Inflatable amusement for Stamford Bridge..

It’s true that you have to scrape the barrel to find any bragging rights over our forthcoming FA Cup opponents.  But if you scrape far enough you could find a nugget or two of significance, admittedly, they are very faded and very old nuggets – but significant nonetheless.  It was with amusement that I heard that many Forest fans have been ordering inflatable European Cups to take to Stamford Bridge with them at the weekend.

Of course, any such antics are firmly tongue-in-cheek – any sane person can see that Forest fans would much rather see the Reds in the position of our illustrious opponents from West London right now rather than languishing in division 3 – but of course, we are a major underdog in this tie, so we’re allowed to be a bit cheeky, and have a bit of a laugh – and waving around the prize that Abramovich’s millions has as yet been unable to buy tickles my funnybone!

So if you want to join in the fun, then visit this site – you can even get five for the price of four!  Seeing the packed away end full of fans waving inflatable European Cups would be hilarious – ultimately, it would be quite a fruitless pisstake, but still amusing – I’m sure the home fans will be little more than bemused at it, but it will make for amusing scenes and on telly too – afterall, Cloughie didn’t need Russian millions to deliver two of those little beauties to provincial Nottingham Forest!

Get a few ordered and join in the fun!

Did Forest let fans down over Chelsea tickets?

After reading tales of woe in the aftermath of the scrum for tickets today, it’s made me question whether or not Forest have really got a sensible plan for games like this – and the answer, on first inspection, would have to be a resounding no! The worst thing I’ve heard is the amount of tickets that have gone to Forest staff (4 per staff member is the rumour quoted – totally unsubstantiated, but there you go), and the apparent 900 odd tickets going to Capital One, the club sponsor. (again, totally unsubstantiated).

That of course eats into how many are available to sell – now, this is where the club started well – away season ticket holders and away members were prioritised, quite rightly – then they instigated a “5+ away games” filter – again, I approve of this – if it works. However, I’ve spoken to people who have definitely been to more than five, more than ten in some cases – but upon checking with the ticket office have an incomplete ‘record’ logged against their Client Reference Code – despite quoting this when ordering.

Then of course the general scrum for season ticket holders – with the added twist that, ever keen to make a fast buck, Forest were prepared to still allow people to join the ‘away member’ scheme for £30, and still get a Chelsea ticket. Now that to me is cynical – I heard about it last week but didn’t report it as I didn’t want to publicise it. Forest then posted a message on their website compelling people to use the website, and not to queue up in person.

I’ve yet to hear of anyone who has successfully bought tickets online for the Chelsea game – but plenty who followed the clubs advice and tried. Of course, by the time it had buggered up and they tried to phone, the phonelines were very busy. In a way this is a blessing, because worse still for anyone who arrived much after 6:00am at the City Ground was that despite a solid 5-6 hours of freezing, they weren’t to get a ticket. At no point when I was there were any fans warned/turned away when it was quite obvious they had no chance at all of a ticket.

So, we have people who queued up from the early hours with no ticket, and we have people who’ve phoned up or gone online and struck lucky from the comfort of their home with tickets. We have unconfirmed numbers of corporate complimentary tickets – and we have at least a thousand or so very unhappy fans. And something tells me that Forest don’t really care that much about this, because at the end of the day, they have the cash now – and a few bonus £30’s for the away member loophole to boot!

Now, where supply is less than demand you can’t please all of the people all of the time, however – whilst Forest got some elements of their strategy right for this, some of it I think they dropped the metaphorical bollock bigtime, and let down a large number of their long suffering supporters. Of course, I am writing this lucky enough to have arbitrarily picked the right time to secure a ticket – which perhaps takes the passion out of what I’m saying as of course I’m delighted I’ll be attending the game.

But here is what I would prescribe as the most sensible way of going about things should a match like this occur in the future:

  • Away season ticket holders & members first – this is a no-brainer, but membership to these schemes should have a cut-off date close to the start of the season.
  • Minimal corporate or employee freebies - I imagine Forest have to supply Capital One with some tickets as part of the sponsorship – but if it’s true we gave ‘em 900 out of 6,300 then that’s far too many. If it’s true employees had the option of four tickets each, that’s far too many.
  • 5+ Away game season ticket holders – or whatever number is appropriate – I like the idea of this system, IF the records on the computer system are correct – and they’re not. Remember folks, when you buy an away ticket – even on general sale – force them to record your client reference number. Failing that, keep your ticket stubs – it could be worth an appeal.
  • Season ticket holders – at this point, I would restrict phone and internet orders to season ticket holders with an address registered a sizable distance from Nottingham – 30 miles? 50 miles? Unsure. ID should be provided when buying a season ticket to make the records accurate. Anyone in close proximity to Nottingham should be dealt with first-come first served in a queueing system. Potentially you could limit the number of tickets collectable per person to enable the club to better predict how many tickets there are to go around the queue.
  • General sale – never likely to be an issue in a game like this, but again, first come first served would be the order of the day.

It seems like common sense to me, and it seems like Forest have cocked up on a number of fronts. When I read the encouragement to order online I didn’t trust the Forest ticket booking system enough to risk it, so queued anyway – I feel really sorry for those fans who did trust the system and missed out. So take note, Forest – some elements of your ticket distribution are decent and fair – but you let a lot of people down over the Chelsea ticket saga, and the sad thing is, as an entity I don’t think you really care so long as you have the money.

I do concede that the freebie element of my criticism is born of gossip picked up whilst queueing, so I have absolutely no idea of the validity of these claims – I certainly suspect the Capital One freebies is an exaggeration! But even if these numbers were more reasonable, the rest of my argument still stands – as I noted in my last post, for a person 500 yards away from the ground in bed on the phone to be able to attain tickets ahead of somebody who drove to Nottingham from afar to queue is surely not right?

Anyway, what do you think?

Chelsea game sold out in ticket office bedlam!

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Forest season ticket holders gamely queued – some from as early as Saturday afternoon, to stake their claim from the ticket allocation left over from our away season ticket holders/members and the more frequent away travellers.  I must admit that I felt rather like ‘Charlie’ in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory as I stepped from the ticket office at at little past quarter-to-eleven clutching my tickets after around 9 hours of queueing!

I must admit I was surprised to see quite so many fans there when I arrived, just making it inside the carpark upon arrival – however, it became apparently that numerous tents and deckchairs were making the queue seem disproportionately long – around an hour before the ticket office opened the stewards asked the tents to be packed away, and I soon found myself well beyond the Main Stand reception, feeling somewhat more confident of getting my ticket.

The queue snaked around onto Radcliffe Road at its peak – and even as I left the ticket office there were still hopeful people who had yet to ‘gain access’ to the car park even – I imagine they will be home now and disappointed.  As the clock ticked past 10:00am many fans thumbed their mobile phones in unison to attempt to get through on the phones – I don’t think I saw anybody succeed – my two or three abortive attempts saw me get cut off immediately.

Probably the most amusing interlude of the day was between around 7 and 8am, when the harmless kickabout that had been going on in the carpark with a football descended into fans hoofing the ball across the carpark to one another in a manner that Nicky Eaden would be proud of.  The security staff took a good two hours to finally snap and start confiscating the errant balls that ended up on the roof of the Main Stand reception, and were repeatedly hitting the cars of the security and ticket office staff that were in the carpark.

It did give a lad in a red hat a platform to exhibit his utter lack of football skills though – but bless him, he was keen and never stopped smiling (although one cruel onlooker pointed out he may not have much choice genetically about that!).  Rumours spread like wildfire about how any tickets had been sold or were available, and I must admit it was quite a spincter-twitching moment as we shuffled for what seemed like an age around the carpark to the ticket office – for sweet salvation when we finally were handed over the tickets.

From what I’ve heard anecdotally I’m certainly pleased that I didn’t depend on Forests’ advice to use the online booking system, and the phones were predictably busy too – I imagine there will be a large number of very disappointed fans this afternoon, I felt really sorry for those I walked past on my way out who hadn’t even got into the carpark yet.

I can’t help but think that Forest could make the whole system fairer by restricting online and phone sales to those fans who live further away – these systems seemed to be a lottery, and it seems unfair that somebody who rolls out of bed at 10:00am in West Bridgford possibly has a better chance of getting a ticket than somebody who has stood in the cold for hours – not to mention the countless people I know who seem to have ‘blagged’ tickets from all manner of sources within the club.

Commisserations to those of you confined to watching on TV, but at least that is an option.  You never can tell, if we can do the unthinkable and force a replay at least more fans will have the opportunity to actually attend a match in which the Reds pit themselves against one of the most expensively assembled teams in the world!

A big thanks to those folks around me who made the experience all the more bearable, we were cold, we couldn’t feel our legs – but we had a great laugh – and more importantly, we got that glowing feeling of actually getting hold of those precious tickets!  I’ve taken a few more pictures (on my phone, so poor quality I’m afraid) which I’ve included below – you will need to click on the ‘read more’ link if you’re reading from the main site. Continue reading

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