The ticketing issues that bedevilled the beginning of the Cricket World Cup not only beggar belief, but also serve to remind us that everyday spectators – or, in some cases, would-be spectators – can often be treated with utter contempt.
It wasn’t long before the start of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) blue riband 50-over event that competition organisers were telling us: “Interest in tickets for the tournament has been unprecedented with over three million ticket applications for approximately 800,000 tickets so far, from 148 countries across six continents”. Successful applicants were advised that tickets would be delivered six weeks before their respective matches.
And yet? Come the tournament’s opening game at The Oval, where England played South Africa, and an estimated 700-800 spectators were forced to pick up their tickets from the venue because Ticketmaster hadn’t delivered them. Frustrated people whose tickets hadn’t arrived commented on the lack of any available updates from the organisers and inordinate difficulties getting through to Ticketmaster on the telephone. The Oval box office did at least open at 7.30am ahead of the 10.30am start to try and alleviate the situation, but the whole scenario was something that was completely avoidable.
Fast forward 24 hours to Trent Bridge, where West Indies were playing Pakistan, and it was complete chaos. So much so, indeed, that about 2,000 spectators missed most of what was an admittedly brief encounter (it lasted a total of barely 35 overs, with Pakistan’s performance as chaotic as the ticketing problems) because of two-hour queues at the ticket-collection points.
Steve Elworthy, managing director of the Cricket World Cup, said: “I sincerely apologise to every single fan who was affected by the queues today. We have delivered over 700,000 tickets to more than 120 countries, but not all tickets were successfully delivered and, as such, we have seen a higher volume collecting at the venue.”
The disgruntled fans were, quite rightly, reimbursed, but the aforementioned episodes do raise some questions, as indeed do Elworthy’s comments.
Notwithstanding the fact that tournament organisers understandably want to keep tickets away from secondary ticketing sources as much as possible, is it really that tricky to make sure people receive something (that, in some cases, they ordered almost a year previously) ahead of time to see an event, whether by paper ticket or e-ticket? If 700,000 or so tickets had hitherto been delivered when Elworthy was speaking, does that therefore mean that 100,000 tickets hadn’t? And were 28 countries still awaiting delivery of their tickets or had all 28 countries been collectively unsuccessful in their ticket applications?
As if the shambles of tens of thousands of undelivered tickets were not enough, we were then subjected to the sight of rafts of unused seats at the sold-out match at Trent Bridge between England and Pakistan. Seats, don’t you know, that had been allocated to ICC sponsors and commercial partners. It was truly vomit-making.
Off the field, the Cricket World Cup is not quite the ticket that some fans were hoping for.