There is little more discouraging than those terrible, awful people who seek to make money from football. There are many examples of these villains in the modern game; not least those foreign investors who buy clubs and run them into the ground for personal profit, or the agents who act as malicious middle men providing minimal service at maximal profit, or even those who run the game these days, treating it less as a sport and more as a business, sacrificing the games’ integrity to further fill their pockets.
Of course such acts of greed are commonplace in today’s materialistic society. But these footballing crimes are worst because they take advantage of the sheer obsession of football fans. We are the life and blood of the game, and without us it could not function, nevermind make them money. And they rely on that, safe in the knowledge that we cannot pull away, that we are an easy source of income, that they can rip us off again and again and we cannot, no matter how hard we try, sever our ties with out club, our game.
Below even these executive types of modern football though, are the touts. The ticket scalpers. They buy up tickets for the big games and flog them at an enormous profit, depriving real fans the chance of seeing the game that means so much to them, or at least making them pay far over the odds to do so. It sickens me because these are people like us, fellow fans who are content to take advantage of their peers for their own personal profit. And at present, there are hundreds of them in New Zealand, denying me the chance to see New Zealand’s World Cup Qualifier against Bahrain.
The tickets for the game on November 14th sold out far faster than anyone had expected. The week before they sold out I had been planning on getting mine nice and early just to make sure, but I wanted to check with my dad to see if he fancied coming up. He did, but by the time we’d sorted it all out the game was all but sold out – the three of us (my dad, my brother and I) could have attended, but we would have had to sit in three separate parts of the stadium. Still, there was the talk of extra seating, so I retained hope.
However, when the extra 500 tickets for the temporary seating that was to be added went on sale on Wednesday morning, they sold out at astonishing speed. The official time puts it at four minutes but that I’m afraid, is bollocks. Due to go on sale from 9am I was refreshing the appropriate page from 8.50am on Wednesday morning and when they “Buy Now” button finally appeared on the dot of 9am, I clicked it instantly.
However, in the 10 seconds or so that it took for the next page to load, apparently all 500 tickets had been sold. I could not believe it. I still don’t know quite how it could have happened, but I’m absolutely positive that many of the people who did manage to buy tickets on Wednesday morning won’t be at the game come the 14th. I know this because there has since been a flood of new listings on TradeMe (NZ’s eBay equivalent), with many people who now have four excess tickets to the game, all of a sudden.
What has happened here is clear. Football, usually largely ignored in New Zealand is briefly living in the spotlight. If the All Whites win and make it to the World Cup the sport will continue to grow, but if they lose it shall be just as quickly tossed aside, back into the murky backwaters of the sports pages. For now though, the number one ticket in New Zealand (as I predicted weeks ago) is for the clash at the Westpac Stadium in November.
Which means that when the tickets went on sale on Wednesday morning, there were far more than 500 people bidding to get their hands on some tickets. Indeed, many of those trying to buy them would already have had tickets, but they’ve recognised that there’s a quick buck to be made here, and so, showing no compassion at all for their fellow fans, they snapped up as many tickets as they could (limit was four per person) and are now flogging them for upwards of $400 on TradeMe.
Even more annoying are the self-righteous bastards who already have tickets (and are probably busy extorting other fans for their spares) and who thus proclaim themselves to be bigger football fans than those of us without. I’ve little doubt that many of the people who are without tickets and are now clamouring for them aren’t enormous football fans, and have recently jumped on the bandwagon. But that does not mean that all of us can be painted with one brush.
I’ll admit I was too slow to get tickets, but I was waiting to confirm with my Dad that he was going to come to the game and in turn my Dad was unsure about the date for an operation that he must soon undergo. As I saw it, there was no point rushing a decision until we knew more because I didn’t want to end up buying a ticket that my Dad couldn’t use. The irony, I assure you, is not now lost on me, given that I would have absolutely no trouble flogging a spare ticket, had I just gone ahead and bought them.
However, such hesitation does not make me any less of a football fan. Hell, the very fact that I am here, writing this blog post on this site where I post a football themed blog usually more than 100 words in length most days of the week for over a year seems to defy any suggestion that I might be a johnny come lately. There is no bigger football fan than me in the world, I can state that categorically and I’m sure no one will be stupid enough to argue it.
So no, we did not miss out on tickets because we don’t care enough about football, because we aren’t real fans. We have missed out because there are hundreds or thousands of people who genuinely aren’t real football fans who have already got tickets for the match, and hundreds more now trying to earn a profit from selling tickets that they bought purely to sell on. The fact is that I’ve been to every Wellington Phoenix home game this year, along with 6-8000 other loyal fans.
Now 35000 tickets have been sold to see the All Whites play which means that at least 25000 people who do not and have never made the effort to see New Zealand’s only professional team play have jumped aboard the world cup bandwagon. But that’s OK. In fact, that’s brilliant. I hope that these newcomers to the sport have a great time at the game and that they catch football fever, and keep coming back. I hope that because of this, football in this country will grow.
What I am not OK with and will never be OK with are those people scalping tickets for the match. There’s even an advert when I log into Facebook which encourages people to sell their All Whites tickets at a profit at a third-party website. I hate the fact that people who claim to be fans of the game – even those who are members of prominent NZ football fan sites – are content to use this game to make personal profit at the expense of regular fans like me.
I go on TradeMe and look down all the listings for tickets selling for way above what they were initially sold for. And each listing is the same, some cock and bull story about “tickets no longer needed, just want what I paid for them” and yet each an every listing starts at market value but has no ‘Buy Now’ option. If you want what you pay form them, add a ‘Buy Now’ at market value. But of course, that’s not the point and once a bid is made they reply to the pleas for a ‘Buy Now’ with fake apologies – “sorry can’t now as a bid has been made”.
Yes, I’m bitter. Unless by some miracle I find a ticket on the street I won’t be there to see NZ attempt to make it to the World Cup. But what I’m more disappointed in is the speed with which football has been turned from a complete non-event to a money-making scheme in this country. I’m used to it in England, football is rolling in wealth there and it’s something we’ve had to accept.
But here in New Zealand I thought it could be better than that. The Phoenix is a tiny club with a tiny budget and a small number of hardcore fans. It’s a club with spirit and community that harps back to the old days of football in the UK, when the players were people too. The Phoenix players are often to be seen around Wellington and you can stop them in the street and have a chat. There is a real connection between the fans and the club and that is because it is run as a sports club, not a business.
Now though, because the All Whites are on the brink of the world stage, all of that has been compromised. Now football is a business here too, and even the fans want in on the action. Worse than the foreign investors and agents and TV executives that plague the English game, the greed has sunk straight to the level of the fans in this country and that reflects incredibly negatively on the attitude of the population as a whole.
Football should be about more than money, and I hate that even here in New Zealand it can never be just sport for sport’s sake. Perhaps I should be pleased now that I won’t be a part of the event on the 14th, perhaps by staying away I can condemn this development. But I can’t, I’m a football obsessive and I will keep trying to get hold of a ticket until the game kicks off. I can’t afford to pay through the nose on TradeMe and I wouldn’t give the touts the satisfaction even if I could.
They are everything that is wrong with football, and with society as a whole, in the modern age.