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Arsenal: Server error caused Premier League opener turnstile issues

Nottingham Forest match was delayed 30 minutes in first all-digital ticket fixture.

18 August 2023 Steve McCaskill
Arsenal Emirates Stadium turnstiles

Getty Image

  • Club says investigation showed no issue with new digital ticketing platform
  • Fans said turnstiles displayed error messages when entering stadium

Arsenal say the turnstile issues that caused their opening Premier League fixture against Nottingham Forest to be delayed by 30 minutes were the result of a server error.

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

Thousands of fans were unable to enter the ground, with some reporting turnstiles were suggesting they didn’t have a valid ticket for the match.

The club says an internal investigation did not find any evidence of an issue with its digital ticketing platform and that the problems resulted from a confluence of multiple technical issues.

‘Thank you once again for your patience on Saturday which saw delays at the turnstiles at our opening Premier League match of the season at Emirates Stadium,’ the club wrote in an email to supporters.

‘We have completed our investigation into the cause of the problem and can confirm that a small number of technology infrastructure issues combined to create the problem.

‘We have put in place a number of measures to remedy the issues and will continue to do extensive testing ahead of our next match on Saturday 26th August.

‘As a result of this issue, we have received a small number of reports from Apple iPhone users that their digital pass is showing as expired in their wallet.  We kindly ask that you check the digital pass ahead of the next game you are attending.

‘Thank you for your continued support and understanding.’

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.

While the turnstile glitches were unrelated to the new digital ticketing platform and appear to be coincidental, the response from many Arsenal fans shows the challenge venue operators face in communicating the benefits of digital ticketing to supporters. 

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