Talking Point

The Ticket Office at West Ham United has made two monumental blunders in the space of a matter of days. The first affected nearly 150 travelling supporters who headed for Old Trafford last Saturday, while the latest error is glaring and affects season-ticket holders who intend to apply for Priority Post tickets for the Stoke away game.

Before I continue, let me inform you of my own personal issues with the Ticket Office over the last ten months. The first error was made in the summer of 2013 when the Ticket Office decided to re-allocate my season ticket seat which I had held for the previous eight seasons, since 2005. My main concern with this re-allocation was that I was not consulted regarding the move at any point. The only way I found out was because my dad tried to book the seat next to me for the opening game of last season against Cardiff, only to find that my seat was available for sale also! I telephoned the Ticket Office and the situation was resolved satisfactorily and I was moved back to my original seat. The lack of communication over the intended change of seat was unacceptable though – I should not have had to find out that the Ticket Office was looking to change my seat through my seat being available for sale.

The second and third errors came with Season Ticket Holder Priority Point Applications for away tickets to Norwich and Liverpool. Both of these applications clearly carried a request for coach travel but coach tickets were not issued. With no coach ticket for Norwich arriving 48 hours before the game, I contacted the Ticket Office and they confirmed a coach ticket had been requested on my form, but had not been allocated by their staff. This situation was replicated days later for my Liverpool application – I had requested a coach ticket but, again, this had been overlooked.

The fourth error occurred in the aftermath of this telephone conversation in attempting to sort out my travel to Norwich and Liverpool. The travel was confirmed and I was charged accordingly. Upon checking my email, however, the travel was again confirmed but at a price for non-members/season-ticket-holders for both games resulting in me being over-charged and having to contact the ticket office on their premium rate number again to get the extra money refunded.

I complained and, to be fair to the club, they offered me a complimentary ticket for the next home Cup match – I guess it wasn’t the club’s fault that this turned out to be the ill-fated semi-final second leg of the Capital One Cup against Manchester City! Their gesture was appreciated nonetheless.

But then the errors made with the coach travel for Norwich and Liverpool were replicated for the Man Utd away game last week. I failed to see why I should have to phone the club, regularly and on a premium rate number, to chase errors, especially when I had already flagged these errors up to the club. An apology was offered, but that was only the beginning of the dissatisfaction regarding the trip to Old Trafford.

Regular coach travellers with West Ham will be aware that trips to Manchester and Liverpool depart at 8am for a 3pm kick-off. The club made the decision that the coach for Old Trafford would depart at 9am, an hour later than usual. Unsurprisingly, this led to the coaches arriving at Manchester United at 2.57pm, seeing 150 Hammers fans having to run straight into the ground with no opportunity to savour the pre-match atmosphere, the stadium in general or to enjoy a pre-match pint or pie. More importantly, we weren’t there to help counter the 70,000-odd Man Utd fans and offer our support to the players during the warm-up and when the teams came out for kick-off.

On the way to the ground, the coaches stopped for their usual 30-minute stop at a services on the M6. We left Corley Services, near Coventry, at 12.10. Even with perfect traffic, this would have seen us arrive at the ground at 2.30 – tensions continued to rise on the coach as kick-off time approached and we were still miles from the ground. The drivers informed us that six hours should be allowed for a journey to Manchester and that the club had made a grave error in timing. I know from my own trips to Manchester that, considering potential difficulties on the M1 and M6, the exact time suggested by the drivers should be allowed, not the four hours (including stops) that the club had allowed to get us there by 2pm.

Some will say “at least you were there for kick-off”. That’s fair enough, but when you pay £34 for a coach ticket (vastly over-priced according to the drivers themselves, which was very interesting in itself) and £47.50 for a match ticket, you expect an away day experience, not just the football.

And now for the Stoke error. The club revealed late on Tuesday 30th September that Priority Post applications for the Stoke game must be received by 5pm on Wednesday 1st October. This is, literally, impossible for fans to post applications and ensure they get to the ground on time. What are they thinking?!

West Ham United have, in my perhaps biased opinion, the greatest away fans in the country. I myself attend the vast majority of away games and find these increasingly regular errors unacceptable for a supposedly upwardly-mobile Premier League outfit. I have complained to the club but the events of this week have led me to write this post in the hope that experiences such as Manchester United and the Stoke application process do not happen again. The Claret and Blue Army deserve much better…