By Ben McCausland
Despite hurtling towards my thirties at a rate of knots, I am still a relative baby in terms of Liverpool aways, having been a regular away traveller for about 12 years now.
However, my tale of woe will resonate with many reds from throughout the years – from the away pioneers who headed to Reykjavik in 1964, to the half a million who went to Wolves in ‘76 (Come on you arl arses, come clean – you didn’t ALL go) to the Lacoste liberators of the early ‘80’s, anyone who has had any regular dealings with our ticket office will feel my pain.
When I first started going to Anfield, our souvenir shop was a hut in the main stand car-park and the ticket office was an 0151 number. With Peter Robinson quietly pulling the strings and David Moores shuffling about somewhere, we were a footballing behemoth being run like a village Post Office.
We felt so smug as we watched Manchester United invent the ‘theatre of dreams’ and open souvenir shops everywhere from Devon to Doha. Such crassness simply wasn’t our thing, not ‘the Liverpool way’, nope – we were your homely, comfortable, quiet club. We didn’t need to sell our soul in such ways.
But football was changing. It is an accepted fact now that commercially our rivals left us for dead.
Whether we simply rested on our laurels and thought the fact that ‘WE ARE LIVERPOOL’ was enough to keep the worldwide fan-base interested and the coffers swelling, or whether it was, to put it brutally, a lack of intelligence and foresight from the men in charge at the time is a debate for another time, but what cannot be denied is that the new owners of our club are far more commercially savvy than any we have known before.
Warrior doubling what Adidas are paying us to make our kits, Standard Chartered blowing Carlsberg out of the water for our shirt sponsorship and the enhanced corporate packages on offer at Anfield all point to a club that is finally beginning to realise its self-worth in the global football market.
So why then, is our ticket office still head scratchingly, phone smashingly, teeth grittingly painful to deal with on a weekly basis?
In the late 1990’s tickets for away games were distributed on the arbitrary system of a number picked out of a fucking hat, presumably by Jean-Michel Ferri (well what else was he doing?). If the last number of the serial number on your season ticket ended in that number, spiffing. If it didn’t, then tough titty.
It mattered not a jot if you had been to Wimbledon away on a Wednesday night, or if you hadn’t missed an away for 40 years – if United away or the Goodison Derby was announced as a 7 and your season ticket ended in a 4 you were screwed.
Loyalty was not rewarded, attendance was not logged, in short, it was a two-bit system that matched our two-bit approach to matters off the pitch.
My friends and I each had a network of contacts written down for these matters. These lists would look something like this:
- Me – a 4
- Uncle Pete – two 7’s
- Fella three doors down – a 6 (uses it for the big games, glory hunting twat)
- Woman’s who works with Mum neighbour’s tennis partners plumber – knows someone who can get an 8 and a 9
When selling details were announced, invariably the night before, there was always a mad rush to find a voucher that matched. All night was spent chasing round harassing people, who often didn’t know us from Adam, to get enough vouchers so that we could all get to the match.
The introduction of the fancard system was undoubtedly a much fairer system in that loyalty was finally being rewarded. It looked that at long last our club was dragging itself into the 21st Century, bloody hell, we’ve even been able to buy tickets on the internet for a while now. If David Moores knew what the internet was, I am sure even he would be impressed at how far we have come.
Due to the fancard system prioritising those who have accrued credits by attending aways, I have missed entirely the anger and heartbreak that many who have grievances with our ticket office hold regarding cup final ticket allocations. 2001, 05, 06 and 07 were all a breeze for me.
Selfishly, I didn’t give much time to the protests against Parry for the Athens tickets fiasco – I was alright, Jack. However, my grudge against our ticket office does have its origins from one of those finals – in Istanbul, when all the ticket office were on a jolly.
As the mad dash for taxis from Taksim Square began, me and my mate dived on one of the coaches laid on by the club and I instantly recognised a few of the faces from the ticket office. We saw an empty pair of seats and sat down hoping to cadge a lift with them.
The reaction we got from the people around us was incredible – you would have thought we’d just bounced on and turfed Rafa and his grandmother out of their seats, not just quietly slipped into two empty ones.
“THESE ARENT WITH US”, “GET THESE OFF OUR BUS’
“Arr come one Love, we only want a lift the ground, don’t be sly”
“THIS IS OUR BUS, GERROFF”
Fucks sake! I had been to Graz, Leverkusen, Juventus, Chelsea and now Istanbul in the last 8 months or so and the fact that these lot were on a freebie made me shout something about me “paying your fucking wages” as we were herded off the bus to a load of ironic cheers. It may only seem a minor thing, but it really stuck in my craw. What harm were we doing there? Couldn’t they have just let us use the spare seats and get a free lift up the ground? Apparently not, and a grudge was borne.
My latest spat with our beloved distributor of tickets arose from our recent victory in the League Cup at Chelsea. I purchased my ticket online (the world we live in!) – easy enough – except it did not arrive. The day before the game an email arrived telling me that they had not processed my ticket and that I had to ring THEM to sort out a duplicate. Right, ok.
“Welcome to Liverpool Football Club, you are being charged for this call”
Yes, I fucking know I am.
After a fortnight on hold listening to a tin-pot instrumental of “Fields of Anfield Road” my call is answered and me and the person at the other end do a familiar dance.
T.O – Whats your fancard number?
Me – 1234567
T.O – And the name on the card?
Me – Peter Gibbons
T.O – And whats your date of birth Mr Gibbons?
Me – 17th Jan 1953
T.O – (long pause) This isn’t your card is it?
Me – Yes, no, well, yeah, what it is is my Uncle Pete has 3 season tickets in his name, but this is mine…
T.O – Im sorry, you’ll have to get Mr Gibbons to call us, I cant continue this conversation with you.
Me – Well you sold him three season tickets, do you think he sits in all three? (now my Uncle Pete is a somewhat rotund gentleman, but I don’t think that even the ticket office believe that he can spread himself across two seats in the Kemlyn and one on Row 60 in The Kop)
T.O – Im sorry but…
Me – No, im sorry – you don’t care whose name is on them when you are collecting the £750 each year, regardless of whose name is on that card it is MY season ticket and YOU have messed up MY Chelsea league cup ticket so you need to deal with ME.
To cut a long story short (and to keep my blood pressure down), the ticket office agreed to speak to me about it and agreed to arrange for a duplicate to be sent down to Chelsea in the name of Ben McCausland and as long as I took identification there would be no problems.
Down at Chelsea I realised that all ticket office staff are the same.
Me: Hello, I have got a duplicate ticket to pick up, name of Ben McCausland.
T.O – (idly thumbs through envelopes) Nope, nothing here.
Me – Well then there must be some mistake, the good man at Liverpool Football Club told, nay, assured me, that he would send it to your fine self.
T.O – S’not ‘ere.
Me – Could you please check again? I think maybe you have missed it, as I said, Liverpool promised me and they are a world famous household name and always do things professionally and diligently.
T.O – Nope, nothing by that name. Might be in a different name?
Me – *sigh* Yes… It could be in the name of Peter Gibbons…
T.O – Yep, its here.
Me – Splendid! Now if you could just slide that ticket through I’ll be on my way…
T.O – Cant, not in your name.
As if wasting time and money on a trip down to Chelsea to not get my ticket as promised was not bad enough, when I rang the club to discuss the situation the response (or lack of) was shocking.
If any other company treated its customers in the way that football clubs treat theirs then they would be hauled over the coals by Anne Robinson on Watchdog or be out of business fairly sharply. It has taken me 7 weeks of telephone calls to finally get Liverpool to agree to refund me my ticket and coach money.
“Welcome to Liverpool Football Club, you are being charged for this call”
7 weeks of me ringing them, fruitlessly leaving messages and complaints with another disinterested person who would fob me off with the promise that someone will ring me back to discuss this matter.
7 weeks of me doing the “yes it is my fancard, its just not in my name” dance.
7 weeks of premium rate phone bills.
Football fans are mugs, everybody knows it, and the clubs know that they do not need to offer any customer service because what are we going to do if Iwe don’t like the service they offer us? Go and support Everton?!
They have us over a barrel because we are not consumers of a product looking to shop around for the best deal, we are consumed by our club. If ticket prices eventually get too much for one person, then there are 15 other mugs waiting to take their ticket, the club know this and it is massively apparent in how they treat us.
Im not expecting a back rub in every dealing I have with the ticket office.
Just stop treating us like dickheads.