I love Nepali football. With the recent success of the Nepali football team in the group qualifying matches of the SAFF Championship 2013, I was energized and anxious to actually watch the football match in the stadium between Nepal and Afghanistan on September 8, 2013. Having heard that the ticket counter would open at 8am, me and my father got to the line at Thapathali opposite of Blue Bird mall at 7:30am. There were already 50-100 people in the line and we waited behind them hoping to get a chance to see and support our beloved nation.
The excitement to watch the game live slowly started to fade when we ran into multiple challenges when waiting in line and the hours that ensued. First few people started cutting and joining the line to get the tickets and the security personnel were not close by to discipline them. There was a group of youth who cut the line a few steps from us and we politely suggested them that it was not fair for us to just have them come late and join in the middle. This was not fair to anyone who came in early to be in line. Second, there were so many rumors and talk about the amount of tickets an individual could buy. It ranged from 3, 5, 10, 20 and changed depending on who you asked. The number of tickets that can be bought by an individual did not come from a credible source and the whole time we waited in line we were still in confusion. There was just chaos and several individuals were just running around spreading rumors and silly statements.
Third there was confusion if all the tickets had been sold already by 8:30am or 9:00am. We were not sure if the rumors were spread by certain individuals to actually create the hype to sell some tickets in black market or they sincerely meant that the tickets were sold out. Some people standing in line especially towards the front did protest that the tickets were sold in bulk and ran out within a short period of time. This gradually propelled people waiting anxiously in line to be disappointed and some took to the streets to actually create more chaos. The police had to intervene to disperse the crowd and we almost received a beating for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The result of waiting in line for exactly 3 hours to get tickets and support our team was futile and I was very frustrated with how everything turned out.
There are various solutions to the situation above. My suggestions can help improve the brand image of ANFA (All Nepal Football Association) which has suffered greatly from that Sunday morning experience and hope that is never repeated. There were hundreds of people frustrated with what happened and all they wanted was a ticket to go and support their team. First and foremost, there should be a system. Simple as that. If there is no system, then problems are inevitable. To sell the tickets efficiently and quickly, multiple ticket counters should be set up. One ticket counter that sells all the tickets to the game will result in long lines, disturbance of foot traffic, and deployment of excessive and unnecessary security personnel among others. Setting up multiple ticket counters is one way to solve the above problem.
Second the number of tickets an individual can buy should be limited. The numbers could be from 3 to 5 tickets per person at least for a game that we all know will be in high demand (any game featuring the home team Nepal). If there are going to be empty seats that need to filled, then the ticket counter can sell tickets in bulk or discount them as needed. We could all anticipate that games featuring Nepal would be sold out. Thus allocating a certain number of tickets per individual gives everyone a chance to purchase the ticket and enjoy the game. That September 8th morning we were hearing and saw people purchasing 10 and 20 tickets and waiting in line almost served no purpose. What is the point of waiting in line then? Shouldn’t everyone have a fair chance to purchase the ticket? Isn’t it the responsibility of ANFA to set a limit on how many tickets an individual can buy especially when Nepal is playing?
Third security personnel should be available early before tickets are being sold. For the security personnel to show up to the scene after people have already cut the line, moving around and started chanting derogatory slogans it is already too late. If the situation on September 8th was properly managed, the security personnel could have definitely provided a calm and convenient way to get tickets for the game. When the riot police have to intervene to control the anger of people not getting tickets, we have serious problems.
Fourth the ticketing system should move towards an online system whereby it creates efficiency and accountability. Along with that prices for all the matches (qualifying matches, semi final matches, and final match) should be set early, preferably before the tournament starts. At current a person living outside the Kathmandu valley almost has no chance to watch the game because the tickets are sold in person the morning of the game. With the online ticketing system, the person(s) living outside of Kathmandu can buy the tickets online a few days in advance and can just show up on the day of the game. Besides that, buying tickets online is much convenient and easier for the spectators. There are plenty of smart individuals here in Nepal who can make an online ticketing system in a matter of days. Lastly having an online ticketing system just makes good business sense and ANFA needs to take proactive and strategic decisions to improve their image and be seen as a fair body.
Important questions for ANFA and other relevant bodies are as follows: You have some of the most passionate football fans in the world; wouldn’t you want to properly provide good service so they can enjoy the game? How will you ensure the efficient allocation of tickets so everyone has to chance to enjoy the game? How will you guarantee or boost citizen confidence that a situation like that on September 8th morning is never repeated again?
Although I wrote this article, these experiences sincerely reflect the agony and frustration of many people who were standing in line that day. I just put everything in writing and share my experience. If ANFA is serious about improving and implementing some of the suggestions I have put forth above, I am ready to help. I will follow upon my suggestions and work closely with ANFA. Write me an email if you are serious about improving.