Portsmouth Football Club would like to apologise to any supporter who was not able to enter Fratton Park prior to the 3pm kick-off on Saturday.
The match against Cambridge United was the first time that full season ticket holders were able to use their 2021/22 card to secure entry into the ground.
The club monitored carefully the difficulties many other clubs had experienced at the start of this season – especially in regard to season ticket delivery and wi-fi connectivity at turnstiles, which had created long queues beyond kick-off at a number of stadia – and had planned carefully for the launch of season tickets for the Cambridge United fixture to avoid such issues.
This was particularly important given the decision made last season to introduce a new access control system and a new loyalty card, which in the long-term will create additional benefits for all season ticket holders.
The club has also had the additional challenge since July of relocating many season ticket holders due to the stadium development works and capacity cuts, with further relocations needed in the North Lower in the new year, when the next phase of the stadium redevelopment commences.
The majority of season ticket holders all received their cards in time for Saturday and most of those whose cards were delayed in the post received an alternative eticket.
The technology used to link the cards with the turnstile entry was pre-tested ahead of the game and had worked well, although we did have a small number of issues with some junior tickets which will be rectified.
However, we still experienced delays at the turnstiles for those supporters who arrived from 2.40pm.
We held our usual post-match debrief immediately after the game, which included those from our fantastic stewarding team who, as our front line, had a difficult role in dealing with the entry problems and who were best placed to be able to report why the queues had occurred.
The core issue identified from that debrief was the change in entry procedures. Supporters who were used to the previous system of inserting their card into the QR code/barcode reader continued to do so, instead of scanning their card on the new wi-fi symbol. Cards inserted were rejected until they were properly scanned.
The consequence of this was to more than double the entry time for many supporters as they sought guidance on the new process from stewards who, in turn, are still not at the optimum numbers we would like due to the staff shortages that the leisure industry continues to experience.
The last supporter from Frogmore Road entered the stadium at 3.10pm, while the last supporter from the north side of the stadium entered at 3.13pm.
Queues were light ahead of 2.40pm, with stewards able to easily advise those supporters who arrived earlier of the new entry process and resolve any issues.
The club fully acknowledges that the change in card entry procedures needed to have been better communicated to supporters in advance of attending the fixture and will work to produce additional signage, while a video guide will be published ahead of the Sunderland fixture at the beginning of October.
It would have been helpful if the cards could have been used at a pre-season friendly/test event in order for staff, stewards and supporters to familiarise themselves with the new cards and entry system. The unique circumstances we are all experiencing as we emerge from the pandemic did not make this possible.
The club, along with most of the leisure and hospitality industry, continues to experience the challenges of shortages of part-time matchday staff.
For us, this includes stewards, catering and kiosk staff, but we are hopeful that the staffing situation will improve as the furlough scheme concludes at the end of September.
We would ask supporters to bear with us as we seek to build back towards optimum matchday staffing levels.
Portsmouth Football Club would like to remind fans that the rescheduled Plymouth game on Tuesday night (7.45pm kick-off) is not included in full season tickets and will not be loaded onto any cards.
Individual tickets must be bought for this fixture, either online here or from the Anson Road ticket office, and supporters will receive an eticket which can be printed at home or scanned at the turnstiles.
Tickets bought before the fixture was rescheduled will bear the old date of September 6, but these remain valid for Tuesday night.