The views in these blogs are those held by the individual blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton Football Club.
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Looking forward to Wembley
Reflecting on another great battle with Aston Villa, it seems unjust we have only one point to show for five goals and two great performances. In my view, our league game at Goodison, despite the defeat, kick-started our season. We haven’t looked back since and Sunday’s game highlighted the great team spirit and great football which will stand us in good stead for next Sunday, in particular.
Would we swap a league victory against Villa for our FA Cup win over them and ultimately our semi-final at Wembley? Despite the importance of Premier League points and the demands created by the Wembley trip, I think not.
I was chatting to Villa’s Chief Operating Officer at the game and he asked me what the semi-final meant to us. Of course it brings huge excitement and expectation, but, it undoubtedly adds an extra challenge, at an already very busy time, to a lean administrative team. Since the win over Boro, the Club, off the field, has done very little else apart from sell semi-final tickets, hospitality and make all the arrangements for the team and fans to travel to Wembley. It’s been a big job, an exciting job and it’s a game which will generate much-needed funds. It’s certainly a task we’re relishing repeating starting next Monday morning.
Allocating and selling tickets
Our ‘formula’ for allocating tickets has been widely publicised, debated, criticised and praised. In short, we’ve tried to ensure fans who come to Goodison, reasonably frequently, can buy semi-final tickets. The more you come, the earlier the better choice of seats. Under plenty of pressure, we’ve stuck to this and I commend our Fan Centre team who’ve felt the brunt of fans’ frustrations.
We do empathise with the challenges you’ve faced even when you are entitled to buy a ticket. We were frustrated at ourselves when we’ve seen three-hour queues and we take no pleasure in knowing our phone system can’t cope when required to take a massive influx of inbound calls. We’ve not been able to sell online and, as a consequence, for most fans, it’s meant time off work and that can’t be right. We need to look at a better way to sell big games.
Given the restrictions of our phone system and the fact that that we were selling FA tickets (not ours), it was important we managed the queues for tickets as efficiently as we could. The starting point was an analysis of our Season Ticket holders’ purchase history from this season’s games to calculate how many additional games each had purchased.
Using this information, we were able to do two things; reward those buying additional tickets by giving them priority, and, manage the queues. On any given day we knew how many Season Ticket holders could purchase a ticket and when there were big numbers eligible, we were able to allocate extra day’s sale to further spread the queues.
Prior to the completion of the Season Ticket holders’ sales period, we did a similar analysis on match purchasers and worked out that there would be sufficient remaining tickets for any supporters who had purchased four or more any home games to apply for a ticket. After meeting demand from the group of fans with ‘four’, we knew that there was insufficient remaining to allow the ‘three home games’ group to queue on a first come first served basis. There would have been thousands of disappointed fans at Goodison, and we made the decision to operate a ballot for the over-subscribed, remaining tickets.
As noted above, we do have restrictions on how we can sell the FA’s tickets.
Fans could call our 0871 663 1878 number to purchase directly over the phone by providing their customer number and payment details. Supporters could also come in person and purchase tickets from the Park End Box Office or apply in writing. Unfortunately, postal applications could not be guaranteed to be processed with the same priority due to any delays in inbound post and our resources being obligated to give priority to those who visited or phoned.
Could we have done better? Of course, we can always do better, but, we have a relatively small team of hard-working staff operating in cramped and restrictive facilities. Throughout the sales period we have utilised all of the facilities available to us and all staff are trained on our systems, procedures and customer service. Unfortunately, it is not practical to recruit additional resource, let alone accommodate them, and then to train them to the required standard in such short timescales.
It’s a similar position on our phone system. The number of lines we operate is more than adequate for probably 350+ days per year and it makes no economic sense to retain a facility in-house to cope with days like those experienced in the past week or so. As you may know, we already use a third party call centre, Ticketzone, to assist on the rare occasion we need an ‘overflow’ service on home matches.
Unfortunately, to use them for the semi-final, would have meant us giving them a physical allocation of tickets, to sell on our behalf, using the exact same procedures and ‘rules’ as with tickets sold at Goodison. Splitting the allocation and ensuring tickets are allocated to the correct groups of fans presents challenges for us and potentially, confusion for our supporters. By having all the tickets at Goodison we believe we offer a better service, and importantly, ensure tickets will be here when fans come to the stadium to purchase them.
eTicketing is of course a very effective sales channel and one which is growing in popularity on a game by game basis. However, the semi-final is effectively an away game and that presents problems for us. Our online ticketing system is set up for Goodison; it cannot manage away games. We received the tickets from the FA pre-printed, which means that supporters could not select seats as they do for games at Goodison on an online system. Ultimately, tickets would need to be processed manually and details recorded the same way as if the sale was made over the phone or face to face. In short, we believe we’d be less efficient and fans would have to wait even longer to get their tickets.
We did consider ‘postal applications only’ – i.e. no queues and no phones, but ‘let us know if you want to buy a ticket and we’ll process in due course’. This may have been less traumatic for fans anxious to get through to us or get to a window, however, such a method is less transparent and supporters undoubtedly lose the perceived ‘control’ over the process.
It’s also the case that the benefit of success on the phone or at the window means you have the chance to purchase the ticket you want rather than take the ticket you get. All in all, we think the route we have gone down provides a better all round service to you, the supporter. However, having said that, it may be the way we allocate final tickets.
As I said earlier, the semi-final has meant many areas of the Club have quite understandably taken their eyes off the ‘day job’ for the past three weeks to focus on Wembley. Ticket sales for Wigan Athletic missed budget and our hospitality sales team has been unable to spend sufficient time on the remaining three home games, although fortunately, pre-sales for these fixtures have been strong. Of greatest concern is our Season Ticket campaign and the imminent closing of the Early Bird window.
Sunday is a big day for us, not least as a further step towards a major trophy, but also, it will be the day we’ll get a very clear steer on our likely season ticket tally for 2009/10. So far sales have been strong and that’s very pleasing because Season Ticket revenue is critical to us. That's exactly why we’ve worked hard to ensure you, the fan, knows how much you mean to us as a Season Ticket holder.
Alongside securing a great seat, to watch great football, in arguably the world’s greatest sporting competition, we’ve added some fantastic additional benefits and some cost-effective ways to pay. You don’t need me to remind you about all of these but all benefits are available to existing and new season ticket holders.
Of course, the best deal is available to a ‘Dad and lad’ or ‘parent and child’ – a combined price of less than £29 per game, and don’t pay for it for six months if you use your Everton credit card!
I hope you’ve got your ticket for Wembley. I hope we see you next year at Goodison.
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