Much has already been said about the ticketing arrangements for the semi-final at Wembley but I think my own experience highlights the incompetence of Everton's management team and their arrogance towards the fans.
I live in Liverpool but have a group of relatives and friends who travel home from far-flung outposts such as London and the Isle of Man to see their beloved Everton. We're Evertonia members because we don't mind paying for priority on the few games we manage to get to. That priority has applied on every league and cup game this season but was suddenly dropped for the Wembley match. Why? Everton of course haven't answered that question because they're happy to take our money but don't have to justify themselves to us the poor fans.
Like many others we didn't think about the importance of putting every ticket on our membership cards, probably because we've forgotten what it's like to have a good cup run. So if we didn't need to use Evertonia the game wasn't credited to us and we ended up with only 3 credits for more than twice that number of games. We won't be so stupid next season, but Everton could do more to highlight the issue.
On 1 April the club announced that fans who had 4 credits could buy tickets from 6 April and that 'any remaining tickets will go on sale to supporters who have attended three or more .... home games from Tuesday 7 April'. On 5 April they announced that 'the criteria is set to change dependant on tickets remaining and tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis'. It wasn't until late on 6 April that they scrapped that plan and said a statement would be made the following day. I was lucky that I saw the announcement, but I believe some unfortunate fans queued through the night to be told at 8:00 they'd wasted their time.
As we all know, on the Tuesday they announced the ballot and this even included fans with 4 credits who hadn't been able to get to the box office on the Monday and had now missed their chance. The statement said that all successful applicants 'will have been notified by the close of business on Tuesday April 14' and that non-successful applicants 'will be sent an email confirming the status of their application'. All this time fans who need to make travel and possibly accommodation arrangements were left up in the air, but of course that's not Everton's problem. It's clear the reason they did this was because they'd rather make fans wait another week for their tickets than have a few fans being turned away at the Box Office, but if you're honest with fans and keep them informed they don't cause trouble.
I'm afraid that an hour before the close of business I got a bit impatient and so rang up the club to see how they were getting on. After all they'd only given themselves 5 days to press the button on the computer which would do the job for them. Oh joy - 40 minutes of 'Z Cars' on a number which BT actually advertises to business as helping to generate that extra bit of revenue for only £10 a month line rental. Eventually the bloke at the other end told me that the ballot process had been completed. When I told him that I had had neither phone call nor email he realised he'd been rumbled and admitted they still had a few to process and might not finish that night.
It's now Wednesday 15 April - 4 days before the match. I rang the club again at 8:15 this morning, unbelievably getting through in about 10 minutes. They still hadn't finished but it wasn't their fault of course - he blamed fans for giving incorrect email addresses. Listen mate, you have no idea how many times I checked my email address and phone number before I pressed 'Submit', so don't blame me. It's now midday. Still no word from the club. No announcement on the website explaining what they're doing and why it's taking so long. No announcement that might stop idiots like me phoning them up all the time and preventing them from getting on with the job. All we've had is that smug sod Robert Elstone telling us yet again that it's not their fault.
So who's fault is it, Robert? Is it the FA's fault for not allowing us to print our own tickets? Is it Goodison's fault for being too cramped and restrictive? Is it the phone system's fault for not being able to cope? Or is it your fault for not having the vision to plan for and work around these issues before they impact on us the fans? For the £20 a year I pay for Evertonia, the over-inflated ticket prices and the fortune I spend listening to Z Cars I expect to get something back. It would be nice to be shown a bit of respect rather than be treated as just another revenue stream to be presented to the shareholders at the end of the year.
So one last try before I submit this article. A mere 15 minutes wait before a nice young lady tells me not to despair. She says they're still phoning people but that season ticket renewals were taking up a lot of their time (hang on, what's the priority here?). They hope to finish by close of business tonight, which is of course Wednesday 15 April not Tuesday 14 April. But I can wait. I'm only a supporter. I don't matter, do I?.
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