Watford have apologised and vowed to investigate the reasons that resulted in some fans queuing for almost half-an-hour to gain entry to the ground on Saturday and those who missed the start of the FA Cup tie against Newcastle United.
Around 400 fans had problems gaining access to the Graham Taylor Stand via the turnstile in the north west corner of the ground. This resulted in a lengthy queue, that snaked past the club shop and down towards the Red Lion pub, and some missing nearly a third of the first-half action. One fan told us this morning he had problems accessing the Elton John Stand and when his loaded card was not read by the turnstile, he was sent to join a lengthy queue at the ticket office to secure a paper ticket.
“Home fans were treated appallingly by the club today,” wrote Ben Kilner. “Made to queue all the way down Vicarage Road. The organisation was so poor – the focus seemed to be on getting the Newcastle supporters in as priority. A lot of second class home fans queuing for over 25 mins missed the start of the game.”
“I am not happy about queueing for ten minutes to get into the Upper Graham Taylor Stand,” wrote Liz Whelan.
“Who else had issues with their season ticket?” wrote Sarah Try. “I wasted time queueing in the ticket office and missed the beginning of the game.”
The issues were, we understand, related to the stadium access system and late arrivals. The 14,500 season ticket holders were invited to buy a ticket for the third-round tie in their regular seat. This could be done online, where the season-ticket holder was given the option to load the ticket information onto their season-ticket card or have the paper match ticket posted out. Some fans opted for the paper ticket option but tried to gain access with their card. Others had the ticket information loaded to their card but the entry system did not recognise the data.
“I didn’t miss the start, but heard numerous people had problems with their season tickets,” wrote Jack Moneypenny. “I had mine loaded onto a card when I specified send paper ticket!”
In the event of being drawn at home in the fourth-round of the FA Cup the club may look to reduce the number of entry options available. As it stands, a fan can gain access for cup matches with their card for their own seat, load their card for another seat or request a paper match ticket.
“The club will investigate specific reasons and resolve to standardise access options in the event of future home cup ties,” said a club spokesperson. “We apologise to any supporter who missed the start of the game.”
The access and ticket issue was compounded by many fans, perhaps attending a game for the first time this season and unfamiliar with the entry system and points, arriving close to kick-off. All of the 18,259 crowd were thought to be in their seats by 3.12pm.
“Get to the ground earlier,” Darren Lapthorne wrote.
“No problems with my season ticket and enjoyed the game,” wrote Timothy East.
There were only 2,809 Newcastle fans in the Vicarage Road end, despite the Magpies being allocated the entire stand after they went past the 2,200 sales threshold. Away teams are offered 15 per cent of the stadium capacity on a sale or return basis for FA Cup matches.
The swathe of empty seats in the away end were, according to one report from the north east, due to Newcastle supporters being asked to pay a £35 supplement just to be able to purchase a ticket, unless they were already a season-ticket holder or member at Newcastle. Newcastle fans were not allowed to pay on the day.
Those who made the long trip south probably wished they hadn’t after seeing their side slip to a fourth 1-0 defeat in a row, extend their goalless run to 421 minutes and crash out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle for the fourth year running.