Yesterday, on a day dubbed 'Freedom Day', West Ham United offered it's loyal season ticket holders very little of it.
Senior stakeholders from the club virtually met supporters’ groups yesterday evening and confirmed that Season Ticket Holders will receive their ticket digitally on a smart phone on a game-by-game basis.
Although many won't see the digital ticket too much of a change - it's the 'game-by-game' basis element that really slams the door on real personal choice, with the club insisting those who can not use a mobile phone or print from home would need to visit the ticket office to have a ticket printed out ahead of each and every game.
It's a digital dystopian scene, outside a rented stadium, that only a club like West Ham United could offer it's fans - and I would like to very quickly tear apart the reasoning West Ham have offered, to get to this scenario...
Paul Colborne of Hammer's United kindly posted this explaination from the club on Facebook:
'The reason the club are introducing digital tickets is because a traditional ST card is linked to a specific seat. Should there be any reason why you may have to take a different seat for a match (such as if the club has to restrict capacity or introduce social distancing) the ST card won't tell you or any security person where you are supposed to be.'
This shows a sheer lack of understanding from the club, of the technology on offer. The whole purpose of QR codes is to offer an automation, an instruction that happens the moment it is scanned. Therefore, the QR code can tell you or security anything about your assigned seat right up until kick off - you just hold it up to your smartphone camera. But it's like the club are saying "we don't use mobile phones or technology like that" - which is ironically the point many fan groups are relaying to the club about Season Ticket Holders. Some just don't use tech like that, and there are many reasons why.
Furthermore, the club seem keen to pat themselves on the back for offering a facility to transfer your ticket to a friend (for a fee of £2) with this new technology. Admirable, but virtually the same automation that changes the name will be used to change the seat location. It's little things like this that make you lose respect for people that offer reasons like the above. It's a very flimsy argument - especially when Liverpool and Manchester United don't see it that way.
It's almost like we have accepted that some time in September, restrictions will take place in the stadium, even before we have kicked a ball in anger. Meanwhile, Liverpool and Manchester United are welcoming their fans back to their home, taking all the responsibility of the eventualities from them, allowing them to enjoy their football once more.
West Ham have made a decision on the match day experience, made by people who don't understand the match day experience. Not one person who came to this decision will need to change arrangements for themselves - every fan will.
As I mentioned in the previous post, this is all about control. In truth we are no longer holders of a 'season ticket' but an 'e-ticket bundle'. The ticket that we have purchased won't even be in our possession until the evening before - so cross your fingers that the broadband is working - and if it isn't, what will I need to take to the ticket office to prove I have a Season Ticket in the first place? A passport? What??
Don't assume that the club has thought about such things, you would be surprised at the level of 'problem solvers' there actually is at the club, in my experience. Adding steps to the customer journey is a complete no-no in event space. Queuing and waiting is the enemy of spending. But remember that West Ham United PLC gave up their right to earn all the cash on a match day, and now comes more fallout from that decision, which will always affect the loyal fanbase. This is why I will always be 'Brady Out'.
In my last post, I briefly mentioned my personal concern about e-tickets as a person on the autistic spectrum. I've never looked at my condition as a disability, but a blessing. I never stop thinking, in fact I think in multiple directions, and at times I wish I could stop thinking, plainly because I look like a bloke thinking all the time and not paying much attention to anyone else. I need constant verification that things are ok - everything in it's place where it should be, so I can think at a level I want to think at.
I commuted for 30 years, and I was on that train checking my ticket was there every couple of minutes or so, tapping my back pocket - that tangible assurance that everything was there. This isn't a condition exclusive to me, or people with my 'condition' and I certainly don't need the help of a fan group to put my case to 'football people' who only pretend to understand. This is because whatever the reasoning you want to make about this ticketing issue, it's about what punters want, not need. If you are a miserable old sod that just doesn't want to change - that's good enough for me. Personally, I think if you are that type of fan, you are literally being discriminated against - technology divides many, but it should always be challenged if it doesn't make your life any easier. COVID-19 doesn't change that fact.
The development of my 'shiny', a tangible solution to e-ticketing, that I basically created for my own reassurance will still go ahead. However, it doesn't solve the problem for me or anyone else, which is that we all now need to add another step (and variable) to our match day regime. This has put me in an ever increasingly frustrating place, that could have easily been avoided with the smart use of technology. Another cerebral straw added to the Camels back. I'm sure West Ham United will be flying the flag for mental health again soon, while they are metaphorically kicking me in the bollocks over another issue that they pretend they can't solve in the name of pounds, shillings and pence.
Maybe I should take heart that I have created a durable, collectible, tangible solution that can hold a Liverpool Season Ticket on one side, and a Manchester United Season Ticket on the other?
But all it does is make me wonder, if I can do that, what the hell is West Ham United's piss poor excuse?
UPDATE: Stakeholders of the club have now stated that the e-Ticketing IS NOT confirmed, and should be confirmed at the end of this week.
How very flaky.