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New season: Digital-only ticketing causes delays and frustration

The start of the 2021-22 Premier League season has been marred by significant queues outside turnstiles and problems accessing grounds at clubs who have switched to digital-only ticketing.

Once again at the weekend, large queues were seen at Anfield for Liverpool’s opening home game against Burnley as the club’s new digital ticketing system failed to get supporters into the ground smoothly.

Similarly, chaotic scenes were reported at Selhurst Park on Saturday, St Mary’s on Sunday and again at the London Stadium on Monday night with significant numbers of fans missing kick-off as a result.

Many of these games shared common themes including: turnstile readers failing to scan supporters’ NFC tickets or QR codes properly causing backlogs, turnstiles reacting slowly to successful scans and stewards unable to assist fans who failed to get through the check.

Supporters unable to get their digital tickets working at the turnstiles faced lengthy waits at matchday ticket offices to try and get their issues resolved.

This is the third fixture at Anfield where the digital ticketing system has created delays and issues outside the ground. Following problems at Liverpool’s last two pre-season games the club’s Spirit of Shankly supporter group fed back to the club the many problems facing supporters using the digital-only system – despite this, the situation has not improved.

“The new ticketing system has caused apprehension for fans following difficulties getting into Anfield at the two pre-season friendlies earlier in the month,” Spirit of Shankly said.

“Spirit of Shankly took all concerns to the club in the interim period before the game with Burnley, and were assured new measures had been put in place to allow for smooth entry.

“It is now clear despite efforts made by LFC, there are still substantial problems accessing the stadium.”

Crystal Palace claim they introduced their digital-only system under Premier League guidelines, despite these guidelines only being advisory. Many clubs in the division have retained physical season cards and have not experienced such delays to access in the opening games.

The Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust told The Athletic that they were disappointed at the lack of consultation, as well as the short notice, around the system’s introduction.

“This is just another example of poor treatment of some of the most loyal fans, which unfortunately is becoming more common,” the trust said before the game.

“The speed of introduction is unreasonable. It was only recently that the club were encouraging fans to find their plastic season ticket cards, as these would be uploaded with this season’s fixtures.

“Now, only days before the first home match, a complete change of tack, indicating these cannot be used.”

We’ll also be monitoring the introduction of digital-only ticketing systems in the EFL too – if you have experiences you’d like to share, get in touch with us.

What does the FSA think?

Currently the FSA does not have any position on NFC ticketing other than all supporters should be able to get into the ground easily and efficiently. We expect clubs to be able to deliver that as a bare minimum regardless of what system they use.

Unfortunately to the predictable frustration of fans, what we’ve seen so far of digital-only systems, that isn’t happening.

It’s also important clubs have systems in place for fans who do not or cannot use smart phones. We understand this will be the case but it’s very important that this is delivered.

This is something the FSA will continue to monitor and work with our fan groups at club level to address.

We’ll share that information among our members and report it back to the leagues if there are problems and need addressing.

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