickets between the semi-final and the final itself, we allowed fans to make advance applications. The online applications worked in so much as it gave fans an option to purchase without having to come down to the stadium. However, the confirmation that was supplied to fans following the booking was not as clear as it could have been. That left a number of fans duplicating their application just to ensure we got it. In fact, we got all of them and the number of duplicates that there were slowed down the process of issuing the tickets. For next time, we will look to make sure that the confirmation is clear and downloadable to include a booking reference so it is easier for us to trace genuine applications. We are also going to look at preventing duplicate applications and also applications from non-qualifying fans who applied but were not eligible for tickets prior to them going on general sale.
During the exclusive period for season ticket holders to purchase tickets at the counters 3,196 were sold on Saturday 17th May 2008 and 1,152 on Sunday 18th May with the maximum queuing time two hours. In respect of the exclusive period for members only 1,882 were sold on the 19th May and 880 over the counters. Advance Applications and Online Bookings There were over 17,000 tickets applied for using the above method which was more than we had expected and more than we could practically deal with in the short period of time. The advance applications were only taken to assist the club as a result of the short period of time available and we would repeat the process for future games. However, the cut off time for applications would have to be far earlier to allow time to process all the applications so not as to panic fans who had not received them at the time they went on general sale. This combined with more automated checks would alleviate a number of the problems that occurred and allow us the time to deal with genuine queries. A shorter application period will also have the effect of increasing the number of fans coming to the counters where we had the capacity during the exclusive periods to deal with many more applications than we did. It is also worth noting that we did not receive the tickets from Wembley until 24 hours after the Semi-Final win which lost time that we had been informed would be available to process some of the advance applications without the counters open. Posted Applications We posted over 5,910 envelopes with varying numbers of tickets in each of which 3,025 were sent by Special Delivery and 2,885 by 1st class post. Of these, less than 0.5% failed to reach the correct destination. In most cases we were able to supply duplicate tickets in advance of the game. In the future, the only option offered to fans when posting out tickets will be by Special Delivery so we can trace them through the postal system and also the fan can. Inevitably, we did make a small number of mistakes processing the tickets for which we apologise. We hope to minimise these even further in the future by achieving a better split of applications between counter and online so allowing staff not to have to work under the same time pressure. Customer Services The enquiry e-mail address that was set up to deal with enquires because we were unable to both answer the phones and process the outstanding tickets. It was these outstanding ticket requests that caused the majority of the queries. We will review the way we handled queries from fans in the future to try and limit the amount of frustration felt by fans, which hopefully would be less as a result of the improvements referred to elsewhere in this review. We were not able to open the counters for customer enquiries the day before the final due to the stadium being used for the Kaiser Chiefs concert.
Number of tickets available to Season Ticket Holders/ Members Early enquiries with the Football League suggested that we would receive an allocation of at least 32,000. With 25,000 season ticket holders and members then we could only guarantee each of the 25,000, one ticket each. It is our view that Season Ticket Holders should be treated with priority over members, hence the priority period at the counters on the first two days. However, that priority should be in respect of their ticket only not extra ones for non-regular attendees. There was never going to be an ideal way to distribute the additional tickets that were left when all 25,000 members had had the opportunity to purchase their own tickets. We felt it was better to offer them to Season Ticket Holders/ members in the first instance to give them the opportunity to purchase tickets for friends to attend. We decided to set the limit to 3 per member and each applicant to purchase up to 9 tickets (i.e on behalf of 3 members) purely down to the timescale before the final. We subsequently received an initial allocation of 36,000 tickets and then on the date the tickets went on general sale we received another 2,000 tickets some of which were significantly better than those in the original allocation. We did not know that these tickets were definitely coming to us until 3:00pm the day before making things difficult to plan. General Sale There is no doubt that Wednesday 21st May 2008 saw scenes at Elland Road that nobody involved, club staff or fans, want to see repeated. There was never any doubt that the remaining tickets would all be sold but we were surprised by the number of fans that turned up to queue throughout the night for them. Our chief aim was to protect the integrity of the queue to make sure that those who had queued were served in order. In this regard we failed and in the event of a similar event have now devised a system that would see the club being able to ensure that the integrity of the queue is not broken and that the facilities provided for those in the queue are suitable. In the future, we will use the seats inside the stadium to keep the queue in order which will also provide an alternative to standing for an excessive period of time. In putting this in place we will be able to know how many fans are queuing so we can provide accurate messages in relation to availability of tickets using the PA system in the stadium that we could not do this time that we were criticised for. We believe the situation was made far harder for us to manage due to the fact that we could not utilise the West Stand Car Park. The car park was being used as the working compound for the Kaiser Chiefs concert that meant fans were asked to queue on Fullerton Park and further. It is generally accepted that, while arrangements could have been organised better, the situation was made worse by a minority of people looking to seek an advantage by queue jumping that led to the chaotic scenes that followed, for which I repeat the apology that we have previously made, that also the police having to be in attendance throughout the night. We had at least 6 windows open all day to deal with the sale of the tickets. We would have opened further windows but we were also dealing with the last of the postal applications at the same time. What was infuriating were the actions of some fans in trying to sell the tickets they had bought to those in the queue at an inflated price. We will look to ensure that this does not happen again in the future which, dependant on time available, could involve us limiting the number of additional tickets that can be bought by any individual.
Coaches We organised travel on coaches for over 4,000 supporters from Lowfields Road. It is always going to take a long time to set this many coaches off from one place, however, learning from the experiences of this we can look to improve the service so fans are not waiting as long. We will look at staggering the departure time and using more than one departure point. It is worth noting that while the coaches did not leave Elland Road at the prescribed time, everyone was at Wembley in plenty of time for the game. To complicate matters the roundabout at Elland Road leading to the M621 was blocked for a time whilst an overturned car was removed causing further delays. Collections at Wembley We received complaints from fans that had to queue for an excessive period of time at Wembley to collect their tickets. We provided three members of â€˜ticketingâ€™ staff from an agency to distribute these tickets, which should have been sufficient along with staff at Wembley to deal with the collections easily. At no stage did we commit that the tickets would be at Wembley for when the Ticket Office opened. We kept the tickets at Leeds United to deal with as many of the queries as possible on the Friday and Saturday (from the shop). I hope from the above you appreciate that we have reviewed fully the procedures we put in place to ensure that any future events of a similar nature are managed more effectively and you also have a better understanding as to why some of the decisions were made as they were. It is worth remembering that we sold over 38,000 tickets for the game, the majority of which were distributed to genuine Leeds fans without problem and the minimum of inconvenience. It is easy to forget this when the focus is on what went wrong rather than what went well as was the experience for the majority of fans.
Shaun Harvey Chief Executive Leeds United Football Club Limited
Published on Feb 15, 2011
Published on Feb 15, 2011
Leeds United review of play off ticket sales May 2008, Shaun Harvey, LUFC, Elland Road