GLF61:Gavin tries to get to the bottom of the ticket foul up at Falkirk
FALKIRK TICKET DEBACLE
For the first time in my life I was locked out of a Motherwell game the other week.
Not because there were too many fans in but because, well I don't really know why.
I turned up without a ticket and was slightly late.Apparently Scottish football is in sucha healthy state that it can afford to turn me and dozens of other Motherwell fans away.
Here is the letter which will undoubtedly change the police's minds.Aye right.
And yes,the man responsible for the decision is called Andy Cameron.
And is probably about as funny as his more famous namesake.
Central Scotland Police
Falkirk FC, Motherwell FC, Motherwell Supporters Trust
Dear Mr Cameron,
I am writing to express my disgust and bemusement at a decision that left me locked out of the Falkirk v Motherwell game on Saturday August 26.
I arrived at the Falkirk Stadium at 3.15pm and was denied entry-despite there being thousands of empty seats - because of a police decision to close the ticket office at 3pm.I would appreciate being given the reasons for the decision and I would ask you to reconsider the ruling for,at least some,future games.
When I arrived I saw the ticket booth outside the away stand was closed and headed for the turnstile to join my fellow Motherwell fans in the away end.
A policeman told me I would not be allowed in and,when I pressed him for a reason,he said it was Falkirk FC's decision.I then spoke to Falkirk stewards,officials and turnstile operators-at the turnstiles,gates to the stand and main reception-where I was refused the opportunity to buy a ticket.They all said it was a police decision that I could not get in.The turnstile operator said she had turned away " about three dozen " Motherwell fans in the same position. No-one gave me any reason for the decision,and I was left unsure who exactly had given the order.
You might think this is all my fault for turning up late without a ticket ?
Well, there were many reasons why I was late and why I did not have a ticket.
( 1 )I was working in Glasgow until at least 3 o'clock,but I managed to come to an agreement that I could leave an hour early as part of my holiday entitlement if my work was complete-I eventually left at 2.20pm.
( 2 )I had never been to Falkirk's new stadium and-despite getting directions on the internet-I ended up coming off the motorway too early and getting stuck in traffic in the centre of Falkirk.
( 3 )Obviously,with the uncertainty over the time I finished work,I didn't want to pay £19 for a ticket and not be able to go.
( 4 )My friend had been staying with me for a couple of days and considered going to the game before he went back to Yorkshire-but thankfully decided he would head back while I was at work.I did not want to buy two tickets at £19 and ended up wasting even more money.
( 5 )To buy a ticket I would also have had to go to Fir Park in person as Motherwell Football Club have been reluctant to send tickets out through the post in recent years after having to cut back on admin costs when the club hit financial trouble.A 40-mile round trip to buy a ticket further persuaded me it would be better to buy one at the ground.
( 6 )It was made clear that Falkirk would sell tickets outside the ground-there was therefore no reason for me to waste time and money by buying a ticket in advance.
I phoned Falkirk FC during the week after the match and a club secretary assured me it had been a police decision to close the ticket office at 3pm.
She added that the police had closed the ticket office at 2.30pm for a recent Dunfermline game when more people,including some who had travelled from England,had been turned away.
I phoned Central Scotland Police's headquarters where I was told to write to the chief constable to register my complaint. The phone operator was pleasant and offered me some possible explanations for the decision.In case these were the true reasons for me being denied entry, I would like to counter his arguments.
First of all he said the decision may have been a national guideline. There is to my knowledge no such guideline and I have bought tickets after kick - off at other grounds including Hampden and at Celtic - Motherwell games. Secondly,he said that presumably the decision would have been taken on "safety grounds".If this was the reason then I have to ask on what grounds it made anyone safer ?
The attendance was 4,594.The Falkirk Stadium capacity is 6,857.With more than 2,000 empty seats,where is the safety concern about letting in 40 or 50 latecomers?The real safety concerns I would have are that motorists who are running late for the game will pick up speed in an attempt to get there. The M80/A80/M9 route to Falkirk is notorious for delays and,for fans coming from elsewhere,the A9 is one of Scotland's most dangerous roads.Do you want fans taking risks to beat some pointless ticket deadline ?Thirdly,he said there was no point in making the game all - ticket if you can get in without one.I don't mind buying a ticket before going to the turnstile,but I don't see why the ticket office can't stay open after kick - off.It's pretty obvious with thousands of tickets left that there is no danger selling a handful after 3pm.
I do appreciate the reasons for the game being all - ticket-Falkirk's ground is not very big and you can't have too many people turning up on a Saturday for safety reasons-that is not my complaint.But for a Motherwell game and other similar fixtures, surely there can be some leeway after 3pm ? The previous Motherwell game was at Hibernian where away fans paid at the gate and less than 500 turned up. The match commander inside the ground who can see thousands of empty seats can surely use some discretion to judge that a few dozen fans can be allowed to buy a small portion of the thousands of unsold tickets ?
So who actually gained from this decision ?
* Falkirk FC lose out on a potential four - figure sum of ticket sales.
* Motherwell fans are denied entry to the ground.
* Both clubs risk losing fans in the long run when they are made to jump through hoops to secure entry to a run-of-the-mill fixture.
* And how do the police benefit ?I have never seen so many police and stewards outside a ground at 3.20 to 3.30.
I'm quite often late for games at Fir Park because of my work and there is barely any police presence outside the ground. At Falkirk the police outside the ground numbered double figures and there were even more stewards,most of whom seemed to be placed there to tell latecomers they couldn't get in.
When I eventually bit the bullet as half - time approached,two police officers were dealing with a couple of Motherwell fans who were trying to get a vantage point at the empty side of the ground. If these fans had been allowed in,there wouldn't have been a problem for police to deal with.So police resources and Falkirk steward costs are put under pressure by this ruling.
The only reason I can think of for the 3pm cut - off ruling is that it reinforces the need to buy tickets beforehand. As I have already said,I risked wasting £38 on tickets that I may not have been able to use,and would have had to have travelled 40 miles for the pleasure.I would find it extremely petty and needlessly authoritarian for this to be the reason to impose this deadline for such a small crowd.
However,I hope it is simply one of these rules that is introduced with the best intentions but is proved to be needless and self-defeating. And I hope it can be reviewed-even if it is only for lower - profile games such as Falkirk against Motherwell,Dundee United,Kilmarnock.I hope that,having read some of the problems this ruling creates,that Central Scotland Police can use some discretion to allow fans who are a few minutes late to buy a ticket.
It would be too late for me-having wasted time off from work,petrol money and missed my team's first league win of the season.But hopefully others won't be punished for being late for a football match.
At the very least I would appreciate being told the rationale behind the decision-and if it is "safety reasons",how exactly it improved my safety and that of my fellow fans.
Gavin tries to get to the bottom of the ticket foul up at Falkirk