Queuing For Success Is A Complete Failure

TO SOME minds the sight of a bedraggled queue snaking around the Riverside is a sign of success. It shows there is a real hunger for the hottest tickets in town. It shows people are willing to jump any hurdle to be part of the dream. It shows that there is a demand. Tthe assumption is made that the club must be therefore doing something right.
Wrong, wrong wrong. The sight of a queue is a patently visible sign of the failure of Boro’s ticket distribution systems.
In an multi-media date-base age where the retail sector is sussed and sophisticated and the consumer is king, something is badly wrong when dedicated fans must take time off work to stand for hours to buy a ticket.


Boro fans are cute consumers. They know the nuances and pitfalls of the Red Book system. They know the rights and priveleges that come with their patron number pre-fix. And they have a record of making an uncannily accurate estimation of demand for tickets and judging exactly when they need to cash in their vouchers to get a ticket.
That so many have chosen to arrive at the Riverside with the milk float is a vote of no confidence in the club. They are there because their assessment is that there is a realistic chance THEY WILL NOT GET ONE otherwise.
That so many have turned up physically despite the logistically difficulties of organising family life and work shows a complete failure of the other means of ticket sales to cope with the complexities of the modern fan base.
The internet booking system collapsed into farce on day one. The system was programmed to process each ticket application individually meaning groups of Red Book holders who wanted to sit together – families and friends planning their big day together – could not be guaranteed that most simple of requests.
The system could not cope with the most basic notion that man and wife, dad and lad may actually want to sit together at Boro’s big game. Those affected by this one dimensional, family unfriendly approach had no choice but to decamp to the Riverside to queue clutching handfuls of Red Books.
Then, after angry complaints, that restriction was lifted briefly – then the system started taking multiple bookings, offering up to four tickets on one Red Book patron number. The bookings were confirmed. Money was taken from accounts. In theory those tickets could have gone to non-season ticket holders. There was suddenly a frightening possibility they could all go within a day and that Red Book holders would miss out. Chaos ensued.
The club acted quickly to make a statement that all multiple booking were cancelled and only the Red Book holder who had made the application would get one – but that left legitmate groups who all had the appropriate Red Book status and who had had their order confirmed in limbo. Would their booking be honoured or cancelled?
Phoning the ticket office to clarify was no solution. The system was in meltdown. There were long queues there too. And when you got to the front of the queue whether or not it was answered was hit or miss. And without access to Ticketmaster’s data base there was no way of checking most queries anyway. So it was either take a chance on the ticket arriving or go down to the Riverside to join the queue.
Of course, you will always get people who will tell you that there is no hardship in queuing, that it has always been the way, that it i s the price of success. There will always be people who wear their queueing time as a badge of honour as if it makes them bigger and better fans. These people do not have kids to be looked after in school holidays. They do not have jobs where labour flexibility is frowned on or time off is lost wages. And they do not live in London, Leeds, Newcastle or beyond, as so many Boro season ticket holders do.
Unless they wanted a single ticket and didn’t care where they sat and could therefore use the on-line or telephone booking systems, the exiles, the diasBoro, were forced to make their way to the Riverside. The timescale and the Bank Holiday cut out the option of posting the Red Book back to a proxy queuer. No, should they want to sit next to their family and friends they would have to physically come back. There was no way around it.
The knock-on effect is that those people forced to queue reluctantly then hold up those who normally would think nothing in driving over and picking up their tickets in a tea-break from work. There are no winners.
So, no matter how pleased marketing chiefs are that the pictures in the gazette show red hot demand, the queues are not a good thing. No. They are a fundementally, unmitigated bad thing and are an inescapable indictment of the flawed remote distribution systems installed by Boro, seemingly without any thought for the realities of modern life and the demographics of the crowd and seemingly without any testing whatsoever.
It must never happen again. We are not new to this game. In 1997 Boro had a flurry of big games – semi-finals, replays, finals, replays – and the lessons should have been learned from that scrum. Since then the proliferation of
web-based and telephone agencies should have made things easier. There is no excuse for it. Yet, here we are again shuffling along in an orderly queue to air our perfectly reasonable complaints at this avoidable farce.

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7 thoughts on “Queuing For Success Is A Complete Failure

  1. I’ve had a Season ticket for 20 years, but because I had the audacity to switch stands so that my kids could go with me, my book became white – so I have to wait at the back of the queue. Other clubs have a system of – how many years in the last 10 or 20?
    See you in the queue.
    p.s. Wrote a letter last year asking for consideration of my situation but it was ignored totally.

  2. Its been 9 years since i could afford to stand out the 12 hour Q 4 tickets.When purchasing tickets for last thrusdays game against Charlton, i went down to the Stadium 6 hours before the game was due to kick off, where they replied ‘ Your tickets are not ready yet’, not ready? i had to cue with many others anhour before the game,i could of easily misse the beginning.
    I think it is a disgrase to place a hut no bigger than a shed right outside the building where the poeple must wait for their tickets, has this club not heard of Ticket Master? or even a computer?,
    this must be sorted out, please just pay one more memeber of staff in the ticket office, at least you will keep the fans happy, i could get tickets to hong kong via holland, india and australia quicker than a football match that includes middlesbrough

  3. Couldnt agree with you more Anthony. Mass queues for tickets these days should be a thing of the past.
    As a season ticket holder since the Ayresome days, and based in Newcastle, i’ve previously been used to queueing, but with the advances in technology did not expect to have to spend the first day of my holiday weekend queueing for a ticket that, when renewing my red book every year, had been promised as guaranteed.
    Therefore i opted to book online. With the ensuing farce that followed i do not now know whether or not the four tickets that i booked ( patron numbers supplied as requested later) have been processed, and have no way of finding out until the postman delivers – or not.
    The management at MFC NEED to recognise the faults and correct them immediately, as, if we do get to either cup final, a repeat of this chaos could result diehard fans like myself losing patience with the club.

  4. Come from Bradford every game. Ticket master Is always down or they say, ‘youre not registed’ or something.
    Went in queue at 2.30am tuesday morning and I am a season ticket holder. As you said the queue with tents and stoves went round the riverside. The club new there would be queues. I find it very hard to believe the club never put any mobile toilets or something for the fans.
    I had to travel 150 miles round trip again because of two things, 1) the club withdrew the system for ticket master on line, 2) the club knows the real fans will travel and camp out.
    Many clubs have other systems. Other clubs look at our training centre , why can’t Boro look at other clubs when given out tickets???
    All they need to do is put a card in place like a top up card, swipe card like mobile phone companies use, you top up at any shop or the club, and If you are on the clubs database and have money in or on your card . The club will have cup tickets ready for you In the longest searving order.
    Now If other ticket holders need to sit to gether they must pay and have joint applications put in before a certain date. There is many other ways other clubs do this but not Boro

  5. i totaly agree with most of your letters this method of queing all day for tickets is rediculous.
    Can any body explain to me what is the significance of your patron number? As I was in conversation (while waiting in the queue) it seems to me that no body knows how far in the pecking order they are for tickets, ie; how many S and T prefixes are there.

  6. Another shot in the foot!! Yesterday the website was showing that semi-final tickets were going to be available this morning at 9.30 to those of us on the database who called personally, phoned or used t’internet. Great. I buy lots of away match tickets so I’m in with a shout, I thought, and got myself ready to monopolise the phone and keyboard this morning to try to get tickets which the site said were ‘plentiful’.
    Now this morning the story has changed again and it seems they are only available to personal callers! Unbelievable.

  7. I live in the US, although originally from Stockton, and I am painfully aware of the ticketing issues at the Boro from years gone by. There are excellent systems and procedures out there right now that the Boro could implement. I know its slightly different to a FA Cup Semi, but I purchased 12 tickets for a major league baseball game, online and printed the tickets off there and then. Surely someone must be looking into better ways of issuing tickets for major cup games??

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