One of the consequences of COVID is the mass introduction of e ticketing by non-League clubs. Having invested in the technology and agonised through any teething troubles, the systems are here to stay.
The COVID-19 pandemic encouraged the trend because mobile ticketing reduces hand-to-hand contact between fans and stadium workers and can permit contact tracing based on seat locations. Ticketless tickets are quicker, cheaper, safer, better for the environment – in pragmatic terms, it’s hard to argue against e-tickets. Young people unfamiliar with mountains of paper, probably wondered why their introduction took so long.
For the rest of us – OK name and shame older supporters if you must – electronic ticketing feels just a little bit poignant. Paper tickets, just like paper programmes (and fanzines too?) are unique souvenirs. They can be brandished with pride. They can generate memories of matches, people, and players. They bring forth the war story necessary to obtain that precious document. No-one will ever dine out on “took me 3 hours to get on the website” lament. But share a lurid tale of dashing through country lanes to Hereford, endangering the wildlife and cursing tractor drivers and an audience you shall have.
Beyond advantages, E-tickets are both robotic and dull. All much of a muchness, bought today, disposed tomorrow. I was pleasantly surprised to be handed brightly coloured paper tickets at the Lymington Town entrance shed. A soupcon of payback for the 25% admission increase deemed necessary for the FA Cup and yes, I know HFC agreed to the increase.
A quick rummage in my cupboard produced more paper from a Hampshire club. Away to Salisbury FC in March 2017, the day we secured our third straight title. The ticket is colourful and instinctively introduces so many memories, almost like an audiobook. Such as how the home side caved in. The sweaty wait for scores elsewhere. The manic celebrations on the pitch. All those and so many more.
Another rummage produces two related paper tickets. Leeds United in the FA Cup First Round, at home and at Elland Road. Comically, the replay slip asserts “It’s all about Leeds United.” Not that night it wasn’t as Fourth Division Hereford played so well Leeds were lucky to only suffer a narrow defeat. The sound of muted fury from 3 sides of the stadium as again and again, Hereford’s pacey defenders tore past their expensively assembled opponents. The ticket acts as a trigger.
One more “ticket” – a recent one – made me smile. At Highgate, you can buy match tickets in the bar via their card machine and this is your receipt. Not ticketless yet it’s the most bizarre ticket I’ve seen. That’s Highgate FC, still determinedly marching to the sound of a different drum.
Unlike an e-ticket, I’m torn. I don’t wish to sound like a dinosaur. I must acknowledge the benefits of reducing cash handling and their attendant headaches of trying to make the cash balance and those hazardous visits to the bank carrying loads of greenbacks. I wouldn’t fancy that.
Also, paper tickets do clog up wallets, especially the ludicrously large document that Wembley insist on issuing. So large they had to be folded, sometimes twice, which in some cases stressed the bar code. Similarly, Worcester Raiders have a ticket the size of most people’s wills. Even so, paper is tangible. Paper can be admired, touched, and shared. That pride in earning and owning a paper ticket for a big game… the electronic equivalent just lacks that cachet…
Individual clubs can choose their own ticketing arrangements for now. The NFL in America was the first to make e tickets mandatory. Other sports in other countries will surely follow. Maybe one day the choice will be taken away. The reality for these sporting organisations is their biggest gain about capturing supporters buying habits so they can flog them more and more online. It’s not always easy to stop this flow. I once ordered tickets from Salford City FC and now there is no obvious way to stop their flow of mails. I’ve tried all the standard escalation routes without success. Its electronic Readers Digest. In the end, I attached an auto delete to any message from them. That’s one of the downsides of electronic ticketing. Another, as Hereford FC discovered, what to do when the providers server goes down? Pen and paper were the retro fall back answer for the Leamington game.
Ticketless tickets are here to stay. We can only celebrate what we used to have.