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Who Was To Blame For The Turnstile Fiasco At St Mary's !
Monday, 23rd Aug 2021 14:56

There is no doubt that there has been a major problem with the new ticketing system at St Mary's , but where does the blame lie and what could have and should have been avoided in the whole sorry affair.

I am not going to make apologies for anything or anyone in this article, what I am going to do is to look at just what happened and where it went wrong and look at it objectively.

The first thing to look at is the system itself, the club felt the need to upgrade it and so I believe it is the first step in bringing in season tickets where you can have them on your phone etc and also use a season ticket to pay for things like food and merchandise in the ground.

This is not something ground breaking, most Premier League clubs are in the process of bringing in this type of system.

So Saints bringing in a new system is not the root cause of the problem, that lies with the provider of the system that they have brought in, likewise the ticket issue, I have no idea whether the tickets were supplied by the company that supplied the system, but clearly the tickets were not delivered on time and they are faulty.

So that is the root cause taken care of and although the club cannot be blamed for the products being faulty and I dare say we have all bought something that hasn't worked from time to time, the truth is that in the last week or so knowing the potential problems they have not prepared back up plans to cover any eventuality.

Sending out the season tickets was late, so I am lead to believe because the tickets were stuck on a delayed container ship, apparently we were not the only Premier League club in the same boat here.

From this viewpoint I can only assume that the tickets were despatched at the earliest opportunity and certainly from around Wednesday last week it seemed that a fair percentage of season ticket holders had received their tickets.

The problem was the club had no way of telling just who had and who hadn't received tickets other than the fans themselves contacting the club and then being issued with a paper ticket.

The issue here was that with tickets turning up as late as Saturday lunchtime if they had started issuing paper tickets on say Thursday then even more chaos would have ensued , as people would have clogged up the system on Thursday and Friday and then received tickets whilst others who hadn't received tickets might not have been able to get duplicates.

Chaos ensued on Saturday morning at St Mary's, this should have sent a warning as to what might happen on Sunday.

The answer is the club was in a no win situation, perhaps the best thing to have done here was on Thursday accept that the season tickets should have all been switched off and paper tickets for printing been despatched, this might not have completely resolved the situation with some fans missing the e mails etc and trying to use their season ticket, but surely the chaos would have been on a far smaller scale than yesterday's fiasco.

In truth i think that doing this would have solved a lot of problems and the club has to take some blame here for placing their faith in the Royal Mail delivering all the tickets by Saturday.

But if there were some things that were out of the clubs hands ahead of the game, then there can be no excuse for the chaos that reigned at the stadium yesterday.

From the number of people in the ground at kick off time it seems that the Northam End and the Itchen Stand had no issues at the turnstiles, I have heard little report of large queues and as I say at kick off both stands were virtually full.

But at the same time inside the ground the Kingsland and Chapel stands were nowhere near capacity and outside the ground there were around 5,000- 6,000 Saints supporters trying to get in with queues snaking around the ground and into the nearby industrial estate and absolutely no stewarding or guidance.

Things could have been a lot worse, in my opinion something major happening was only avoided due to the relative calm and good nature of the people in the queues.

I am not going to point the finger of blame at the stewards themselves here, they stuck manfully to their task, but there appeared to be no leadership or direction to the stewards, they were left to be at the forefront of the situation and if the crowd had turned nasty then there could have been a lot of people hurt.

So what could have been done ?

Well by 1.15pm it was clear there was a problem and that queues were forming and the turnstiles couldn't cope with the build up of fans given the failing of the bar code system.

At this stage why did no one inform the match referee and request a delay to the game in the interests of public safety ? This would seem to be the logical thing to have done at the time, a 15 minute delay would have enabled most to have been in the ground by 2.15pm although people were still getting in past 2.20pm.

Thankfully there was no public disorder and the crowds remained calm, but at 1.30pm no one could have been absolutely sure that this would continue to be the case, it would have only taken a spark and things could have turned nasty, there were stewards on the exit gates in the Kingsland letting people enter via mobile scanners, it is lucky these gates weren't stormed.

So Southampton Football Club can count itself lucky that this morning the headlines in the paper are not giving details of death or serious injury, most of the major football ground tragedies haven't been caused by violent disorder but by a failing to plan for a situation or by failing to deal with it.

From this point at 1.30 perhaps the club should have considered switching the turnstiles to manual check, this might have been the most simple and easiest option,, tickets could still be checked, but not by scanner but by a quick visual check by a steward positioned on the turnstile and then the holder goes straight through without the need to scan.

If implemented at 1.30 this would have cleared the queues by kick off, 99% of the people milling around had a ticket , they could easily have shown it and in.

Why no one thought of this idea I don't know, inside each gangway had two stewards on the staircase, surely they didn't need both, they could easily have deployed these stewards to the gates.

Also the exit gates could have been used with stewards checking tickets to speed up operations.

Sadly the club did nothing other than slowly let those in whose tickets did work, and then slowly let in those who didn't still with a manual scanner though, surely initiative was needed at this point, but although there was some evidence of stewards trying to do this, it was understandably few and far between, I don't blame a steward for doing his job here, only those who sat on there hands with perhaps the biggest crowd issue at St Mary's unfolding.

Some may suggest that we should have just opened the gates and let people in, there is a case for this, as i said 99% of those had tickets and there was spare seats available if even 100 got in without tickets, but I can see why this was not actioned, after all this is what happened at Hillsborough .

So the club has a lot to answer for, it is good that they were quick to accept blame, issue an apology and state they would refund everyone their money, a gesture that will cost them £500,000 at least perhaps as much as £750,000, but that is money we can ill afford to lose in today's financial climate , having simple plans in place even delaying the game would have saved the club a fortune.

The fault that the season tickets were late being sent out was not directly the clubs fault, they could only send them out when they had received them, but there can be no excuse for their lack of organisation on matchday other than let things unfold and hope to God nothing wnet seriously wrong.

Here the Saints supporters at the game demand the utmost praise, they remained calm at a very fraught time, it would have only taken a small incident to spark off something bigger and in truth I can't remember seeing any please outside the Kingsland stand, I can't say they weren't there, but I don't remember seeing one.

So the only winners on Sunday were the supporters of Southampton Football Club, we behaved with great restraint, calmness and in doing this prevented a drama turning into a crisis, some may think this is going over the top a little, but with 5,000 trying to get into a football ground and the game kicking off and knowing that it could take 20 minutes to get in, it had the potential for people to get seriously hurt.

No one goes to a football ground with the expectation of dying or getting seriously hurt, no one in control of a football ground signs in to work with the expectation that someone's lives may be in their hands, sometimes out of the blue it happens.

It could have happened on Sunday !!!

Photo: Action Images

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ItchenNorth added 15:24 - Aug 23
My experience will no doubt be different to others and there clearly was some problems Sunday.

I have two season tickets. One arrived on Saturday and one didn't so I queued Sunday morning at 9am and picked up a paper ticket within 30mins. A pain, but no big drama"s.

At the ground; we walked almost straight in (to the Itchen North) at 140. Both card and paper ticket scanned with their bar codes (as per usual).

So, there seems to have been an issue with NFC.

In my opinion though, if there isn't a problem, what are they trying to fix by installing this tech ! It smacks of a club trying to sound like they are investing in something no one needed or asked for in the first place. Just give everyone cards or tickets, simple !

DorsetIan added 15:29 - Aug 23
The only thing I would add to this article is that:

1. There were unusually large queues at the Chapel Stand for the Bilbao game, which was two weeks ago.
2. A lot of the delay yesterday was that the season ticket cards could be read but that the time it took for the machines to reset between each fan going in was not instantaneous.

I therefore have my doubts that the club only realised there was a problem yesterday and if it was a surprise then why didn't they know earlier, because the evidence was or should have been there?


Saintsforeverj added 15:32 - Aug 23
And Nick, why haven't they given the ground a paint? One look up at the roof and you can see it crumbling! Cobwebs all over the seats, do they not have cleaners? The speakers still can't be heard in certain areas of the ground. Spending money on scanners that didn't need replacing anyway, whilst leaving the ground in a state of disrepair is again completely rediculous. And you are right, there could have been injuries or worse yesterday. As you say, why didn't they just manually check tickets? An easy answer it would have been, but again, is there not a manager to make a decision? It really is bad and needs sorting out, to prevent further embarrassment for the club.

Rossm2006 added 15:42 - Aug 23
Yes, as you say, saved by the good nature of the fans here .

It could have easily been solved with better communication and planning. A bit of common sense would have helped considering it was a Sunday and train and travel can be hard for those not lucky to live in a few miles radius.

Surely they could have sent an e ticket or paper tickets In advance to those with no ticket ?

Instead 70-80 year olds are told to stand in a queue for hours . Covid aside , this is not a a good look at the best or times.

People's parking passes didn't turn up either £200 apop and I doubt these were on a ship from China . Assume they will now be refunding these too.

At least they have held their hands up but if they had done this a week or two before , they could have spent a few grand on recorded mail rather than 800k in refunds

Rossm2006 added 15:45 - Aug 23
Oh and no one has mentioned the new system at the bar/ food outlets ? The girl who served us at 1, after 15 mins wait,was forced to wait 30 seconds after each purchase so it could re-set. Goodness knows what the line was like at 1.30-45. assume they have lost loads of sales here too

pjt50 added 16:23 - Aug 23
Two things come to mind:
(1) Risk assessment (inc. a contingency plan)
(2) Testing
This is basic project management. In the context of the business, stadium entry is a crucial system. The situation on Sunday was almost unbelievable.

BLEEDRED added 16:36 - Aug 23
With the sending out of ST it would have not cost the club much more to send them out 48 hour tracked (would have got a bulk discount as well!!)
Then they would have had a record of every delivery.

Kingsland34 added 16:42 - Aug 23
Typical of the digital world we live in and are governed by, change for changes sake and all too complicated. Seemed to also prolong serving at the food outlets as well. Not helped by assistants that do not recognise a sausage roll when its in front of them. Also ordered a Bovril, even they recognised something was wrong when it was purely hot water, their second try produced a coffee. My mind went back to a season or two ago when a sweet young girl serving me asked whether I wanted milk and sugar in my Bovril!

dwayne_dibley added 16:56 - Aug 23
at the Kingsland exit gate the female steward (stewardess is a non PC term) was the only one with a scanner (probably too difficult for the old male stewards). She could manually scan tickets and STs with a barcode. Any poor sod like me with a downloaded QR code could not be scanned successfully. The male stewards were playing jobsworth big time with some idiot APT supervisor turning up and wanting all those standing outside to go to the Ticket Office. Eventually some tubby guy from Customer Liaison turned up with a different scanner (probably a man thing) that actually recognised the QR codes.
Agree that simple contingency plans of letting those with a QR code on their mobile or printed out would have been the sensible thing to do.
As someone who has managed large IT rollouts this smacked of cost cutting and amateurism

PaleRider added 17:10 - Aug 23
I blame Yoshida, Stephens and the fans! It is definitely not the club's fault as Saints are the best run club with the best owners anywhere in the world at any time!

Maybe we should get some stewards from the Nice - Marseille match. They looked as hopeless as Saints' stewards.


Colburn added 17:30 - Aug 23
So a multimillion pound business starts a new system which affects every customer and they didn't even bother to test it, let alone come up with a fan friendly solution/contingency plan..
You can say it's not the clubs fault, I disagree, if they had carried out this piece of business properly with a trusted provider this would not have happened. They chose who to work with and I would imagine it was a cheap option.. Typical SFC, sadly not surprised, but well done to the fans for staying calm. Spot on Pale Rider, lol

Southamptonfan added 17:34 - Aug 23
For a PL club responsible for the welfare and safety of thousands of people, it really is terrible beyond belief. We are not talking about an unexpected natural disaster out of their control. We are talking about manually checking tickets at the turnstiles, sending out print at home tickets, sending tickets by recorded post. There were things they could easily have done.

SalisburySaint added 17:46 - Aug 23
There have been loads of reports of Liverpool having issues the fans getting into Anfield for pre season friendlies when they had far larger crowds than we had for ours.

Not sure if they have installed a similar or same system for their turnstiles, but if it’s is the same system shouldn’t Saints have taken note and been better prepared

SalisburySaint added 18:00 - Aug 23

not just Saints with an issue, Liverpool too, and they’d had this issue at 2 earlier games too

DellBoyWally added 18:00 - Aug 23
So, everyone blames Southampton Football Club!? Does that mean that SFC is also to blame for Anfield where they had the exact same problems.

dwayne_dibley added 18:11 - Aug 23
very glad to see the scouse tealeafs are having issues

NewburySaint added 19:07 - Aug 23
When was the last time Saints actually made a profit on a game at St Marys?!!

I can’t comment on the chaos outside the ground because it appears I was 1 of the lucky ones because my season ticket allowed me entry in to the Northam without any problems.

I have to disagree with you that the late despatch & non arrival of season tickets was not the fault of SFC. I / us supporters bought a product from SFC, so to us customers / supporters it is SFC alone that are responsible of this to us & if there’s an issue they need to sort that out with their supplier without passing on the problem and worry to us-SFC should have been more proactive and frozen the use of season ticket cards no less than 2 weeks before yesterday and emailed every customer with their / a ticket barcode instead. I also think the ticket office had a laissez faire attitude towards this-I emailed them on the 12th about my concerns of the non arrival of my season ticket with 10 days to go until the 1st game, with the response being, & I quote, “there is no need to worry, everything is under control with still over 2 weeks left to go until the game takes place” so I’m not even sure they knew which weekend yesterday’s game was!

In answer to your musings as to why the kick off wasn’t delayed I will give you a 1 word answer-Sky!

WestSussexSaint added 19:47 - Aug 23
Fortunately I wasn’t directly affected as ST arrived on Friday and as others have said the queues for the Itchen stand weren’t too bad so I took my seat just before kickoff.

The food outlets were ridiculous. I started queuing bang on half time and had to give up with still a dozen or so ahead of me with the second half about to kick off.

The club now have until 11 September to fix the problem for the West Ham game. In addition they need to learn lessons from this because the next issue will be the need to check for COVID vaccination or test results, something that is not mandatory for the first 3 games but will be after that.

WestSussexSaint added 19:52 - Aug 23
P.S the club must be responsible for Grosvenor Square car park as that was free as well due to an issue with the pay machines :)

fubsy added 19:59 - Aug 23
We rocked up to Entrance F, Kingsland at 1330 and got to our seats at 1352 after a visit to the loo. My only comment concerns the NHS app and our COVID Pass - we were unable to connect via wifi and therefore couldn't show our pass. But as we weren't asked to show it............

davenbennett added 20:33 - Aug 23
A mate who is a Liverpool fan told me that the had similar issues day before, and at a recent friendly. When I tried my season ticket in the scanner, was told had to put in upside down, with barcode going in first. But NFC is meant to work 'near' the scanner. It should not matter which way up. Also had the problem of having to wait to re-set after previous person. In Japan some stations have gates that are alwats open. They shut if DON'T have a NFC ticket in pocket, bag etc.Can be on your phone. Don't even have to get it out evidently. Been in since 2005.

davenbennett added 20:38 - Aug 23
Forgot to say, West Ham used last years season ticket cards again for this season. Seems a good idea. Saves money printing cards, postage and packing etc. Can be seen as 'green'. Reusing existing card produces no carbon. I don't really want all the stuff that comes with the seadon ticket in the box . Or should come, as of course not delivered yet!

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