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Arsenal’s ticketing tech failure delays Premier League fixture

Club has migrated to all-digital ticketing platform for 2023/24 season.

14 Aug 2023 Steve McCaskill
Arsenal Emirates Stadium turnstiles

Getty Images

  • Kickoff for match against Nottingham Forest put back by half an hour
  • Tens of thousands of fans unable to get into Emirates Stadium
  • Suggestion is server error prevented turnstiles from functioning

Arsenal’s opening Premier League fixture against Nottingham Forest was delayed by 30 minutes due to problems with turnstiles at the Emirates Stadium that left thousands of fans unable to enter the ground.

The club migrated to an all-digital system over the summer, with ticketing information now housed in digital passes on a smartphone’s wallet and entry verified using near field communication (NFC).

However, about 40 minutes before the original kickoff time of 12:30pm, it became apparent that a technical glitch was preventing fans from entering the stadium.

The Guardian estimates that around 35,000 fans were unable to take their seats, and Arsenal sought permission for a delay to get more people into the venue.

One fan told SportsPro that despite some grumblings, the atmosphere was “even tempered” until about 15 minutes before kickoff when the frustration and concern among supporters intensified. There was also criticism that the delay to kickoff was only announced with ten minutes’ notice, while others said the poor quality of the stadium’s public address (PA) system made it difficult to hear the announcement.

It is unclear what caused the problems, with some suggesting a server error that affected the functionality of the turnstile was to blame. The club said it would be staging an investigation. 

“Following delays at the turnstiles ahead of our fixture against Nottingham Forest [on Saturday], kick-off was delayed by 30 minutes,” said an Arsenal spokesperson.

“We apologise to supporters for the inconvenience and thank them for their patience and support. All supporters were admitted into the stadium safely ahead of the 1pm kick-off.

“The issue will be investigated to ensure we do everything possible to ensure this doesn’t happen again. We would also like to thank our staff who worked hard to get everyone to their seats safely in time for the revised kick-off time.”

UPDATE 18/08/23: Arsenal says an investigation has confirmed a server error was the cause of the turnstile issues

SportsPro says…

Ticketing has been the most obvious beneficiary of sport’s digital transformation. The way that sports teams and venues sell, manage and distribute inventory is completely unrecognisable from the way tickets were sold even ten years ago.

Manual processes have been automated, while new technologies and features have made purchasing tickets a much more satisfying experience. Ultimately, digital ticketing and automated entry is more convenient, efficient, and drives extra revenue.

Like many other sports organisations, Arsenal have spent the past few years upgrading their digital capabilities with hardware and software that support fans from the moment they buy a ticket to when they go through the turnstiles.

The club works with Ticketmaster on sales, benefiting from its investments in fan-facing and operational technologies, and has partnered with ticketing software specialist Fortress for several seasons, using its loyalty, analytics and payment platform.

But sport is already an emotional leisure activity and fans pay increasingly large sums of money for the privilege of attending. For all the bells and whistles that technology can deliver, it should be able to fulfill its most basic functionality – ensuring fans can safely and swiftly take their seat for the match.

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